-By Ankita Dutta.
The sari is a popular and traditional garment of India, which has been worn for centuries. The sari is made of a single piece of unstitched cloth that is draped elegantly around the body to create a garment. The simplicity of the sari has encouraged Indian designers to experiment with its designs and create a plethora of styles that are unique and stylish.
One of the most popular styles of the sari that is prevalent today is the one encouraged during the British Raj. However, there are over a hundred alternatives available, and Indian designers are trying to popularize them by exploring the designs of the fabric itself. The sari had lost its popularity from the 1960s to the millennium, but with new designers and resurgence in women’s rights, it has become a symbol of female empowerment.
The exhibition called “The Offbeat Sari” at the Design Museum takes a fresh look at the sari, examining it from a fabric of high fashion and social significance. The exhibit displays an array of saris that resemble a fashion show. However, it’s the smaller details that stand out, such as the beautifully decorated trainers that bring a contemporary style and comfort to younger wearers.
A section of the exhibition delves into the technical aspects of creating the sari fabric and features modern materials that are used in creating the fabrics. A particularly stunning sari in this section glows and is made from hair-thin strands of steel coated in gold, creating a flowing fabric that looks almost sculpted rather than woven. Another interesting exhibit showcases old-fashioned punch cards from early industrial weaving machines, displaying a modern pattern from 2020.
Some saris at the exhibition reflect political messages and causes. For example, a striking pink sari is from the Gulabi Gang, which was set up in 2006 to fight domestic violence in rural northern India. New Delhi-based designer Gaurav J Gupta has found a way of collecting New Delhi’s infamous pollution to create an ink that is used to dye fabrics. This allows for the embedding of political messages into the fabric itself.
The exhibition also features a section about people of other genders, or none, wearing a sari. This section highlights how even with its ancient heritage, the sari is still a modern garment that is evolving with the times. It also explores how the garment is increasingly being claimed as a symbol of identity and pride.
Overall, the exhibition “The Offbeat Sari” is part fashion show and part political statement that provides education about the history of the sari. It helps visitors understand this iconic garment’s significance to India and its cultural elements. The sari, although a single piece of cloth, carries immense historical, cultural, and political power- and thus it is exciting to learn about. Don’t miss the chance to visit the exhibition at the Design Museum until 17th September.