Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 9, Tuesday February 26, 2008


blouse ablaze

Blouses have taken a cut above style. It is no longer an additional piece of garment to be worn with a sari. It has evolved into a garment that can easily become the focal piece. Sari blouses in the subcontinent have been referred to with different names, 'neema' and 'choli' being the two most common references. However, in Bangladesh the word blouse has a direct association to one for the sari rather than any other version of top. Sari blouses can be simple in interesting fabrics. The texture and detailing can easily create allure and finesse for the user. Moreover a blouse piece in khadi silk, tasser, or heavy silk weave is versatile and can have a wide variety of options. These materials work well in the winter but in our summer heat you will clearly need to re-evaluate your fabric choices. A blouse is a customized piece that absolutely must fit you perfectly. It is also a very personal statement; therefore choose your styles with caution. The key would be to always remember your body type before selecting a design.

These blouses are useful in the winter, although I must admit it is quite rare these days as most women find it a little unappealing. It is in fact a striking way to show off fine styles on your sleeves. The last season volume on sleeves has played well. Balloon, blouson, multiple puffs, flared, asymmetrical are looking very fresh on sleeves. Pleated or gathered voluminous sleeves on sari blouses will elevate a sari blouse into a swanky piece to show and tell. But it is vital to balance this with a simple sari.

This is the most common type of sleeve for blouses here in Bangladesh. The length may vary anywhere between your shoulders and elbow. Capped, curved or simply fitted, they work well for any type of wearer but for those with heavier arms I suggest you go for long fitted kind. These sleeves can very easily be embellished further. You can use crochet, lace, beads or you could trim them with piping, facing or pleating.

It is a timeless style. It goes well with almost any kind of neckline. Sweet heart, squared, round or boat necked. The shoulder widths can vary from an inch to about two inches but like a small closed neckline, so then the shoulders are fully covered. High backs look great but if you prefer low back that's good too. Backs are a focal area and it should be played up to its full potential. A deep ogee, a u-shape or even a clean square shape looks extraordinary on a back. If it is cut below eight or nine inches then I suggest you use a tie-up to hold your shoulders in place.

Spaghetti strap
This is a very popular style especially amongst the fashionistas. Spaghetti, as the name suggests, is thin straps approximately the size of a noodle. It looks very fitting on a sari as it makes the wearer look very chic. Plaited, laced, or embellished with Swarovski stones, makes the blouse very dressy. It appears best with low backs.

One shouldered
This is a blouse as the name clearly suggests with only one shoulder. It is best zipped on the side instead of a front opening. The strap may be left simple or you can go elaborate with rochet, beading, or other forms of applications. The shoulder may be a strap or it could be extended straight from the body. Winged with little butterfly sleeves this blouse emanates charm. Single shouldered blouses are for the truly adventurous person, who is ready to take on a fashion challenge.

This is a shoulder less blouse. In lycra, it needs no fastening. In other weaves it either needs lacing or a zipper depending on the style. Nowadays, it is made in the reflection of a corset or a bustier. It looks right with quilting, pin tucks, or embossed with 3D imposition. It definitely needs a back support or you may intend to hold on the sides with extension ties. Tubes are very versatile and may be worn with any kind of saris.

Shirt collared blouses come across as a formal impression. Chinese high necked or flapped collared blouses look executive and can be worn at work with an urban suavity. It is equally effective at other official occasions as it bestows an authoritative appearance. So the next time you are going to a ceremonial occasion where you need to look proper do try a blouse with a collar. They are quite adaptable and in a longer length it even works over the sari. Personally I love the idea as it gives the option of layering. Detailing on the collar in floral crochet or textured embroidery is simply super.

By Maheen Khan
Ensemble: Maheen Khan
Make-up and hair: Farzana Shakil Beauty Salon
Photo: Abu Naser
Model: Sabrina F Ahmad

skirting issues

Thy petticoat of sendle white
With gold embroidered gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of silk and white
And these I bought gladly.
~ Loreena McKennit, "Greensleeves”

Okay, so the original version of the medieval song made no mention of petticoats. Even so, these skirt-like garments were very much in vogue in Europe as early as 1585. Back in the day, skirt-like garment was referred to as a petticoat, and they were worn as underwear or independent clothing articles or even dress accessories.

Petticoats were worn throughout history by women who wanted to have the currently fashionable shape created by their clothing. The petticoats, if sufficiently full or stiff, would hold the overskirt out in a pleasingly domed shape and give the impression of a smaller waist than the wearer actually had. It would also complement the desired large bust. Remember the scene from "The King and I" where the Siamese women cooed and clucked over Anna's petticoats?

It is believed that this garment found its way to Asia courtesy of the British Raj. There's a passage in The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh where the exiled Burmese king views the new Collector's wife through a telescope and remarks on her strange, yet familiar clothes. It is then discovered that she is wearing the Indian sari with a blouse and petticoat, articles derived from Western fashion.

It was a fad that was beginning to catch on amongst the Indian elite under the British Raj as a modest, yet fashionable way of wearing the traditional outfit. Very soon, the petticoat became a permanent fixture in the South Asian wardrobe.

Until the 1950's, the primary purpose of the petticoat over here was as innerwear, to be worn with saris to add volume, thus masking the body shape, and to reduce the transparency of sheer saris. Not much thought was given to colour, and the shape was such that it flared out at the bottom, but was also puffed up around the waist.

The 50's were revolutionary in many ways, not just as an aftermath of the Indo-Pak split, and one began to notice changes in architecture, film art, and inevitably, the fashion scene. The umbrella cut, with the cinched waist and the flaring skirt was more flattering to the figure. This was shortly followed by colour-matching trends towards the middle of the decade, so that the petticoats were the same, or complementary hue as the saris they were worn with. Lacy hems arrived at the very end of the decade.

The stylish 60's saw petticoats that were more fitted, tapering close to the body. Delicate cut-work and embroidery also made an appearance around this time, for that peek-a-boo element when worn with slightly sheer saris.

That's the way things have remained until recently, when we now see an emerging trend for contrast petticoats. Team a red blouse and petticoat with a black lace sari and watch the heads turn.

In this day of the instant and the ever ready, readymade petticoats in all colours and sizes are available in most tailoring shops, particularly around New Market and Gausia, ranging from around Tk 120-200. Having your petticoats tailored and embellished may cost you more, up to Tk 400, but it does give you the option of a customised look and feel.

From the jewelled skirts of European nobility to the tapering, tube-like garments worn by glam mams of the East, the petticoat is an indispensable fashion accessory, and it's here to stay.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


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