Choli, or sari blouse

Choli is the term for blouse in Hindi. It is most characterized by the lehenga choli, another Indian outfit with a skirt, a scarf (or dupatta) and the choli. Lehenga choli’s are one of my favorite things but we will get into that in another post.

Each sari comes with an extra yard or so of plain fabric or for more fancy saris, special decorations that outline sleeves and the hem of a sari. The most exciting thing about cutting off the yard of fabric for the tailor is that you can design your own blouse like the back and front necklines, and the sleeves.

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An interesting book about saris

As a Westerner, I did struggle to learn how to wear the sari when I was back living in the United States. I watched a few Youtube videos to try to learn, but there is nothing like wearing saris often to get used to the movement of the garment. This can take time and patience to get used to walking, but the end result leaves you feeling elegant in a variety of fabrics.

One day, while wandering in the library as I tend to do, I came upon this book:

The Sari by Mukulika Banerjee

The Sari by Mukulika Banerjee

I wondered if this would help me wear the garment comfortably. The book presented a lot of information about the history of the sari, the ways to drape the sari, statements made by types of saris, social interactions with the sari and much more. There also were gorgeous pictures demonstrating these subjects, along with sari prints, the sari making process at the textile mills and movie stars wearing glamorous saris.

I really enjoyed this book, because it made me feel like wearing a sari is an art. I have never experienced that with a garment before, and as the book says, women seem to have a story attached to each sari they own. They often receive them for new festivals, like Diwali, and often the person who gives them a sari demonstrates a sort of relationship.

I have begun to develop my own stories with the vast amount of saris I shipped home from India. I pick them out to make certain statements: fancy, relaxed, day wear, evening wear, colors for particular festivals (Diwali demands oranges, reds or bright pinks to match the diya lights and rangolis, and fabric to be most comfortable in the weather.

For example, season depending I will stay warm or cold. For summer, I like chiffon, net, cotton blends and sometimes regular cotton.

For winter, I am looking forward to heavier silks and thicker cotton. I also see women in temple pairing their saris with cardigans to keep warm.

Since I have a trousseau from India, I will pull them out during festival season (Diwali is in a couple weeks) and it will add to the nice memory. I also might even do it for Western holidays like I did last year for Christmas.

In my next post, I will tell you a story about a sari I bought.

East Meets West Saree Stylist

Hello, this first post is going to be mostly about me, because I have quite an interesting story of the way I became interested in Indian culture.

This blog is to help Westerners understand more about Indian culture, which I believe is the first step to wearing the sari. But to meet me, here is a picture below of me wearing a sari:

sari 1 image

I actually got this at a bead store  in Portland, Oregon. There is always a basket of vintage saris to look through.

This story goes all the way back to when I was a little girl, starting to attend kindergarten at the International School of Amsterdam.

I made friends with people from all over the world, including an Indian family that my mum was good friends with.

The mothers cooked together and exchanged recipes. And the children and I would always play together.

While tasting some new aloo (potato) recipes and learning about Diwali (Indian festival) at school, my interest in Indian culture only grew when my mum’s friend was cleaning out her jewelry one day.

She gave me some earrings and bangles and I thought they were the most beautiful jewelry I had  ever seen.

I was further rewarded when my younger sister’s teacher, also from India, brought back a huge selection of bangles for my sisters and I.

Little did I know, in December 2008, I would randomly go to India with two other friends.

Though it was a huge cultural adjustment, by the end, India became my favorite country for many reasons, but most notably the jewelry, clothing and food.

I recently took my own trip to South India for four and a half months, scouting out the best sari places, designing my own sari blouses and conferring with tailors in Hindi.

Hopefully there will be another India trip in the works soon so I can fill out my bridal wardrobe.

I will be posting on saris I like, saree stores I recommend, and accessories to go with your saris.

I know I am a Westerner and have a different view on saris, but I have taken the time to understand the art of wearing a sari.

 I am also always learning about this intriguing garment!