Sari in Art History
The sari is an unstitched strip of cloth which resembles the classic Indian women’s fashion, it is usually made of soft cloth such as cotton and silk. The sari is available in many colors, and art work may be present to give the sari a more unique look. However, regardless of the abundance of colors and styles of the sari, a black sari never existed, even during the most unpleasant event, such as funerals, the Indian women wear a simple white sari to resemble sadness, and the red sari is assigned a symbol of happiness.
Sari is worn in many different ways, but the most common way is to wrap it around the waist with one end over the shoulder. Indian women usually wear a choli or ravika, which is an Indian blouse, to cover up parts of their body that might be exposed due to wearing the sari the way they do. The way in which a sari is wrapped depends on which region in Indian one is in, or the sari wearer is originally from: The Western, the Eastern, the North-east and the Himalayans, the Eastern Deccan, the South and the Western Deccan (Lynton 532).
The sari is typically created and given its different art forms in these aspects: Loom, dyeing, spinning, printing (Lynton 532). In fact, one can say that the art of a sari, in its completed form, that is after it has been spun, dyed and weaved on the loom, is that it tells a very distinct story (thus the different ways of wearing the garment in the different regions—and as stated above, white is used for funerals and red saris are used to resemble and express the happiness of the wearer).
The Sari gave the Indian women that attractive fashion style which made women, even foreigners to the Indian culture, wears the sari as a different, unique, and stylish outfit. Although the Sari might look simple, and available to all women in the Indian subcontinent, its price can vary significantly depending on many factors, the fabric used, the amount of art work involved, and embedded jewelry such as pearls, and even Swarovski crystals in the modern saris.
The higher end saris will be worn by the upper class women to represent their rank and status, and Indian women are known also to wear fine jewelry to complement their piece of art saris. The sari is a rather erotic garment –for nothing holds the garment in place excepting how the material is wrapped around the wearer’s body. The sari is such a symbol of India that the women have grown to make their identities through the wearing of a sari. The sari is a nostalgic garment that breeds itself as a cultural icon of Indian that at once defines the women as well as their status.
A woman wearing a sari is immediately recognized as Indian – thereby cementing the sari as a symbol of nationalism for these women of Indian as well as traditionalists (Menon 11). The sari is at once a traditionalist garment as well as a sexually alluring one. The fabrics that are used in making a sari are typically of silk – thus, the woman wearing the sari is constantly covered in this smooth fabric that is very pleasing to the touch. Some silks are spun so light that it feels as though the wearer is not wearing anything – this of course is appealing to the opposite sex if not for the wearer.
The sari itself is beautifully accentuates the woman’s body – her curves and her movements give a hushed rustle as she walks and the way in which the silk is spun allows the light to cascade over the garment giving a glimpse of the figure beneath its folds. It is no wonder that the sari is such a sought after icon of a country and why it is being adapted to other countries. Thus, the garment is twofold in its inclusion in Indian society – it accentuates the female form but perhaps it also stifles a woman’s sense of individuality.
There is no doubt that the sari – outside of the Indian tradition has a definite erotic effect, whether intended or not. Despite that the sari covers up most of the woman’s figure it is in the subtler nuisances of the fabric’s design that allow for a re-configuring of that garment’s use outside of the traditionalist’s mode of thinking. Although much of the world is becoming westernized – that is to say that much of the world is becoming more accustomed to wearing American fashion (i. e. Jimmy Choo, punk, etc. that wearing a sari in Indian or outside of the country, many women would be seen as old fashioned or as traditionalists, “As a symbol of Indian-ness itself, it represents not a compact nationality so much as an aspiration what Khilnani has called the idea of India which people struggle to live up to as worthy inheritors of a great and ancient culture, an India that transcends regions and diversity to reconstitute itself at a higher plane. As a result and as one fashion commentator perceptively put it, to violate the integrity of the sari is akin to burning the American flag” (Menon 12).
However, there may also be another reason that Indian women wear a sari – perhaps there is little else in a traditionalist culture that is available for them to wear or anything that they would be allowed to wear. Perhaps other culture’s fashion (progressive fashion) is seen as unsuitable for an Indian woman to wear – thus, the garment, while being a major source of history is also in a way effective with women’s rights and the lack of them in this part of the mindset of Indian culture (Menon 11).
The reverse of this is that certain women in Indian culture use the sari in order to express how in control of themselves they are by the way in which they wear the garment. Working women will wear their garment differently than women who tend to a house and family and do not work outside of the home. Either sentiment may be true but what is most assuredly true is that the sari can be worn with pride or not depending on the wearer, “This elevated sari has an advanced capacity for good and for bad.
Perhaps the single most common comment we heard about the sari is that it makes a woman the most beautiful she could ever become…In a society where power itself is generally thought of as having a female aspect, in the for of shakti, the sari simultaneously augments combines and ‘totalises’ the possibilities of aesthetic beauty, female mastery, sexuality and the cult of the maternal” (Banerjee 236). Thus, the sari may in fact give a subtle indication of power by the wearer depending on the ancient traditions on how it is made, the symbols on it, and especially the way in which it is worn.
In either case the sari may be considered a work of art in itself for the way in which it must be weaved or loomed, dyed, and the type of material used to place the dyes upon if not the way in which it is also worn. All of these components of the garment add up to a subtly sexy and erotic material that despite covering up its wearer makes her the more sensual for it; for the sari is a garment that places its emphasis on the way in which it moves, it glides around the wearer in traditional form.