An Indian designer known for turning heads with his creations has set tongues wagging with his recent comment in a speech at Harvard about the obsolescence of Indian ethnicwear. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the messiah of every bride, called shame on women who do not know how to drape a sari, a clothing item his brand sells for over Rs 80,000 a piece, hailing it as an important part of one’s cultural identity as an Indian. While a huge debate over his remarks has erupted on social media, those being ‘shamed’ by Mukherjee do not have to be disheartened. A sliver of hope for the uninitiated comes from the fact that many a celebrity and entrepreneur have taken it upon themselves to carry forward the traditional art of draping saris, in more ways than one. In New Delhi, for instance, one can head over to the ‘Sari School’ founded by Rita Kapur Chishti to learn how to drape a sari in 108 styles. The school, which hosts workshops in cities such as Delhi, Bengaluru, New York, etc, aims to promote the wearing of the unstitched garment with a contemporary touch. Chishti, who is a researcher and an author, has documented the rich history of the textile in her book, Sari: Tradition and Beyond, to explain how the cloth can be draped to suit diverse occasions and lifestyles. For those in need of a sari class in Mumbai, Kalpana Shah is probably the go-to person. Shah, who is the author of The Whole 9 Yards, conducts two kinds of ‘draping courses’—basic courses for Rs 6,000 and advanced courses for Rs 30,000. She is also known to have helped drape saris for celebrities such as Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Sonam Kapoor.
But the 69-year-old master draper not only has classes and books to her credit, she also has an app, Learn Sari, available for both iOS and Android devices, which elaborates upon her book, The Whole 9 Yards. The app, built for beginners and anyone else who wants to learn how to drape a sari in a multitude of ways, provides a quick course with easy-to-follow steps. Priced at Rs 55 per tutorial, the app has several quick courses, depending upon textile and occasion. Other freelance sari drapers, such as Kanpur-based Anita Awasthi (35) and Kolkata-based Dolly Jain (42) also have their share of a sari repertoire through crash courses and online tutorials. Jain, who charges up to Rs 5,000 per client, started off in 2001 with four girls in a class, and now boasts of close to 800 clients from different countries. Meanwhile, Awasthi, who holds three-day crash courses for clients from Kanpur, is probably one of the few professional sari drapers in town, unless, of course, one heads over to their friendly neighbourhood beautician. For many a urban woman, living by herself in the city, the salon or parlour in the locality is an economical option for college functions or job interviews, where draping a sari would cost anywhere between Rs 200 and Rs 600.
For the more tech-savvy bunch, Shah’s Learn Sari is one of the many apps that deconstruct the art of draping the unstructured piece of cloth. Other apps, such as Saree Wearing Styles, Sari Kuchu Styles, How To Wear a Sari, etc, are in abundance and are an easy way to access several draping styles for various occasions. Those looking for a more hands-on visual experience can head over to streaming site YouTube. A simple sari tutorial search will throw up options such as ‘Bangal’, ‘Malyalam’, ‘alternate styles’, etc, to capture the diversity in the country. With celebrities such as Mandira Bedi also showcasing ‘saree-in-a-minute’ videos, those who want to learn how to wear a sari, do not have a dearth of options to turn to for a lesson in sari draping, be it traditional or contemporary.
By: Ananaya Banerjee