Indian Sari Debut

Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - blue gold saree

Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - blue gold saree

As some of you know from my previous posts, I'm on the pastoral team at a new intercultural church in my town.  We recently launched, and it's been a fun journey so far!  One of the ways we like to share our cultures with each other is by sharing traditional clothing.  Last week, we lady pastors decided to declare it unofficial Indian sari night!

Happily, we non-Indian ladies were not left on our own to try to figure out how to wrap one.  In case you aren't familiar with the sari (or "saree"), it's a traditional Indian garment that is made of a cropped blouse and a coordinating piece of fabric several meters long that is worn over a skirt and wrapped and pleated around the body in various ways.  It's often richly embellished and made in vibrant colors and patterns.  I agree with Indian aesthetics; more is more!  For my sari, the blouse included was far too big for me.  I made it smaller and removed the sleeves. Sleeveless blouses were a popular 1930s sari trend, so I thought I'd stick with my favorite era here, too!



Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - Life 360 Intercultural Church Springfield, MO
Me, Anisha, and Saehee (photo credit to Elizabeth)
Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - blue gold saree

Anisha, Saehee, and I met early to get our looks put together.  Anisha wore her sari and lent one to Saehee, and I brought a sari my mother bought for me in Thailand.  Mine is what I call a "cheater sari" because the bottom half is pre-sewn into an elastic-waisted skirt!  It saves a BUNCH of time and can feel a bit more secure than the usual wrap-and-pin method most sari-wearers use.  Anisha helped me wrap and pleat the rest of the fabric around my top in a way that is flattering for a shorter person. I didn't have the forethought to bring safety pins, but--as a good vintage wearer--I did happen to have a couple brooches in my purse, and I pulled out this gold leaf one to secure the pleated fabric to my blouse. Vintage to the rescue!


Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - blue gold saree

Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - blue gold saree
After a recent haircut, my hair is MUCH shorter than I expected. It's still not long enough to pin curl yet, hence the straight, weird 'do.
If you have ever seen someone wearing a sari, you may notice that ours look a little different.  There's very little, if any, midriff showing on each of us, and the sari usually shows a lot more stomach than this.  We covered most of it up.  Being an intercultural church, we have people from... you guessed it... many cultures represented in our group.  With each culture comes a set of expectations and morals relating to modesty, especially modesty in a religious setting like a church.  In India, a sari is considered by many to be one of the most traditional, most conservative/ modest garments a woman can wear. Midriff showing isn't a problem.  


Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - blue gold sari pallu

Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - blue gold saree pallu

However, in many cultures and Christian backgrounds around the world, a woman showing her stomach, especially in church, is considered disrespectful or distracting.  Do Anisha, Saehee, and I think a woman's stomach showing is inherently sinful?  No, we don't.  However, we're leaders in a group of diverse peoples that we love, many of whom would be offended or at least distracted by us showing our stomachs.  The right to show more midriff in church is not a battle we feel is worth fighting in the grand scheme of things. Out of respect for people that may have been uncomfortable with it, we tweaked and pinned the sari each of us was wearing to cover most of our midriff. We were able to wear a traditional garment in a way that shares Indian culture, fits our church context, and respects the diverse cultures represented in it.


Flashback Summer: Indian Sari Debut - Life 360 Intercultural Church Springfield, MO
Our church pastoral team (photo credit to Elizabeth)
It is often popular to loudly demand our personal rights or to push the limits of others' expectations, and sometimes it's perfectly appropriate to do so.  However, at other times, laying down our personal rights in an effort to cherish and value others can do far more good.  This is a line that I am learning to distinguish, when to stand up and fight and when to lay down my rights or freedoms for the good of others and our community.  

Have you ever gotten a chance to wear a sari or another piece of Indian clothing?  What was your experience like, and how did others respond?


Have there been times when you put aside your personal preferences or views in order to show respect and value to another person?  How would you gauge when it's appropriate to stand up for your personal rights and when to lay them down for someone else's good?

13 comments

  1. Oh what an amazing colour! I love saris and the whole traditional Indian look, it's just so beautiful and bright. It always seems like a celebration of everyone's beauty rather than dressing to hide ourselves like so many people do in the western world.
    I have an olive green sari that I bought in London several years ago but still haven't worn. One day I'll find someone to show me how to put it on!

    ReplyDelete
  2. All of your saris are beautiful! My best friend is of an Indian background, and I love attending different events with her partly because I get to experience her culture through clothing! I also love how you modified your saris to respect the wishes of everyone in your Church.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So pretty! I've never worn a sari but I went to the birthday party of an Indian friend before Christmas and loved all the beautiful saris her family were wearing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're SO pretty. Indian clothing is some of my favorite in the world. So elegant and flattering for everyone!

      Delete
  4. That's a really pretty sari! I have one that I wore to my cousin's wedding a few years ago, but have sadly not had an occasion to wear it since.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This was really fasinating, a great insight.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So gorgeous! I adore saris, but I don't think I could ever get away with wearing one. ...maybe as a scarf, but not the full thing. I would be afraid of offending someone. I'm interested in hijab and head wrapping, too, but....same reason...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure randomly wearing it about would be kind of strange, but no Indian I've ever met has been offended by a non-Indian respectfully wearing a sari. I'm sure if you found someone to help you wrap one, she wouldn't mind it at all!

      Hijab is a little different, since it's related to a religion, not a nationality. I wore hijab while living in a Muslim country, but it was necessary for that context. However, Muslims don't have a corner on the entire head wrap market! There are plenty of head wraps you can wear that will not immediately identify you as Muslim that you can try out!

      Delete
  7. Really beautiful sari. You look fantastic! Saris one of my favourite garments in the world. Between the vibrant hues and the elegant lengths of material, they have a grace and loveliness unto themselves.

    ♥ Jessica

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the point you made about personal freedom vs respecting and valuing others. If more people would have your attitude and be willing to lay aside some of their rights (even something as inconsequential as the right to show off your midriff) in order to value and respect others, what a nicer world we would live in! As for me, I work at a church too (not on pastoral staff though!) and I choose not to wear shorts or sleeveless tops to work even though it's Florida and most people are way more chill about that sort of stuff because it's so hot all of the time. It's definitely a personal decision that shouldn't be forced on other people but it's really cool to see you sharing your thoughts about it.

    Also, I adore the saris! So pretty! I adore all of the bright colors and bling! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is so neat! I actually have a sari I've been considering showing on my blog, as it was given to me as a wedding gift by my Gujarati Auntie, although I don't have any appropriate cultural settings or events in which to wear it. Yours is gorgeous.

    And, coincidence of coincidences, I drove by your church on my drive to Texas today! I saw the sign and thought "That rings a bell..." since you had shared about it before!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love how you were able to pull off wearing a Sari, while still being considerate of other's modesty standards. I must confess there have been a few times where I have changed what I am wearing because I know that it might cause others to question me, even though I, and my family, approve of what I am wearing. But I think it is fantastic that you were able to wear a Sari, and make it more "modest". :D

    Blessings,

    Brigid
    the Middle Sister and Singer

    ReplyDelete