Ingenious ways to wear the saree: How has wearing the saree evolved over the years?

There is nothing more quintessentially Indian than a saree. The image of a woman draped in a saree is instantly relatable as something to do with India. This traditional attire has persevered, toiled, transformed and continues to evolve, encompassing the changing world around it but also remaining consistently true to its innate characteristics. The original avatar of sarees was nothing like what we see today. We have compiled a list below to show how sarees were draped in the past according to religion, caste and occupation.

  1. The washerwoman way: A washerwoman very cleverly used her saree as a kind of cot for carrying her baby. She has even tied her saree a little high to protect against the water.

2. The water bearer: A woman carrying a pot of water on her head drapes her saree in such a way that she can use it as a cushion.

3. The Potter’s wife:  Similarly, we can see a potter’s wife who has used her saree as a headrest to carry a number of pots. We can also spot her wearing the ‘Bulakku’ or ‘Bulaq’, a nose ring mostly specific to Southern India.

4. The Brahmin’s wife: Here we see a rich Brahmin’s wife wearing a saree with no blouse but lengthy drapes to demurely wear over her shoulders.

5. The farmer’s wife: A farmer’s wife carrying vegetables. She is also using it as a cushion plus she has pleated her saree in the back so it doesn’t come in the way.

6. The left Pallu drape: A woman, wearing a saree with the pallu on her left side and pleats to the right.

7. The Jeweller’s wife: We can see a Jewellery maker’s wife with her pallu covering her top knot and adorned with a lot of jewels.

8. The Fisherwoman: A fisherwoman sporting the indigo weave to maybe match the colour of the blue sea.

10. The Moneylender’s wife: Here is a rich moneylender’s wife. We can see her with a kacche, a style developed by the Koli Tribe  in between her legs.

The current saree style can be attributed to Jnanadanandini Debi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore. Apparently, Tagore had encouraged her wife to adopt the style of wearing a blouse and a chemise underneath her saree and the chiffons came later on. This came to be known as the Nivi saree.

Today, women all over India wear the Nivi– styles originally worn in the Deccan region; besides the modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked into the waist at the back. 

Today, we see many people draping sarees in their own innovative and unique ways, with a modern touch. A link to a modern Bengali style draping saree in featured on our facebook page:

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