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Fri, Apr 03, 2009
The Daily Star/Asia News Network
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Sari beautiful
by Maheen Khan

Sari is a quintessential Bangladeshi female garment. There is possibly nothing that identifies a woman as being Bangladeshi so strongly as does the sari.

It comes in more or less a single size but the weaves, textures, print, embellishment and composition vary and there is a wide multiplicity of traditional saris that exist in Bangladesh.

In a remote Bangladeshi village or right in the heart of Dhaka, women still proudly maintain their cultural identities, possess and wear traditional saris.

In Bangladesh, saris have evolved out of a complex physical, historical and cultural environment. The sari's origins are obscure yet we know that in the Subcontinent, women were wearing lengths of unstitched cloth draped around their bodies long before tailoured clothes arrived.

Various regional and ethnic groups may have also worn saris draping the entire body at the turn of the first millennium AD.

Many sculptures of the Graeco-Gandharan civilisation show a variety of different sari draping styles. In Bangladesh, terra cotta art from the Gupta period (50 BC- AD 300), depicts a woman wearing a full-skirted sari draped around her entire body.

Today, it is common to find saris draped traditionally in two different ways; the widely used Bangla drape that has two large pleats and the end piece goes over the head and shoulder and the other is the front pleat, wrap and drape over the shoulder.

But of course one can get creative and try many other options.

In Bangladesh, there are mainly three different kinds of woven saris, Pabna, Dhakai and Tangail, each having its strong characteristics that is clear and unmistakably unique.

Cotton jacquard border

These are pure cotton weaves and the ground is sometimes plain solid in a single colour but it is observed that the interest lies in developing grounds with various assimilation of warp and weft yarns.

This easily creates formation of checks and stripes. Implementing three or more colours can be rather interesting as the designs can reflect complex structure in weave. The model is wearing one such sari with an exceptional composition.

Tangail baluchar

These are Tangail's take on the baluchari sari's that are traditionally woven in the Burdwan district state of Bengal in India. This is a time honoured weave. In its truest form these saris demonstrate integrated designs that reflect mythical stories in the end piece and borders.

Figurative designs are almost like a repetitive tapestry in a more engineered form.

In Bangladesh, however, baluchori's usually display fantasy floral, paisleys, and geometric patterns woven in high quality mercerised cotton yarns. You will find the model dawning an ivory and red sari with a stunning end piece.

Tangail jamdani

This is a kind of Tangail weave, which is developed with the essence of Dhakai jamdani. Although the name suggests having some elemental similarity it is indeed no way parallel to the Dhakai's of Bangladesh. There is only a likeness in design composition.

For example it may have a similar diagonal pattern on the ground or suggest a lattice motif structured similar to a jamdani but the foundation of weaving are developed with a contrary vocabulary of technique. The model is displaying one such distinct Tangail sari in Boishakhi colours.

Jacquard Tangail

The entire piece is developed using jacquard instrumental addition to the loom. The beginning middle and the end of the sari reflect the aesthetics of the tanchoi banaras sari. The black sari worn by the model is greatly influenced by European Art Deco pattern.

I share this from previous studies where it is clearly examined that in the late 1890's, master weavers from Banaras visited England and returned with wallpaper sample books later incorporating such designs in traditional weaves. Reminiscent of damask style wallpapers, these designs still play an influential role in sari designs today.

Trailblazer sari style

In recent times, some top European designers developed their entire collection based on the concept of the sari. It was indeed a tribute to the legacy of mystery that is known as the sari.

Amongst the fashionistas, sari has again found its moment in time, clearly standing alone, a familiar wrap with immense potential and versatility.

Designers today have used and reinvented new drapes to add to its original sculptural romance. Inspired again by the Graeco Grecian styles are being tailored and pre made to fit the figure and replacing the evening gowns of the high fashion world.

Accessorised with brooches and waist belts designers are adding drama to the drapes. Sari's fashioned in sensuous ways, mirror the echo of the bygone era lost but not forgotten.

The new drapes work for most but especially work well for those who are looking to challenge their fashion barometer.

Designers today are creating luxuriously blazoned, richly embellished swarovski studded saris. These saris may not be traditional weaves but are looking grand with the employment of sequined bead combination.

This season pewter bronze and metallic are the statement colours.

There is also the significant sari story that will probably remain high on fashion firmly grounded for the next few seasons.

It will vacillate between purely old style embroidery and traditional Bangladeshi medley of traditional weaves.

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