Couture du Jour—April 4, 2006

By Sarah Cohan

As we were settling back into the doldrums of busy work during first week, relaxing until the actual work of second week came, the South Asian Student Association (SASA) was furiously putting together their culture show. This year’s show, Khath (which is a letter detailing a journey through India), not only sold out Mandel Hall but also required hundreds of volunteers for its success. While they managed to present practically every South Asian dance known to man, they also squeezed in a delightful fashion show filled with color, sparkle, and finesse.

The fashion show presented a division between modern and classical South Asian style. While I am no expert in this area, I did a little research into the history of the sari, a long strip of cloth that is wrapped around the body. It turns out there are over six ways to wear it. An undergarment, such as a choli, covers the chest, and the cloth wraps around the waist and over the shoulder. A sari can be from six to nine yards and, depending on the occasion, can be very ornate.

It is unclear how the sari originated, but many historians believe that it was inspired by a man’s dhoti (popular in the 14th century). A dhoti is a long cloth that is draped intricately around a man’s waist and legs. Apparently there are over 60 ways to drape the cloth around the body. A kurta is commonly worn to cover the top half of the body. This is a long, loose shirt that usually falls to the knee. These garments are just scratching the surface of what fashions were displayed during the show.

The fashion show opened with two female students dressed in dark saris draped around their bodies. A sari hugs a woman’s curves but also looks comfortable and stylish. The sari was my favorite fashion of the evening—especially the last one displayed, a cream-colored cloth with beautiful red embroidery lining it in a leaf pattern. I believe this sari was intended for a wedding, and it looked special enough for the big day.

As the evening progressed, the show moved toward more modern fashions, like a tight strapless top with colors and patterns clearly inspired by South Asian style. Loose-fitting bohemian shirts topped prairie skirts. It’s clear that modern fashion around the globe has taken inspiration from South Asia.

While more and more saris of amazing colors and fabrics were displayed, a few men also modeled the latest fashions from the far South East. As with all men’s clothing, the colors were more demure and the cuts less intricate than the women’s, but a lot of detail and shaping went into the men’s wardrobe. A black-and-gold sultan-like outfit stole the show, paired with amazing shoes that curled out into a point three inches high.

The fashion show was one of my favorite parts of the evening and may give MODA some competition for next year. I can tell that next year’s cultural show will only be bigger, better, and 100 times more colorful.