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December 21st Is World Sari Day, Here’s Why I Wear Mine With Pride

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

By Meera Ekkanath Klein

Some people call the “sari” a costume. But the six yards of resplendent fabric, typically worn as a robe by women in India, contains a long and revered history and tradition. Whether made of silk or chiffon, this “costume” can be as sexy and elegant as the fanciest evening gowns.

From the snow-capped Himalayas to the southernmost tip of the sub-continent, Indian women have worn saris (or saree) for more than 5,000 years. Women in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh also wear this traditional dress.

The sari material is wrapped around the body with the end traditionally draped over the left shoulder (although this can be reversed, depending on the region). A cotton or silk petticoat helps keep the sari tucked in around the waist. The choli or blouse is an integral part of the sari and comes in many different styles and cuts.

The sari has an ancient history and is even mentioned in Hindu myths. The most famous one is the story of Princess Draupadi, a heroine in the epic Mahabharata. The princess is about to be disrobed in front of the entire court when she implores Lord Krishna to help her. To everyone’s astonishment, the sari keeps growing longer and longer even as assailant after assailant unwinds the material from Draupadi’s body. Thus, her honor is saved.

During the struggle for Indian independence, Mahatma Gandhi encouraged women to spin cotton and weave their own saris. The khadi saris were rough and thick but quickly became a symbol of national pride and resistance.

In India each region has its own special cloth, woven from silk or cotton with intricate patterns and designs. There are saris for every occasion, from rich bridal silk saris, heavy with gold and brocade, to polyester blends and light chiffon for everyday use. Cotton saris are particularly popular in this hot tropical country.

Whatever the material, the sari is stylish, sophisticated and sexy (showing just a hint of midriff), and as a bonus comes in the most alluring colors. This timeless swath of fabric manages to hide middle age bulges while enhancing the female figure.

My own saris are not just for dress-up, they represent a part of my family history. Each one has a story. The pale pink was gifted by a dear aunt. The bright magenta and iridescent green and gold saris were from my sister. My mother’s silk saris are tissue-thin and so precious that I’m reluctant to even unfold them. The gold brocade wedding sari brings back warm memories.

My life’s story can be read in these shades of bright pink, subdued green, and pale gold. I like to think it’s an elegant narrative encased in gorgeous covers of silk, chiffon, nylon, and cotton.


Meera Ekkanath Klein is the author of My Mother’s Kitchen and Seeing Ceremony. Learn more about her life and work at meeraklein.com