Chantal Boulanger, Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping

Quite an interesting theme for the holiday season, art in the everyday life: Sari

“Of all the arts that have flourished in India, one of the least known and studied is that of draping. This is all the more extraordinary because it is a unique art and craft which offers special insights into the ethnology of Indian and South-East Asian peoples and the archaeology of the periods in which it developed. I have spent years researching sari drapes and recording over 100 different styles of draping. My findings bring out new ways for classifying Indian costumes and open different perspectives on the meaning of drapes. It demonstrates that most saris fit into a few “families” corresponding to ethnic origins.”

Ravi Varma, Saris of India, picture

My interest was aroused at a wedding. Among the guests, I saw a woman who wore a drape I had never noticed before. I took her picture and started looking in books in order to learn how to drape her style. After a year and many books, I realized that this kind of drape had never previously been recorded. I tried to find a woman who could teach it to me, but this was not

This painting by Raja Ravi Varma

depicts several traditional styles

of draping the sari, cf, Wikimedia

easy because only a few old women knew how to do it. Finally, I studied how to drape that particular sari, and I gave it a name for my records. Since this drape is worn by peasant women in a region of Tamil Nadu called Tondaimandalam, I called it the “Tondaimandalam sari”. .., “
I was thinking of an event in the sf bayarea (public or private?) where all friends would dress up in one style of the Sari and meet over food or music. Even, typed out the event details to a group of friends and then, I found:
Turns out there are already a few groups that organized around Chantal’s book:

Check them out!

“There are literally hundreds of ways of wrapping a sari! A definitive authority on Sari draping is Chantal Boulanger, who has done extensive research learning and documenting the different regional sari drapes of India. Chantal Boulanger met with a tragic death while on vacation in Africa Dec. 2004. A sad loss for the world of draped clothing.

Chantal was dedicated to her cause and went to the farthest corners of India to learn new drapes. Despite language and cultural barriers the women she met were mostly very happy to share their knowledge. She learned the drapes in depth by wearing them herself, until she’d really figured out the fine points. Her ground breaking book Saris: An illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping features over 80 different draping styles explained and illustrated with easy to follow instructions. You can see some of the different drapes on her website, which along with the IDC – Institute for Draped clothing, is being maintained by her husband.”

Institute for Draped Clothing:

The Sari Book is quite a treat: It gives a simple instruction set on how to pleat and wear a sari in several eye-pleasing forms.

I have personally tried a few versions of the dhoti (for the men)
The unique Chettiyar dhoti, a very rarely worn aristocratic drape in South India is my personal favorite. This dhoti is now only to be seen on statutes representing Gods, Goddesses, kings and queens. Or dancers.

I have worn it to stunning effect at both South India Weddings and a few wedding & ceremonies here in the SF Bay Area. Several members of the pre-independence era at these functions, the 80+ aged guests, stopped by to understand the style; which brings both the colored borders to the front.


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5 Responses to “Chantal Boulanger, Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping”

  1. imagineur Says:

    Tamil Saris:

    Ever wondered how the Pinkosu or kosu, came about in the Tamil Sari –

    “A natural evolution of the veshti with a kosu (pleats falling out from the waistline) led to the Tamil saris. The cloth used to cover the upper part of the body became attached to one end of the veshti, becoming an 8-yard sari, instead of two separate 4-yard pieces of cloth.

    Attaching the upper cloth to the veshti (covering the legs) had one major inconvenience: it made it difficult to walk. The top part of the sari pulled the lower half, revealing the legs. To avoid this, women in every region of Tamil Nadu adapted the drape in several different ways.

    For all Tamil saris, the kosu remains the main characteristic feature of the drape. It can be placed in the middle of the back (as with pinkosu saris – “pin” means “back” in Tamil), on the right or on the left hip. ”

    An excerpt from,
    Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping by Chantal Boulanger
    (to which the copyright belongs.)

  2. amudha thamizh Says:

    im really taken aback by chantal boulangers works.really feel sad for her tragic death

  3. Dan Says:

    Greate post. Keep posting such kind of information on your
    site. Im really impressed by it.
    Hi there, You have performed a fantastic job. I’ll certainly digg it and in my view recommend to my friends. I’m
    sure they will be benefited from this website.

  4. Shillinal Says:

    Отчего женщины хотят быть красивыми, а не умными? Ну это же просто! Мы очень хорошо знаем, что мужчины, ради которых и приносятся все жертвы, видят лучше, чем соображают.

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