‘Saree’, a traditional women wear survives in the modern age

Mohammad Nurul Alam        
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Bangladesh has big tradition for woman’s clothing in wearing ‘Saree’ both as formal & informal wear. This is actually a popular dress in the Indian subcontinent & never lost its attraction even in the modern fashion era. Moreover fashions & new design clothing fails to take its place though ‘Saree’ is the oldest clothing dress. The fashion cycle or new trends of western fashion gets stop when a Bengali woman thinks for a party dress. In Bangladesh ‘Saree’ is the biggest selling clothing in all the festival. It is the uniform of the air hostesses of Biman Bangladesh Airlines. Prime Minister of Bangladesh and all the women parliament members wear ‘Saree’ to uphold the tradition.

Saree

This is a long piece of cloth varying from five to nine yards in length & two to four feet in breadth. Women typically wrapped around their waist, with one end draped over the shoulder.

Parts of ‘Saree’

Though ‘Saree’ is a long piece of clothing but the visible parts of it can be classified based on design & color.

  1. Draping – This works as doppatta or head covering & to cover the upper body. This is the most visible part of Saree while wearing. So designer tries to make it attractive by applying embroidery, print & application of beads or other objects.
  2. Pleats – The pleats is most difficult part while wearing & the good pleat is good attracting in the eye of viewers. So designer puts some specific artistic design in the pleat part by color or print.
  3. The edge- Now ladies are more conscious of how edge is designed. This is the lower parts of Saree edge that designer put embroidery or application to increase its attraction.
  4. Body – This is the area that is less visible & mostly goes inside while wrapping it over the body. So designer keeps it simple with less design.

There are two complementary parts that needed to wear ‘Saree’ -blouse & petticoat, though in old age traditionally working women never wear them. Now blouse is mostly made from same ‘Saree’ part for a better match.

The believe & faith of Muslim community in Bangladesh have changed the method of wearing Saree as well as other design. Muslims has instruction of covering head & body so Dhakai ‘Saree’ is much longer to cover them properly. Women in Muslim community wear ‘Saree’ along with doppatta or scarf as well as long sleeved blouse not to exhibits body part. Whereas the Hindu community keeps navel open as per their belief- this is the symbol of life .So these believe influenced in design of ‘Saree’ in many way.

Types of ‘Saree’ used in Bangladesh

Bridal ‘Saree’

Figure 1: Models are wearing modern designed ‘Bridal Saree’ in a wedding festival recently held in Dhaka
Figure 1: Models are wearing modern designed ‘Bridal Saree’ in a wedding festival recently held in Dhaka

This is most expensive & highly decorated ‘Saree’ that used traditionally in marriage ceremony. Both Hindu & Muslim community consider it a prestigious issue in a social standard & so the bridal ‘Saree’ gets high demand. This is decorated by many types of bids & jewelry materials to give brightening & gorgeous look. So the extra materials attachment makes it weighty & not comfortable while wearing. But due to social standard people never compromise to buy less expensive ‘Saree’.

Baishakhi Saree

Figure 2: Bangali ladies wear colorful saree in the first day of Bangla New Year
Figure 2: Bangali ladies wear colorful saree in the first day of Bangla New Year

Bangla community largely celebrates Pahela Baishakh (Bengali New Year) so new trends of wearing ‘Saree’ is quite popular. White, red, black colored Alpona (Formerly used for Floor painting) is getting attraction of Baishakhi Saree.

Party Saree

Figure 3: Party Saree has to be gorgeous in shade and design.
Figure 3: Party Saree has to be gorgeous in shade and design.

Unlike old age now many of the women in Bangladesh not wearing ‘Saree’ in their daily life. But party ‘Saree’ is commonly popular in all age level to exhibit social status & so women are trying to keep best designing Saree in their collection. On the other hand popular TV serials are influencing them to buy highly expensive ‘Saree’. So party ‘Saree’ is getting in big demand. Now there are various marketing place is driving to sell party ‘Saree’ as well as on line shops. Mirpur Benaroshi Polli is one of the biggest collection place for bridal and party ‘Saree’ in Dhaka.

Saree for common use

Figure 4: Printed cotton saree is suitable for regular use and price is also affordable for common people
Figure 4: Printed cotton saree is suitable for regular use and price is also affordable for common people

In addition Bengali Muslims are practicing to buy low price quality Saree to distribute among the poor people. These more printed Saree suitable for common household use. Common people wear these Saree. The color & cotton quality of these Saree is sometimes poorly made which may be faded after few washes.

Widow and old age Saree

In this subcontinent there is practice to wear white blank Saree, no design & print on it when a woman lost her husband. This practice is socially maintained in both Muslim & Hindu community for many years. So this white Saree is still has a big demand in market. But now designers are trying to give dull printed design on widow Saree to get new attraction because as fashion is changing mind in society so people are buying widow Saree in dull design.

Glorious history of Bangla Saree

Bangladesh put its traditional weaving home-industry for quality Sharee & design. The weaving tradition in Bangladesh is mostly famous for fine linen muslin. Unlike India, Bangladesh never focused on dress making or stitching rather its interest remains on weaving only. So Saree, Lungi (Men’s wear) remains without stitch & getting attraction due to its special design & quality.

Dhakai Jamdani

Though the Saree is an ancient dress in this subcontinent but Bangladesh has its own traditional reputation. Dhakai Jamdani (handmade saree) is worldwide known and most famous to all women who wear sharee.  Geographical location and ecological context of Bangladesh has been favorable for the production for long staple carpus cotton. And based on that special Muslin and Jamdani saree was being produced in Bangladesh for centuries. So Jamdani could take biggest part of handloom industry. Recently Jamdani got big focus in foreign market after meeting its domestic demand. Now Jamdani industry is exporting Saree to South Africa, Europe, Middle East & North America as per Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh.  But specific data was not found. The traditional art of weaving jamdani has been declared by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

There are many other types of Saree – Tanta/Tant cotton saree, Dhakai Banarasi Saree, Rajshahi silk, Tangail Tant Saree, Tassar silk Saree Manipuri Saree and Katan Saree are the most popular in Bangladesh.

Threat of extinction

Bangladesh handloom industry is suffering now big crisis because of high raw materials cost as well as illegal import of Saree from neighboring country. Most of the people that works for Saree design has little education or no education so they are not able to utilize digital graphic facilities for more exclusive design. On the other hand the loan facilities is not enough for this industry. Though the demand of Bangla Saree is remarkable but due to improper marketing policy fails to improve the life of Saree maker. Indeed this will not motivate the next generation of Saree maker & will left nothing for the industry. The result one day we may see the same tragic history of Moslin maker.

As Saree is a traditional women wear in Bangladesh & many of the hand loom industry is still surviving to keep the tradition alive as well as countries economy so this is time to organize & give them proper training. Indeed this can be good source of foreign earning because many of the countries in the world use Saree as traditional wear.

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