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APARNA KARTHIKEYAN
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TREND It might only be half a sari, but it's nearly twice as elegant…

A new lease of lifeFor the half-sari
A new lease of lifeFor the half-sari

Seen many young girls wearing the half-sari recently? No, not Hansika Motwani and Amala Paul, they don't count, even though they looked very nice, in a pseudo village-belle kind of way. We're talking real-life, the streets and schools, malls and wedding halls. I kept my eyes peeled, and scanned them all for a week; unfortunately, I mostly drew a blank. I even checked with the maid, and she told me, very matter-of-factly, that all the teenage girls she knows only wear salwar-kameez. “They wear paavaadai-dhaavani only in the villages.”

But how do you then explain the rash of pictures on Facebook, of pretty, young girls in half-saris? All of them were, surprisingly, city-bred teenagers, at ease in shorts and singlet in summer and yet choosing to wear a stunning paavaadai-dhaavani for family weddings. Why, their carefully put together outfits looked far richer than anything I had seen in films. Half-saris, I thought to myself, as I ‘liked' their pictures, had indeed come a very long way — a thing of beauty in a brand-new avatar.

Changing scenario

Once upon a time, the everyday dress of the rural (and occasionally urban) high-school girl, half-saris are now set to pretty much vanish from that scenario. In fact, the government too has changed the uniforms for older girls to salwar-kameez. And that's not entirely a bad thing, says Shoba Ravishankar, event promoter. “If the half-sari stays firmly out of the regular and rustic wear category, it will have more takers. Teenagers definitely will prefer something that's associated with glamour, rather than daily wear.” Even when she was a teenager, Shoba says, the half-sari suffered a somewhat frumpy image. “I set a trend in school by modernising it, with a pattu blouse and pattu half-sari; and since those were boring georgette dhaavani times, the girls thought it was cool, and that year, all of them wore it for Deepavali.”

Today, her daughter, medical student Sathwika Ravishankar says she decided to wear the half-sari even before her mother asked her to.

“It's traditional and beautiful, besides being a very comfortable garment. Also, since it's so easy to drape, my friends too like to wear it, especially when their mums aren't around to help with the sari.” And besides hiding a multitude of sins, half-saris, like their grown-up version (sari), flatter and lend a certain grace to almost every figure.

K. Rajaram, proprietor, Sundari Silks, says that businesses should have done more to keep paavaadai-dhaavani in vogue. “It is said that half-sari is one of the best dresses; you can have a minimum of six colours in the ensemble — it is a very colourful garment, and yet manages to look classy.”

Preserving a tradition

“Even if not on a daily basis, it is important that the half-sari is worn on occasions; if not, we are losing out on a south Indian tradition, especially one that meant a graduation to a sari,” says Sabita Radhakrishna, textile expert. And to make it appeal to the younger lot, Sabita suggests changing the style of the skirt — flair it out with several kallis and team it with a nice-looking blouse. Agrees Shoba, who feels the garment's future is secure as long as it is gets a makeover. “The dhaavani can me made grander — chiffons with embroidery, beadwork and zardosi — and they can easily double-up as dupattas .” A little imagination, and she feels it will never go out of fashion.

“There is good demand in the market for half-sarees,” says Rajaram. “Customers want something nice, with a touch of modernity.” “When salwars can be called a trendy garment why not half-saris?” asks Sathwika. “Just pair it with a halter-blouse, or drape it in a different way.” And half-saris, surely, should be here to stay…

APARNA KARTHIKEYAN

It is important that the half-sari is worn on occasions; if not, we are losing out on a south Indian tradition, especially one that meant a graduation to a sari

Sabita Radhakrishna, Textile expert

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