The tale of the unraveling sari

Selecting, buying and wearing a sari ain’t at easy as it looks

Have you ever wrestled with nine yards of fabric and desperately tried to drape it around your body while watching YouTube tutorials? Yeah, er, me neither…

The first time I attempted to wear a sari was for a party in Costa Rica. A coworker from India had brought us saris as gifts and I asked my soon-to-be Sri Lankan husband to drape it for me since I assumed that all Sri Lankans were born with this knowledge coursing through their veins. I soon found out how wrong I was – when all was said and done I resembled one of those mummies wrapped in toilet paper and realised I would have to walk around in my new sari like a geisha, taking teeny tiny steps so I wouldn’t trip. The night ended with me having to be half-carried to the car after it started unravelling.

My second sari-experience was after moving to Sri Lanka in 2011. We were still young enough at that point to have friends who were of marriageable age (ha) and we had been invited to three weddings in the same week! Talk about being thrown in the deep end. This time I did what most girls here do when going for weddings, I enlisted expert help (a.k.a went to a salon and got it draped by a nice lady who actually knew what she was doing). I was still so traumatised though by my previous sari disaster I told her to please put extra safety pins, so that “it wouldn’t fall off”. In hindsight this was such a funny thing to say, because when draped properly, saris do not just fall off…I have even read that if you are a badass sari draper extraordinaire, you don’t need to put ANY safety pins at all and the sari will still not fall off! I don’t know if I would really want to test that theory, but anyways, the point is that I did not need to tell this lady at the salon how to do her job. The end result was that she decided to put safety pins all over the freaking place and my arm was pinned so close to my body that my grand entrance to the hotel was me half-falling out of the car in front of the valet guy, I kid you not.

The only photo I have of me wearing my first proper sari

The funny part is that all the pins forced me to walk around super straight like a statue, and all the Sri Lankan ‘aunties’ were going crazy about “how well I carried my sari”. I didn’t want to tell them that I actually couldn’t put my arm down and had lost all feeling in it by that time.

All jokes aside though, I actually LOVE wearing saris and how beautiful they are. My second and third try wearing one were waaaay better… I chose much lighter sari materials, got them draped properly without extra pins, and for added comfort decided to drape them over my shoulder and it made such a huge difference.

So what exactly is a sari and who wears them? Historically a very long unstitched single piece of cloth, the Indian sari is apparently the oldest form of garment still in existence and dates back around 5,000 years! Saris are worn in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Here in Sri Lanka a sari is considered formal wear, and depending on the type of job or company, some women will wear a sari to work every day (and drape it themselves every morning *gasp*) and most women will wear saris for formal functions such as weddings.

Sri Lankan weddings are no joke ­– an average-sized wedding might have upwards of 300 people, and due to the sheer number of people that need to fit into one room, they are usually held in large hotels. Wearing a fancy sari is what most women wear, although wearing a dress is acceptable as well.

What I find the most amazing about the sari is its versatility – there are apparently 80 different ways of draping it, and women from all walks of life use it.

Have you worn a sari? How did it go?

If you would love to wear a sari but are clueless on the process of selecting, buying, stitching and draping it, make sure to check out my step-by-step guide!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *