Western images of women wearing saris are often depicted as exotic, sexy, and refined. These images, sometimes taken out of context, do not tell the whole story of the sari. The sari is a beautiful, complex, and elegant garment steeped in meaning. It is wrapped in tradition, diversity, and subculture. In its folds are the symbols of identity: religious caste, age, economics, and region. These pieces of cloth are the key ingredient in Anchal’s quilts and pillows. In order to connect fully with our products, let’s connect to the culture of the sari. (and learn how to tie one for ourselves!)
To understand the meaning behind the sari we must understand that most societies in India have a highly segmented and stratified organization. Dressing appropriately is paramount to fitting into these strict divisions. The sari, for example, has traditionally been associated with marriage and sexuality. It is for this reason that girls do not wear saris until they are older. Usually little girls wear a half-sari, which usually resembles a small dress, until their mid to late teenage years. At this time they move onto a shalwar kamiz, which is a tunic like garment, usually worn over pants. These garments are associated with innocence and youth, but also professionalism. The shalwar kamiz has been the garment of choice by many professional women who desired a less sexualized appearance.
It is traditional when a woman gets married, for her to receive a set of saris. The patterns, colors, materials, and design of the prints often signify the woman’s caste or other social divisions. Women of upper economic classes are able to afford silk, while others wear cotton or synthetic fabrics. Wearing a sari can signify that a woman is attached, but it can also signify a sense of national loyalty. After India’s independence the sari became a national symbol and solidified itself as formal dress for women.
Another tradition associated with the sari is one of recycling. It is customary for women to give this 6 yard piece of fabric to relatives, or younger sisters, after they are finished with it. While each woman makes it their own, it is said that the each owner’s spirit becomes woven into the fabric. It seems fitting, when snuggling up with your Anchal quilt or pillow to think about all that is signified by its fabric, and feel the power of all the women who have been a part of its existence.
If you have ever wanted to wear a sari, or just know how to tie one, check out this how to video: