No saree is complete without the blouse petticoat combination to go with it. These are essential undergarments without which the saree simply cannot be worn. However, their function today goes much beyond simply providing the necessary underlying support for the saree drape; they are expected to be decorative as well. In recent years the blouse has become an iconic fashion statement with bolder, brighter blouses becoming the centerpiece for the outfit especially when paired with a plain or more subtly shaded saree. In short, these ethnic essentials are vital to the structure and fall of the saree as well the over-all design and style.
Though there are many variations available in the blouse and petticoat design the basic form remains the same. The petticoat refers to the long skirt worn under the saree. It is quite stiff to firmly support the yards of fabric draped over it. Since the saree petticoat is never shown it usually comes with little to no decorations on it. Though plain, the color of any type of a petticoat for saree has to match the color of the saree so it doesn’t look odd. It can be made of a variety of materials, the most common of which is cotton. Since it is so comfortable and easy to move around in it is a good choice even for expensive festival or wedding sarees though it is mostly worn with cotton sarees or sarees for every day wear. Silk and satin are frequently used to make the petticoat for sari styles found in designer catalogues, as these are luxuriously comfortable fabrics which will match high-end sarees quite well.
The blouse is the upper body garment worn under the saree. It is a well-fitted shirt which ends just above the waist, like a crop top. There are many different types of blouses for women, from half sleeve, full sleeve, three fourth sleeve or sleeve less blouses to back less or deep neck styles. While classic blouses worn with traditional sarees come with half or three fourth sleeve and a round neck, there are many more types available today. The blouse fabric and design is supposed to match the saree but nowadays blouses with contrasting colors and designs are very popular.
The variations of the blouse and petticoat for sari wear from specific regions will have certain unique features. For instance, in Rajasthan and Gujarat the backless choli is quite popular, especially when combined with dori threads and mirror work embroidery. Amongst Bengalis, the puff sleeve is commonly seen while in many northern states the full sleeve is a fashion favorite. There is an astounding variety available in blouse patterns, even apart from the neckline and sleeve-style. Blouses can be made of many fabrics, both simple and luxurious as well as all kinds of woven textiles and embroidered materials. Silk blouses are highly popular but even within this category there are many options like art silk, pure silk, Tussar silk, Dupion silk, Kanchivaram silk, Banrasi silk etc. Blouses made of other high-end fabrics like velvet, brocade, satin, organza and chiffon are also available; these can match with sarees made of similar fabrics or add a touch of luxury to a simple saree. Cotton and linen blouses are best suited for warm weather and look great with casual wear cotton sarees.
While richly hued blouses without any adornments have their own appeal, nothing can match the opulence of a heavily embroidered blouse displaying beautiful motifs and designs. From traditional work like Chikankari, Zari, Zardosi, Resham, Kasab, Cutdana to modern patterns made of sequins, stones and beads, a number of embellishments can be added to enhance the beauty of the blouse.
Styles and Trends in Ethnic Essentials
Blouse neck designs are more influenced by the latest fashions and western styles than any other aspect of the blouse. Though the deep neck styles including v neck, key hole neck and boat neck were highly popular in recent years, the new trend seems to be towards more conservative cuts like the collar neck, closed neck and sweet heart neck. This is frequently combined with plunging back designs; in fact experimenting with blouse back neck designs seems to be the hottest new trend in saree fashion. This includes geometric shapes, knot or dori tied patterns and much more. Such a type of blouse design will go best with an elegant plain saree and large dangling earrings; add a small metallic clutch to complete a chic look suitable for a party or a low-key wedding.
Another great trend to follow is that of pairing a richly embroidered blouse with a plain saree. This makes the blouse the talking point of the outfit and further emphasizes the elegant drape of the saree.