That magical drape called sari is spotted not just in the Indian woman's wardrobe, it has international connoisseurs too. From Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen to heiress Paris Hilton, they have all sported it, though like a dress.
Paris Hilton in Mumbai (Pic/Satyajit Desai)
One of the most talked about socialites, Hilton is known for sporting high-end Western wear. But she turned desi when she draped a sari for the cover shoot of an Indian fashion magazine and said that she adored the six-yard wonder by designer Rocky S.
Not only that. For her first formal appearance during her three-day visit to Mumbai, the 30-year-old wore a coral pink Grecian sari-inspired gown.
Bundchen too wore sari for a magazine cover.
Nicole Scherzinger, Carmit Bachar, Melody Thornton, Jessica Sutta, Ashley Roberts and Kimberly Wyatt from the American pop girl group Pussycat Dolls flaunted heavily embellished black sequin saris during the New York fashion week in 2008.
One wonders how these international stars manage to carry off a sari, originally a nine-yard cloth that takes some skill to pleat and drape!
Very simple. Stylists have found an easy way out for them by putting pleats in place and setting pallus -- one just has to slip into it.
Designer Anand Kabra, known for making a beautiful sari-inspired collection, was perhaps the first one to introduce Concept Saris on ramp.
"The Concept Sari is easy to wear, especially if you have never worn a sari before. It is ready to wear with just one wrap around and the pallu over your shoulder. I have used it in both Indian and contemporary ways," said Kabra.
"Fabrics like tulle, chiffon, silk and muslin are very much in vogue and can do wonders in bright hues like neon, crimson and purple," he added.
These days Concept Sari is being popularised by Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor -- she is seen sporting one in the "Chammak Challo" song in her forthcoming sci-fi mega budget "RA.One".
Another form is a well-fitted sari with pre-stitched pleats and pallu and designers Gaurav Gupta and Raakesh Agarvwal presented them at Delhi Couture Week this year.
"A Gaurav Gupta sari compliments the modern woman who is open to transformation and embraces the flow from one style of hers into another," said Gupta.
Young designer Nida Mehmood feels the sari "accentuates a woman's hour-glass figure and that's why most Hollywood celebrities try wearing it."
"Also, what can be the best way to add a touch of class and sensuality in a country like India where every girl wants to wear a sari at some point in her life?" Mehmood told IANS.
For years, the sari was worn in a traditional way but designer Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya, India's first Oscar winner, was perhaps the first to experiment with the nine yards, doing away with pleats and giving it a skirt-like look - as sported by Mumtaz.
Mahmood, along with designers like Tarun Tahiliani, too gave a makeover to sari and made models sashay in it on the ramp at fashion shows. A sari, according to them, can be worn over a pair of jeans or jazzed up with a sexy slim belt for a trendy look.
"I used belts emphasising the waist, adding more sexiness, style and youthfulness to the entire personality. I think young girls really liked these innovative styles. This idea of wearing saris over jeans is the interpretation of wearing a sari in a trendy manner. This is a trend that youngsters can follow for any casual party," Mahmood said.
Designers like Anamika Khanna, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Wendell Rodricks and Meera and Muzaffar Ali have done their interpretations of the sari.
Khanna invented sari pyjamas where she used crushed muslin fabric combining the sari drape with casual pyjamas replacing petticoats. Next comes Mukherjee who created the "chhotu" or cropped sari that is worn just above the ankle.
Anupama Dayal says, "Today saris are given more prominence than blouses and people take that extra pain to make the look perfect. Colour blocking, long pallus or very short pallus, and handloom fabrics are making a great comeback."
International designers also take inspiration from the sari -- in the 1950s, Italian designer Valentino designed a sari dress for Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy.
About five decades later in 2008, French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier showed a line of sari dresses in his spring summer collection.