Newsletter 32 - September-November 2003

Summary:
1. news
2. new web links
3. my experiences with saris and sarongs
4. no cutting
5. peace and saris
6. an experience of dance and saris
7. a personal note from Chantal

1. NEWS:

*** From Emily Klaczak: I wanted to share with you that I taught a class on Sari Draping at the Society for Creative Anachronism event, Pennsic 32 last week, and it was a huge success!
I taught the Gujarati drape from Chantal's book (which I also passed around, and included the web site in my handout) to 30 people. The teaching tent was so crowded that I had to stand on a table to demonstrate! I had only booked an hour so was able to cover only this drape thoroughly. I also demonstrated the fishtail drape and the "flower seller's" drape at the end of the class but didn't have time to work with the attendees.
I hope to teach this class again next year, and I will definitely request an extra 1/2 to 1 hour to cover more than one drape.

*** There is currently an exhibition on sari and sarongs as TEXTILE (obviously they haven't noticed that these can be draped, as usual...):
http://www.nga.gov.au/SariToSarong/confer.cfm
If you are in Canberra, you can see this exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia until the 6th of October.

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

2. NEW WEB LINKS:

Beth continues her great work in re-creating ancient drapes:
http://www.pir.net/~beth/Saris/Vijayanagara/Vijayanagara.html
"The aim of this drape is to recreate a picture I'd seen from the Lepakshi temple in Andhra Pradesh, painted during the Vijayanagar Era (1346-1565). I've found very few pictures of this era, and I've only seen this sari on women. I took a 9-yard sari, and my experience draping fishtail saris to attempt this look. After quite a number of faulty test-runs I came up with this process, which has worked for a reasonably active day."
Also check her page on the fishtail sari:
http://www.pir.net/~beth/Saris/Fishtail/Fishtail.html

Web site selling saris:
http://www.homeindia.com/catalogue/apparel/saree/index.shtml

Web site on saris (selling them and interacting with them):
http://www.sarisafari.com
(with very interesting traditional saris for sale at reasonable prices, sent from the USA)

Good page that shows how to drape a sikh turban on a little boy. Very didactic:
http://www.sikhkids.com/articles/article38.htm

Fashion and politics in India:
"Sari makes way for salwar in House", by Aasha Khosa, in the Indian Express.
http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=29257

3. MY EXPERIENCES WITH SARIS AND SARONGS
By Julia Boukara

My first experience with saris was about ten years ago at least, when I discovered an Indian sari and fabric store as I was fabric shopping. At the time I was interested in ethnic clothing and costume, but my 9-to-5 corporate lifestyle prevented me from being able to dress as I wanted except in my precious little free time, and I was too uptight to consider it seriously. I did later get into Renaissance Faires and specifically Scottish history re-enactment groups... funny how at the time I didn't realise that the arisade was another form of "draped clothing" and related, in that sense, to saris. 

Anyway, my first Indian shop encounter kept popping back up in my mind... the flow of the fabric, the accessibility of a very exotic form of dress. I even found a book about how to wrap saris in my local library, and photocopied instructions for some of the styles. I just had to go see about getting myself a sari, even if I only wore it for costume parties or at home for my own entertainment.

I picked out an off-the-bolt design, a royal blue poly chiffon one with a metallic gold, silver and blue border and gold pallu. My measurements were taken, choli fabric picked out (royal blue satin), and a week later I had the whole outfit complete with petticoat and bangles (and a strange fabric belt thing I didn't know what to do with, that matched the petticoat. Still have it, still don't know what it is.) 

That sari actually did make its debut in a costume party, and got me through a second costume party and a Renaissance Faire visit the following year where it turned the heads of every Indian visitor to the Faire. (What is that pale Irish-American woman doing in that sari?) The instructions I copied were thorough, and I had no problems learning the basic Nivi style wrap. But parties aside, the sari's real value was a very private one for me, I just loved to look at it, feel it drape and flow. For a time, I used it as home decor, accenting a tall black chest-of-drawers. I always wanted it to be able to look at it, lacking sufficient occasions to actually wear it. (My never-forgotten arisade fabric adorned a different space in the house).

Fast-forward years later, I married, moved to a new continent (Europe), had my daughter... gained weight, could no longer wear the choli and found myself way out of range of any sari shops. But despite my changed priorities, my lifestyle was more relaxed (not working anymore) and I always retained my penchant for ethnic clothing.  On and off, I kept searching for a source for at least a new choli for the blue sari, if not other outfits. 

The Internet seemed a logical place, but our budget was tight and we couldn't really afford the expense. There were so many other priorities. So I took the unorthodox approach.... Mom's sewing machine, ordinary fabric, some ribbon to act as "borders" and "pallu" decoration, and an altered evening wear pattern to make a choli. (*Very* altered.) Surprisingly, it worked, unauthentic as it was... I had two georgette saris with simple designs, and one satin one with gorgeous ribbon working as the border and extremely simple pallu design. And a replacement for my old blue choli.

I should add that in the meantime, I'd discovered the simplicity and convenience of sarongs... they fit the budget so well that they became a staple in my wardrobe (I no longer work in the corporate jungle, and can dictate my own dress code).

Well, today is a landmark occasion... having recently moved to yet another new location (still in Europe), my husband discovered a sari shop just blocks away from us. He kept it a secret, telling me he wanted me to take me to see a spice shop so I could find some basmati. I was shocked to see the store filled with saris and fabrics. They were very simple, basic-quality printed ones with pre made cholis in a range of sizes, no stitching service available. But that will do just fine, I wanted something I could feel elegant in and yet still clean the house with it on. I tried some cholis, found one that fit me as if it were made custom, picked my petticoat and sari (mauve with maroon border and paisley accents, no metallics this time) and now I am back in business at last.

