From being the garment of choice for the average Indian women, the sari has come a long way to gain patronage from fashion designers and Hollywood celebrities. Needless to say, the sari now scales the range from everyday normal wear to elitist designer wear! And for the urban Indian woman of today, there is a huge variety of saris to choose from. Saris are said to have originated in South India, and are reputed for their ability to add to the appearance of women of all shapes and sizes. The right sari, with the right petticoat and blouse can take pounds off a person. A thin woman can pick a sari made of the right material to make her look heavier, and the sari flatters a full figure just as much. To add a dash of spice to the sari, the two essential garments that go with this – namely the blouse and the petticoat, have taken on various avatars and these days, demandtheir own share of the attention.
A sari petticoat is a simple long skirt that is worn under the sari to perform a few essential functions. First, the sari is held in place by tucking it into the waist band of the petticoat. Second, it forms a base on which the sari can fall neatly and elegantly. Further, some saris made of translucent or net fabric need the sari to give them a fuller appearance and prevent any wardrobe ‘malfunctions’. The petticoat is tied just below the belly button and reaches to the level of the ankle. It can come with an elastic band at the waist, or a thin cotton drawstring that is pulled tight and secured with a knot. It is called pavadai or langa in South India, and ghagaro / ghagra or chaniyo in the western part of the country. It goes by the name of shaya in the eastern part of India.
Picking a sari can be daunting, but it is as important to pick the right kind of petticoat to ensure that it adds to the appearance of the sari and compliments the color and the fabric of the sari. So here are some tips to pick the right color, fabric, style and length to ensure it works with your sari.
The simple rule is that the petticoat must match the color of the sari as closely as possible. If the right shade is difficult to find, going a shade darker than the sari is a safe bet. The color of the petticoat gains more significance if the sari is made of net fabric or translucent material. If you wear an improper shade, this may affect the color of the sari itself and may make the whole outfit look quite inelegant. But remember, color is not the only critical factor. You will need to ensure that the other elements like material and style are also taken care of.
For formal and semi-formal saris, consider using a satin petticoat. This material is generally comfortable with a smooth finish but may not be the best choice for warm weather. However, it does give a lovely sheen to the outfit, especially under transparent or translucent saris. The most practical choice for everyday wear is, without any doubt, cotton. Cotton prtticoats are durable and can be machine-washed. They are light weight and breathe – and hence, perfect for wearing in the typical Indian climate. Cotton is the traditional choice and you can safely wear them for any occasion. Here are some more factors than can help you decide on the fabric:
- For a chiffon or georgette sari with decorative elements worn on special occasions, use a satin petticoat.
- However opt for a cotton petticoat to go with your cotton or handloom silk saris. This will also keep you comfortable over longer periods of time.
- For that glam look, wear a sari made of net fabric over a shimmering satin petticoat in a contrasting shade.
- For the adventurous, there are even embroidered petticoats in different fabrics and cuts.
- The flare of the petticoat also can play a role in the final look. If your sari is made of a clingy fabric, you can choose a higher flare than for a handloom or heavy silk sari.
The petticoat can be an effective aid to making the ultimate sari style statement. Pick a petticoat in cotton blended fabric with embroidery, lace or even frills at the bottom and be the cynosure of all eyes! You can even make customized petticoats for a one-of-a-kind look that will suit your specifications.
The commonly accepted length for sari petticoats is all the way down from the belly button to the ankles. When buying a petticoat, it is essential to check the length by holding it just below your belly button and checking where it ends. You can get the length altered if needed, so that it falls only till your ankles. The length of the petticoat should be such that it ends a couple of inches above the sari. That said, acceptable lengths change with the times! In recent days, wearing a sari with the hem of the petticoat peeking out is gaining popularity.
If you thought the petticoat is simply a skirt that holds up the sari, think again! Indian designers have pushed the boundaries with this simple garment – adding embroidery, lace, sequins and bestowing it the full right to do a little peekaboo through the sari. The blouse has its own infinite variations that add to the sari, and it’s now the petticoat’s turn to get a lift! However, if you would like to stay safe, there is no harm in sticking to the accepted ways of picking a petticoat that you feel comfortable with.
Another trend is to wear a sequined petticoat over a sheer sari to give a glammed up look. This is a great idea for cocktail parties! If this is too much bling, try out a printed petticoat. Mix and match the colors to create a coordinated outfit. The petticoat and the blouse can match each other with the sari giving a perfect contrast. A ruffled edge in a contrasting shade that peeps out from beneath the sari could be the perfect way to add an element of playfulness to your sari.
However, one has to exercise a little restraint;too much experimentation with a formula distilled over centuries could destroy the beauty of the garment, so whatever you try, here are some tips to make sure you get it right.
- Sheer saris or transparent saris should be worn over a petticoat with a hook to secure it around the waist. Imagine a drawstring showing under the sheer fabric – now that’s a fashion faux pas to steer away from!
- If you have a slim figure, you may be able to pull off the peekaboo petticoat with more ease than someone with a fuller figure.
- Ensure that the blouse and the petticoat are not competing with each other for attention. If the petticoat has embellishments, wear a low-key blouse.
- Curvaceous women with average build can pull off this look better than the thin or the obese.
- Your footwear needs to complement rather than contrast with the rest of the outfit.
- The fancy petticoats of today need contemporary saris – avoid wearing these with traditional saris and designs.
- Finally, keep it simple and elegant. Be bold and break a few rules, but not so much that your sari does not look like one anymore!