Sari 101

by Annalise on December 7, 2009

Timsia Wedding

So far, so good ...

When Tatwa, likely prompted by his wife Saralla, asked Dave if I would like to borrow a sari for the wedding we attended this week, I was both thrilled and terrified.


Saris are worn almost universally by married women for formal functions in this part of the world. They can be absolutely stunning and given their assembly, women wear them with fantastic poise and grace. From time to time though, the reference ‘more enthusiasm than grace’ has applied to me. Hence my fear!

Timsia Wedding

When we arrived at their home, Saralla offered me a choice of two gorgeous saris to wear. One was a wine colour with gold designs, the other an intricate blend of grey and gold. I thought the later would be a more subtle choice. So we set about getting me dressed.

A sari is made up of just three pieces; a fitted top, an underskirt with a draw string waist and about a 7 meter length of

fabric usually decorated along all edges. First I put on the fitted top with its short sleeves and front closure. It fit quite nicely and if it were a bit longer, ie could reach my waist, might look pretty good with jeans. I digress. Back to the sari assembly… next I put on the simple straight skirt and Saralla tightened the draw string way beyond what I would have done. This was, I came to understand, important to create the critical anchor point for the sari skirt.

Then the long length of fabric was started on. One end of the length was tucked into the waist of the underskirt for a full wrap around leaving the width of the fabric to meet the floor. Next Saralla determined the amount of fabric needed to drape across the back and chest and then hang as a shawl over my shoulder (not much for the chest part I know, but we move along). With the remainder of the fabric between the skirt already tucked in and the other end wrapped around my torso Saralla quickly created a pleated front by folding the fabric back and forth around her hand and then tucked it in to the front of the undersklirt. After a little fine tuning, she used one huge safety pin to secure the shawl drapped over the shoulder; everything else was being secured by that draw string.

Timsina Wedding

"Niiice Suit!" Clowning with Bhandari (while Tatwa looks on)

I was a nervous about every move at the start of the day but soon discovered that this arrangement was quite secure and I began to move with greater ease. Mr. Bhandari, Dave’s colleague at ICA asked how it felt to wear a sari. I told him it felt a bit risky with not quite enough buttons or zippers for my liking. But actually, it felt lovely with its floating skirt and wrapped top and it stayed in place for the entire day.

Day two was the real test. No Saralla to assist and only one assembly experience for me to work from. When I spoke with our landlady that day and told her I’d be wearing a sari, she immediately understood and offered to come help me get it assembled. I declined, determined to try it myself and told her that if I got completely tangled, I’d call her. Happily, Saralla’s expression when I arrived at the reception was one of pleased approval; she’d taught me well.

Having worn one, I can reflect with extraordinary respect on all the situations in which I’ve seen women wear saris. They are worn not only for formal functions but for everyday life. The teaching uniforms for most female teachers are saris, many married women wear saris while doing all of their daily house work or working in shops. I’ve even seen them worn by women working in the fields of the tarraced farms that lie outside of Kathmandu. This method of dress is centuries old and while all I had to do was walk, sit and eat without coming unraveled, it was fantastic to walk with these ladies for a few days.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirley Robertson December 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

Annalise this was just so interesting, and I know you would be breathtakingly beautiful in a sari.

Mom December 10, 2009 at 10:47 am

Did this. Once only. I never did achieve that ’secure’ feeling.

LeeAnne December 12, 2009 at 6:52 am

Hey Annalise,
I was lucky enough to enjoy wearing a sari at Craig & Anita’s wedding in Winnipeg a few years back. Craig is Brian’s sister, Diane’s youngest son.
The wedding was also a two day event. All of the females in the groom’s family were offered outfits for each day – meaning two outfits each.
I have to say I was very comfortable in it. The one I wore had the pants rather than the dress underneath. The pants could have held three or four of me at the top but only one slender ankle :-)
I’m so very glad that you had that experience. The photos are fabulous – you did beautifully.
LeeAnne

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