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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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The Art of the Sari: Traditional dress will be common during IIFA

When the green carpets roll out next week for the four-day International Indian Film Academy Awards spectacular known as the “Bollywood Oscars,” stylish saris are expected to dazzle along with the stars.

“The sari is the evening gown of India,” says Kiran Bahl, owner of GroStyles, a boutique with locations in Tampa, Orlando and Sunrise that specializes in Indian apparel for women, men and children. “They are going to be beautiful, bright, bold and colorful with lots of bling.”

The sari, a traditional dress in India, is one of the most versatile items of clothing in the world, Bahl says.

Draped from more than six yards of material, formal saris come in a multitude of colors and fabrics, including pure silk, crepe, chiffon, lace and georgette. They are adorned with elaborate beading and embroidery.

But saris also can be worn during the day for casual outings and even business meetings.

“There really is a sari for every occasion,” says Bahl, a native of India. “It depends on the color, material and how it’s draped.”

Every occasion is marked by certain sari fashion rules, she says.

For example, if you’re going out during the day, you shouldn’t wear a silk sari. Instead, opt for one made of georgette or chiffon, in a pastel color or neon shade.

For a wedding, stay away from the color red — that’s the color of attraction, which is reserved for the bride — and white, which is considered to be for widows. Go for a bright, colorful sari in chiffon or silk.

And never wear a black sari to a daytime wedding. Black is mainly worn for receptions or evening events; it’s frowned upon for daytime.

The way a sari is draped is also an art.

“The pleats must be made and the pallu (the decorative part) must be displayed accordingly,” Bahl says. “There are countless ways to drape (a sari). The draping varies from region to region.”

The most popular draping consists of wrapping the fabric around the waist, making pleats in the front, and draping the rest of the length around the shoulder, Bahl says.

Wrapping more than six yards of material around your body may sound challenging, but Sharmila Brakash says it’s easy once you get the hang of it. A boutique employee who hails from India, she has worn saris since she was a little girl, and she learned how to wrap them from her mother.

“It’s like painting your nails in America,” says Brakash, who can wrap a sari is seconds. “Every girl does it (in India). Every girl wears saris even to play. It’s very intricate, but anyone can pick it up.”

Another popular green carpet look for women will be lehengas, embroidered and pleated long skirts with a top and scarf, and suits made up of loose drawstring pants, or leggings, paired with a tunic top.

When it comes to accessories, look for loads of colorful bangles, dazzling earrings and necklaces, forehead pieces and upper- and lower-arm bracelets.

“We love lots of bling,” says Bahl, whose boutique sells saris starting at around $100.

Let’s not forget about the men who will be walking the green carpet. Alongside tuxedos and three piece suits, they’ll look dapper in shirwanis with hand embroidery and embellishments, and kurta pyjamas, the loose long tunic and long pants favored by Indian politicians.

“We’re talking lots of color here as well,” Bahl says. “A lot of men freak out over color, but (shirwanis and kurta pyjamas) come in every color possible, even pink. As long as you coordinate with your date or the occasion, all is well.”

Bahl says Florida’s climate makes it the ideal place to experiment with Indian fashion.

“It’s very tropical here and people enjoy wearing color,” she says. “(Indian) clothes are very comfortable and very breathable, so when someone who isn’t Indian tries them they will usually start wearing them regularly. And we love that.”

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