Saris of India: Tradition and Beyond

saree cover

In a tailored world, no one size fits all, unless of course we are talking about the Sari.

SARI– a simple garment, yet so versatile and often comes in interesting variations. With Indian women getting over-obsessed with their size, it’s the only garment (in a standard size), that fits women of all shapes, heights and weights. It is actually the ULTIMATE CHEAT CODE. This is exactly what The Sari School, a workshop taken by Rta Kapur Chishti, a sari expert, and her team of assistants teach- how to drape traditional weaves in a contemporary manner.

An expert on traditional Indian textiles, Rta Kapur Chishti has also co-authored Saris of India: Tradition and Beyond, a richly illustrated guide that explains the fine variations in the sari over time and across different states of India. With detailed sketches depicting over 100 different regional styles; the tome takes us on a journey of an unstitched piece of cloth that is usually about a meter wide and up to several meters long. It clearly explains how it’s every fold, tuck, pleat and drape is varied; from the elaborate styles worn by Brahman women in Southern India to the utilitarian approach favoured by farming communities in western India, where the sari is often wrapped and tucked around the legs so women can work in the fields. According to author, the wearer reveals her essence in manner in which she carries the sari. Way back in late 1970’s Rta along with a Japanese partner started the Ananda label to support & develop with design intervention, Ikat weaves & indigo dyeing & printing.

Her recent bid to popularise her version of sustainable luxury- “hand-woven, non-embroidered, unstitched” textiles are The Sari School workshops which she, along with her team organise three-hour workshops in various cities comprising of audiovisual presentations and draping lessons, which run alongside an exhibition of hand-woven textiles- low twill silk and hand-spun cotton sold under the label of Taanbaan; refreshingly different from the over embellished, Swarovski crystal-dripping saris of today .Along with the an organic line of saris, stoles and dupattas from weaver clusters all over India, there is Heritage collection– a line of limited-edition, made-to-order bridal saris spun by chosen weavers from Varanasi. These are truly heirloom pieces that could be passed down generations.

The workshop introduces one to regional wearing style variations keeping in mind the material and its spinning & weaving techniques. Generally four wearing styles- one each from the north, south, east and west, to explain essential differences in sari traditions, are taught and practiced during the session. At least 5 members are required for each session. Products from Taanbaan are also displayed. This is an ongoing programme which hopes to activate looms in several areas for the finest cottons & silks.

For Further enquiries & enrolment, please confirm through email by Thursday any week.

E-mail id:

Or contact Rta Kapur Chishti at 011-41823927 / 41823134 / 9810054147 between 10am-6pm.You could also write to: The Sari School, registered at K-42, Jangpura Extension, NewDelhi- 14.

by Aditi Paliwal, freelance jewllery designer and merchandizer with The Vault

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