India with a Twist: Sari Wrap Skirt

Week Three of Project Sewn is already upon us – how time flies! This weeks theme is “going global” – using the fashion from a foreign country as inspiration for an outfit. Ever since I took part in a performance of the opera Lakmé last month, I’ve been wanting to explore saris and Indian fashion more, and this was the perfect opportunity! I mentioned in my post about the opera that we all got to learn how to wrap saris, which is actually a fairly complicated process. I wanted to create a garment that would show the sari wrapping process without actually being a sari – I don’t think I could get away with wearing one out in public!

But first, a few words about saris. The sari is a traditional garment worn by Indian women, and consists of several yards of fabric wrapped around the body. Saris are usually tucked into a petticoat to keep them in place (we used shoelaces to tuck the saris in during the opera, though – sometimes you have to improvise!). To begin, you knot one corner of the sari and tuck it into the petticoat, and then begin wrapping. The sari skirt is carefully pleated in the front as you wrap, and this pleating can be quite intricate and fussy! It is then crossed over the shoulder and draped. The section that is draped over the shoulder is called the pallu, but it’s still part of the rectangle that makes up the skirt. For the opera, I tried to give myself a half hour to wrap the sari, but that’s actually not very long! Saris worn for weddings and other special occasions can take an hour to wrap. Whew!

So, I wanted to create a garment to imitate this process without all the intricate folding, pleating, and draping. I decided a wrap skirt with a pleated front would be the perfect compromise between tradition and modern style. For the fabric, I actually ordered a sari off eBay – you can’t beat the real thing! The sari I got is a vintage silk piece that is quite thin and sheer, but very stiff and crisp at the same time.

Since it was more sheer than I was expecting, I knew I would have to imitate the petticoat somehow with a lining. At first I thought I would make a mini skirt out of lining and leave the bottom section sheer, but after draping the fabric on my dress form, I actually liked having the lining fabric extend beyond the sari fabric. This also gave more weight and drape to the sari material.

But enough talking – here’s the finished product!

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You can see I made a little scarf out of the excess to recreate the pallu. The skirt pattern was self-drafted using this tutorial. I made the skirt narrower than recommended because the fabric was so stiff, but it tends to come open very easily so I’m regretting that decision a little (I plan to use this Megan Nielsen tutorial to keep it closed).

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You can see I used a royal blue cotton for the lining – I love the contrast of rich colors! Oh, and the bindi is leftover from my Lakmé makeup :). (I almost wore it to work this morning – oops!!)

I’m quite pleased with how this turned out, and once I fix its wardrobe malfunctioning potential, I hope to wear it out! I feel a little funny about wearing this everyday, though – do you think this is an “everyday piece,” or is it too costumey? Or special occasion-y? What are your thoughts?

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So what do y’all think – did I succeed in turning a traditional national style into a wearable piece?

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9 thoughts on “India with a Twist: Sari Wrap Skirt

  1. Very cool! I love saris – the fabrics are just gorgeous. I have a couple of wrap skirts made (not by me) out of old saris and I wear them all the time in the summer to the beach. I think yours is more of a special-occasion piece, though, maybe because of the crisp nature of the fabric combined with the floor length. It’s beautiful!

  2. Beautufully done! I don’t think it is too costumey- but then again, you should see what I normally wear- LOL.
    I think you could totally wear this every day!
    ~Michelle

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