Newsletter 16 - April 2001

1. news
2. free books for educational institutions
3. recreating ancient saris
4. a personal note from Chantal

1. News:

*** The film “Gladiator” received the Oscar for best costuming. If we can only wish that the drapes had been more exact, it is nevertheless heartening to see that draped clothes got the Oscar!

*** If you know or participate in an event, web site, etc. connected with draping, please let us know. This “news” feature is yours!

2. IDC campaign: free books for educational institutions

Last month we started this new campaign, which so far has not had many answers, unfortunately! Please take a moment to consider it.

In order to reach out and give an idea of the variety of draped clothes techniques, Chantal Boulanger has donated a large number of copies of her book “Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping” to IDC. These are meant to be given free to educational institutions such as art schools, textile and costumes schools, universities, etc.
So we have the books, the first problem is now to determine the appropriate institutions to which we should give them. The books will be given with a copy of our press release and a letter explaining the importance of draped clothes techniques, their study and research.
The second problem is postage. These books are currently in London. For most (a few can be delivered by hand), they will have to be sent out, and the cost of sending 1 book and related material to the USA is US$ 10. Unfortunately, since we have no budget at present, we cannot cover these costs.
So far only 2 members, one from Hong-Kong and one from Bombay, took advantage of this offer and found a cheap way to get the books to the institutions: they took advantage of visiting London to pick them up! Of course, it is not always possible to have the books sent this way...

So, please, if you know such an institution which would benefit from receiving this package, please let us know. If you agree to pay or help with postage, this would be indicated on the letter (unless you request otherwise). The books are there. Anything you can do to have them distributed appropriately will be considered.
For your offers and suggestions, please get in touch with:

3. Recreating ancient saris:
(from Valerie Rose and reply by Chantal Boulanger)

* Valerie:
I am a member of the SCA (Society For Creative Anachronism), a group which tries to recreate the Middle Ages. They concentrate on Europe, but any culture that had contact with Europe during our "period" (600AD to 1600AD) is also accepted. So India counts, for several reasons.
I have always loved things from India....jewellery (especially the tribal
stuff), clothes, etc. But while I had heard of saris I had never seen one till about a year ago. I am a serious Goodwill shopper, as I am low income and often find good stuff there that I can use in the SCA too. This time I
found *three* lovely saris, and all for a pittance! Since I had done research on India, I knew what they were. And I was firmly hooked. Since then I have bought several saris off of Ebay, and have bought a copy of your book on draping. And I have gotten many compliments when I wear my saris to SCA events. Unfortunately, the cholis I have seen so far are all too small for me. I also sometimes dress Scottish in the SCA and wear an airsaid, which is another draped piece of clothing.
I look forward to learning more about saris and other draped clothes,
and their history. Perhaps you could answer a question? Someone on one of the SCA mailing lists has said that in the research he did that sari's are
too new for our "period". From what I have read, this is not so. I said, on
the list, that draped clothes are very much old enough, and that we (in the US) us the word sari as a catch all when it really covers more than just one garment, and that while some *drapes* are new that others are quite old enough to qualify. Could you clarify this for me, please? And if you know of a source that I could locate for written proof of the saris age that I can quote on that list, I would be most grateful.

If you apply the word “sari” to refer to Indian draped clothes, saris are indeed very ancient. Forms of “dhotis” were common as early as the 2nd century B.C., as they are extensively represented in Buddhist sculptures of that time. They were certainly earlier than this, but we have little archeological evidence from earlier times in India. During the period that concerns you, roughly the “mediaeval times”, dhotis and veshtis were very common, dhotis being more and more for the upper classes while the more simple veshti (sarong) being worn by common people. One big difference with today’s saris is that breasts were not usually covered until the 17-18th centuries, when the perception of the body changed due first to Muslim influences and then to Victorian puritanical values.
If you want evidence, get a book about Indian art history (there are many of them). I also refer to history and evolution of “saris” in the last chapter of my book.
Cholis were at first a stitched dress worn mostly by men (especially warriors) and aristocracy. During the mediaeval times, women were either bare-breasted or wore “breast-bands”, which you can easily reproduce with a long scarf tied around your chest. These were meant to hold the breasts down rather than to hide them, but nowadays they make a useful prop!

4. A personal note from Chantal:

Another quiet month. Although there is a strong interest in draped clothes, little is done about it.

Thank you for your help and support.

Best wishes!

Please do not hesitate to send any question, suggestion, criticism.
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