SAREES TO INCLUDE IN YOUR TROUSSEAU
SAREES TO INCLUDE IN YOUR TROUSSEAU
(This is in answer to a request by Aanandika Sood on the Kai Thari Handlooms facebook page, re advice on trousseau saree shopping.)
I think the most common mistake trousseau buyers make is to buy lots of whatever type of sari is popular at the time. This means that everything looks the same, and is also likely to look a bit passé as time goes on. One person I know gave one daughter all chiffons with Swarovski crystals and sequins, and the other a few years later, all Banarsis.
The second mistake is to give only very heavy ornate sarees, which means that once the wedding celebrations are over, the sarees get put into storage and are hardly worn. This is OK if you are looking at the sarees as a once-in-a-lifetime investment, but otherwise a bit of a waste!
The third mistake is having everything in your current favourite colour combinations! Do have a colour range: light, dark; subtle, striking; classic, contemporary….
That said, where do you begin? You do need to look at the person’s lifestyle. Is she going to wear the saris quite regularly, or are they only for weddings and formal occasions. If the former, I would say don’t get everything with ornate gold borders and heavy zari embroidery, as people now don’t wear such dress-up clothes even for social occasions in the evenings (Though I think people in South India still wear more heavy saris than we in the North.) Then theres the issue of summer and winter. Do include some lighter sarees as well as Kanchipuram silks.
So here is my shopping list if I were trousseau buying –
Obviously a Kanjiveeram –the full works: with the temple design, wide border, gold checks or stripes, parrots, elephants, and peacocks in the pallav. But I would avoid the typical yellow and red, red and green, red and black combinations, and look for a slightly different colour mix – purple and rani pink looks fabulous, and I saw a wonderful torquoise blue with an emerald green border. Off-white and black look so striking too. You don’t want to go to a wedding and see everyone in the same colour combination!
A Banarsi – but since you’ve already included the heavy Kanjeeveram, I would go for a cutwork or jamdani tissue, with a delicate touch of gold, and self colour jaal or butis all over, and classic ambi koniyas in the corners of the pallav. And buy this in the delicate pastel colours they do so well – pink, jade green, aquamarine, lime yellow.
An Ikat – the real double ikat Patan patola would be fabulous if you can afford one, but they do cost a HUGE amount these days. Rajkot does some pretty good versions, and the Pochampalli weavers are doing the same designs in single ikat, as well as some stunning take offs on Thai and Indonesian ikat as well. And the Orissa ikats can be stunning too.
A Bandini Tie-dye – should be from Kutch or Jamnagar. The Rajasthan ones are not half as fine. Here you have the choice of going traditional, with a classic bridal red and gold chequered gharchola design, or some of the newer ones which are being done in contemporary layouts and colours. If I was buying ONE really great bandini, I would go for either a gharchola or the equally classic black and red combination – the latter often have a stripe of deep orange between the black ground and the red border which looks stunning. And a lot of them have a thin woven gold border and gold on the pallav. A word of warning: When you buy bandinis they are usually still knotted, and often look very intricate, but when you get them opened, steamed and ironed, it turns out the design is quite crude with big uneven dots and empty spaces in between. Insist on getting one end of the sari opened out and stretched in front of you, before you finalise your purchase.
A Paithani – this beautiful sari from Central India had almost died out, but recently there have been a lot of revivals, including by the Maharshtra Govt. Some are very crude with jarring colours and big designs, cheap shiny rayon silk, and yellow plastic zari. If you are buying a Paithani do get a good one – I know I am not supposed to mention names, but Meera Mehta’s extraordinary Paithanis are pieces of art, worthy of being hung on the wall when you are not wearing them.
Kantha embroidery – thousands of these are in saree stores and craft exhibitions, but not so many of them are good quality. Look for fine tiny stitches; the use of different embroidery techniques like chain stitch and knot stitch, along with the basic running stitch, and lovely naif designs and motifs that derive from the original kantha tradition, rather than just replicate a woven Banarsi sari with big paisleys and flowers. Also avoid those done on papery thin tussar that loses its fall once the starch is gone!
Chikan Embroidery – There is a HUGE difference between the average chikan sari and the really good quality ones – both in price and workmanship. This could be as much as 10-20 thousand rupees. Chikan embroidery has a repertoire of 22 different stitches, done on both the front and reverse of the sari to create that light and shadow effect. A good chikan sari should be a combination of at least 5-6 different stitches, and it should have lots of the pulled thread jaali-work as well. If you want a top-of-the-line piece get one that’s done on crepe or georgette as it will last better. Chikan is now done in all sorts of colours of embroidery on all sorts of colours of base fabric, but for me the beauty of chikan is the authentic white-on-white, or a white embroidery on cream or a very pale translucent colour.
Kalamkari – has come into its own again, after a long spell of being totally out of fashion. It looks very dramatic and stylish and is being done on all kinds of fabrics. I do think caution needs to be exercised on how large the design is and how bold the colour combinations. And I personally have a problem with big Gods and Goddesses scattered all over, including where you sit on them! A Kalamkari half-and-half sari, with one half a plain colour, looks great, and can take you from a business meeting to a cocktail party with ease. I do wish more people would work with the Macchlipatnam kalamkari motifs though, as the delicate floral jaals work so well with saris. We hardly see these nowadays.
Dhaka Jamdaanis – luckily lots of Bangladeshi weavers come to India to sell their saris to the big shops and retailers, as well as make home visits to their established customers. There has been a wonderful revival of Dhakais, and they come in stunningly beautiful colours and weaves. They are expensive, so make sure that the zari is good quality and that they are pure cotton, not with a silk mix. Otherwise they are so fragile that the fabric splits along the weft very easily.
A Tanchoi – this is a Banarsi weave too, and is a really invaluable addition to any wardrobe, because it looks very sophisticated and stylish, without being glittery “dressed up” or too “ethnic”. They have subtle woven allover designs in self colours – tiny paisleys, chevrons, floral jaals.
Pashmina sari with sozni embroidery – If you are living in a cold country abroad, this is a great investment. A few Kashmiri craftspeople have revived these saris which used to traditionally be done for the Kashmiri Pandit families. They drape like a dream and are obviously an incredibly cosy wrap, while still being quite light-weight. A delicate narrow sozni embroidered border and pallav and perhaps a few small butis in the body. Teamed with an antique jamawar, or one of the exciting new kani weave pashminas, it will take you anywhere and mark you out as a connoisseur.
Zardozi gold embroidery– Done on chiffon, organza, or net, these are so in vogue these days,that I almost didn’t include them; but they are obviously bridal, and young people like them because they cling and drape well and look sparkly and festive without being too heavy and traditional. Here, look for embroidery which combines different types of gold thread, twisted, knotted, and corded, along with sequins and mukesh work. The embroideries which combine gold, copper and silver coloured thread look especially nice – as it gives them a lovely textured 3-D look.
So there are my 12! I really picked them off the top of my head and could have included so many more – Kasuti and Kutchi suf, mochi and mutva embroidery, Dharmaveram and Gadwals, Uppada Jamdanis. Assam mekhla chadors, Orissa Bomkais, Chanderis, Kota dorias, and Maheshwaris. Madhubani, leheriya, …. We haven’t even touched the different regional cotton weaves and block prints. The list goes on and on. How lucky we are to have these riches.
In the end you must pick what really appeals to you and suits your personality and style. A sari must express you, not you become a clothes-horse for the sari.
And don’t go dashing out to buy everything at once – a fortnight before the wedding! Keep a checklist in your head and whenever you go to an exhibition, craft bazaar or on your travels, pick up one when it catches your eye and stash it away…
All the best,