That's not the best part... during the past months I had decided to get myself back in good physical shape, and discovered just the other day that I fit right back in my old, first choli. It's true what they say... your first love is always the best.

Julia Boukara

4. NO CUTTING
By Leonore

My research is just beginning, my fascination with draped clothing has been with me forever. Besides Greek, it includes the clothing of Central America, Guatemala, where hand-woven (back-strap-loomed) fabric for skirts is decoratively joined / sewn into one huge tube.

The criteria in draped clothing must not lie so much in "no stitching" but rather in "NO CUTTING". You see, I am a weaver, and just like the Kente cloth weavers in Africa, who JOIN=sew their strips into large fabric pieces, to be draped, I sew my garments in a spiral fashion, in some styles, not all, not CUTTING into the cloth. At times a simple slit however will afford drape, still, there is no cutting and piecing stage. THAT is the difference. The needle is CON-structive, like any other textile way of constructing and embellishing. The scissors or knife does not construct. Saris are Ranjanaa's speciality; she is a native of New Delhi, India.

I believe we, the IDC members ought to create a draped clothing exhibit spanning many cultures. Its "cutting edge" where-ever that term came from.
I like to help create and organize such a show and lecture.
Please remain in e-contact with me about these ideas.
Leonore

5. PEACE AND SARIS
By Adam Burke

The article on "sarees for Peace" -- with mention of Gandhi -- has inspired me to write the following about silk sarees:

My wife and I travel to India frequently. A great lover of Indian culture and beautiful designs, she is fond of wearing sarees. I enjoy wearing kurta pajamas and sometimes even dhotis. Very often, a curious Indian citizens will ask why we -- non Indians -- wear Indian clothes. We invariably look at each other, amusedly, as the answer is obvious to us: Indian clothes are among the most beautiful in the world! We then ask those in "Western wear" why they do NOT wear Indian dress. Sadly, the responses describe an erosion of Indian traditions in favor of the Western dollar. We can only feel dismay to hear that Indians feel they cannot do effective business with Westerners while wearing traditional clothes. Shame on anyone who would be less inclined to do commerce with someone who wears their own country's traditional apparel. And, those who bow to such Western pressures may be no less responsible.

But, this is not the point I wish to make here. Rather, I want to address the use of silk, especially popular in sarees. 

My wife has gone to great lengths to find beautiful non-silk sarees, and they are not easily found.  We are vegetarian and generally concerned about the welfare of animals, including silk worms. Therefore, we both refuse to buy silk. Most know that fur coats represent a cruel industry, but have we considered the silk trade?

Many people do not know that silk worms are cruelly heated to death in the millions in the manufacture of only small amounts of silk. To not know is no sin, but to know this, yet to continue to adorn the body upon the suffering of millions of other beings is unconscionable to us.

So, when I recently heard about a project using silk sarees in the name of peace, I felt some concern. Then, upon seeing Mahatma Gandhi's name associated with this, I felt I had to speak out.

I'm sure Gandhi would have agreed with the wise Indian saints who have pointed out that silk is the unholiest of materials, for the reasons I have described. I apologize if I have abruptly brought this issue to the attention of those who did not know the issues involved. But, for any who do know, yet continue to buy silk anyway, I can only encourage the consideration of the harm done in relation to whatever benefits may be derived from adorning the body at the expense of others.

Choosing non-silk sarees will pressure suppliers to offer more "cruelty-free" sarees, and genuinely contribute to peace, as well.

6. AN EXPERIENCE OF DANCE AND SARIS
By Marsha McLean

A friend and I stopped in Little India in Toronto last night for a quick dinner.  We were surprised to discover that there was a festival ­ The Taste of South Asia ­ going on. There were street food stalls all over, selling bhel puri, pakoras, corn, kulfi and too many others to name. Yum!  There were several music and performance stages, and there had been workshops and talks scheduled, but they were cancelled because it poured all day.  All the shops were open and I helped my friend buy a sari (bargain prices). When we arrived at about 6, the all day festival was slow due to the rain, but it cleared in time for a street dance scheduled for 9. We ran to my place and got wrapped. When we got to the dance we were very well received by the desi crowd.  We danced and danced to the bhangra music. Then my friend's sari started to unwrap, since she isn't used to wearing them and a kind woman watching kept grabbing her and fixing it. All in all, a marvelous fun time. 

7. PERSONAL NOTE FROM CHANTAL:

Thank you very to all of you who contributed to our newsletter. As you may have noticed, this quarter brings us wonderful thoughts and stories from many IDC members. THANK YOU! Summer has inspired many of you, let Fall keep on the inspiration!

I think I will have great news next time: I have been contacted by a major Museum in Paris to help them create a permanent feature on draped clothes in India. So please keep your fingers crossed and maybe we will soon have the first Museum with a permanent exhibit addressing the specificity and variety of draped clothes (even if only in India at first...). I will keep you informed of how things develop, but I must say I'm quite hopeful.

Best wishes!
Chantal
chantal@idcw.org.uk

Please do not hesitate to send any question, suggestion, criticism.
If you have some links to suggest, please let us know!
If you wish to write something for the newsletter, please do so and Email it to <members@idcw.org.uk>.

Newsletter publication dates and deadlines for contributions:
- 1st of June (June-August): deadline for contributions: 15th of May
- 1st of September (September-November): deadline for contributions: 15th of August
- 1st of December (December-February): deadline for contributions: 15th of November
- 1st of March (March-May): deadline for contributions: 15th of February

Institute of Draped Clothes
members@idcw.org.uk
http://www.idcw.org.uk

 

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