Women have worn saris in India for thousands of years. Sculptures going back to the first century CE show images of women—usually goddesses—dressed in saris. They are mentioned in ancient Tamil poetry, and remain part of everyday dress for Indian women to this day. The sari is sophisticated, yet simple: about nine feet of cloth which is draped around the body. According to sari expert and historian Rita Kapur Chishti, there are over one hundred different ways to drape a sari, some of which are shown at left.
Traditionally, saris were exquisitely handwoven from cotton or silk in many different styles and designs. Today, more women in India are choosing cheaper commercially produced saris, although governement programs and enterprising weavers and designers are finding new ways to promote handwoven saris. Most recently, a production entitled Sari opened in India. Choreographed and composed by husband and wife team Daksha Seth and Devissaro, the production uses dance and song to follow the creation of a sari from cotton to loom to garment. Daksha says that during research for the production, she gained a new appreciation for these versatile ancient garments. "The more we learnt, the more we marvelled at the intricate processes and the weavers’ skills that result in the finished garment. Cotton growing and picking, carding, spinning, dyeing, weaving—each stage is fascinating."