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Drapes of India - Tamil Nadu

by Sundari Silks 10 Jul 2019
Drapes of India - Tamil Nadu

Sari is the most representative apparel of India and an indicator of cultural mechanism. A drape referenced world over, and worn by a lot of women daily, the sari is a garment contributed by India. We are happy to begin the series of blogs focussing on Drapes of India. Each state boasts of multiple ways the saree can be draped, and that goes perfectly in sync with the climatic and regional conditions.

Through this blog, we look forward to an opportunity to aesthetically showcase how a drape was in the past and how it’s worn today. The idea is to influence a handful of youngsters to wear a saree in a style comfortable to them and participate in an ongoing conversation.

The versatile drape of this garment offers insights into the lingua franca, a common language cutting across various regional identities in India. It will remain as an evolving garment, open to adaptation by the future generation.

The Sari goes back a thousand years in terms of design. This three-dimensional garment has three kinds of variable elements in the body, border and pallu. It was a garment which was unpierced or intruded by a stitching needle.

Sarees from Tamilnadu have a well-enunciated formula in terms of colour contrasts, material combinations and play of motifs. We are always well known for our structured art - be it grammar, or temple architecture, or a simple act of drawing a pulli-kolam dotted with grids.

The age-old weaving centres in Tamilnadu revolved around the temple cities – Kanchipuram, the capital of Pallavas; Woraiyur (near Trichy), the capital of Cholas; Karur, the capital of Cheras and Madurai, the capital of Pandyas.

Cotton saris still form the solid base for our state, but the silks from Kancheepuram, Arani and Thirubhuvanam are elaborate and are always in demand.  The colour  Arakku, a dark maroonish-red is the most favoured colour for the brides.

The normal saree draping style what we have in India is about one hundred and fifty years old and is called the Thakurbari drape or the drape pioneered by the Tagore ladies. The recognized style of draping today is known as the Nivi drape.

Pin Kosuvam

Tamilnadu was famous for its rural back pleated style of pin kosuvam, the traditional style still followed in villages. Worn above the knee, this style was adopted by the women of Madurai, Coimbatore and Chettinadu. These coarse and thick cotton saris did not need a petticoat at all. Strategic knots of the saree in the hips made sure that the saree stayed in place all day.

Even now you can see the old soft cotton saris being used as “Thottil” or snug hammocks. The baby is rocked and swayed, and provides a cosy environment in the folds of the mother’s saris!


The nine-yard Kanjivaram silk or cotton saree is referred to as Madisar and worn for all traditional functions of the Brahmin households. This is an important drape of the Iyer and Iyengar culture of Tamil Nadu.

The Madisar is worn by women, traditionally after marriage, and sported on special occasions and festivities. This drape does not require the use of a petticoat, and falls in to place with the ‘right knots”.

It follows the ardha-nareeshwara (half man/half woman) style of; the lower half is draped like a dhoti or kacham while the upper half is pleated like a saree. The Pallu is worn over the right shoulder by the Iyers and over the left shoulder by the Iyengars.

Pavadai Dhavani

A traditional dress worn mainly by the South Indian young girls is pavadai dhavani – a half saree. The half saree facilitates the transition from the childhood paavadai (skirt) sattai (blouse) to the saree, the more complicated drape worn by adult women. Usually, the pavadai (skirt) and the dhavani (the upper part) are brightly coloured and contrast to each other. At a glance, the half saree outfit can look similar to southern styles of saree because the drape travels in the same direction: tucked into the front of the skirt, then wrapped around the waist, and then draped over the opposite shoulder.


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