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A swan song for the 'pavada'?

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CHANGING DRESS CODE The traditional pavada is giving way to modern dresses like the salwar kameez
CHANGING DRESS CODE The traditional pavada is giving way to modern dresses like the salwar kameez

Girls in long flowing pavada, glass bangles and jasmine are now seen only on festive occasions like Onam or in old Malayalam films

The pavada can be improvised to suit the taste of the wearer Silvia Ben, designer The ubiquitous presence of the salwar kurta, a dress worn sparingly by Malayalis two decades ago, is proof enough to say that Keralites are carried away by the onslaught of North Indian and Western garments. The pavada, a garment that flowed down to cover the ankles, was the traditional dress of Malayali women worn during festival and other occasions. But for the last couple of decades a deluge of jeans, trousers, salwar kurta, midis and skirts have replaced the traditional pavada. Today, if you want to see Malayali girls in the traditional silk pavada and blouse, then you have to be invited to a wedding or visit a temple, wait for the Kerala Piravi Day or for Onam. "I wear jeans, skirts and salwar kurta to college," says Bismi, a student of St. Teresa's College, Ernakulam. "I do wear the pavada and half sari occasionally. I recently got a pavada stitched. But it is quite unrealistic to think that the pavada will be worn as it used to be 20 years ago," she adds. Though there is enough flooding of variants of the pavada like the midi, the mini, micro skirts, laccha and the traditional lehengas, all of decreasing length, traditionalists are not ready to accept these clones. According to K. J. Alex, senior designer at Sainara, Convent Junction, the demand for the pavada reaches its zenith during Onam. "Though it was a common dress two decades ago it has now been reduced to one occasionally worn by young girls for festivals. With the advent of Onam, we expect brisk business in this segment," says Alex.Though youngsters are ready to keep the pavada as part of their wardrobe, they find it rather cumbersome. "Wearing pavada and blouse to college is very uncomfortable and inconvenient. Getting on and off buses, in heavy pavada, is very difficult. Since it is a decorative outfit, it is best to wear it once a year, during Onam," says Jibi. Nowadays youngsters have strong views on what they wear and neither parents nor others can influence them. "I like wearing the salwar kurta as it is very convenient. But that does not mean that I am against the pavada. I am very particular while wearing this dress," says Manasa, an engineering college student. Creativity and experimentation that is sweeping the fashion world has taken its toll on the traditional pavada. Pavadas in printed georgette or other synthetic fabric, which made good formal as well as casual wear, are available with the various designer stores in the city. Though the most popular is the Kancheevaram, there is a new entrant like the Patiala for bottom."One aspect that works to the advantage of the pavada is that it can be adapted and improvised to suit the taste of the wearer encouraging them to check it out. This has brought in modern elements like embroidered half sari or embellished blouse. Besides introducing fish cut and short blouse items, traditional pavada has slits below the knee for easy walking," informs Silvia Ben, designer, with the city-based Nile. There are few girls who dislike the pavada because it is revealing. "With salwar kurta, I can wear a dupatta. But what do I do with a pavada-blouse set? Even a half sari is revealing. Besides that, if you wear pavada-blouse, you become the cynosure of all eyes with the local Romeos virtually behind you," says Dhanya, a student at Cusat. Since dressing has always been a statement of fashion, luxury and exclusivity from time immemorial, we cannot impose the traditional dresses. Then if you want to see women wearing the pavada-blouse, glass bangles and jasmine, you must either wait for a festival season or see an old Malayalam film. N. V. VIJAYAKUMAR

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