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Saturday, July 19 1997

The upper hand

Sujata Assomull

The Indian sari has stood the test of time. Described as a classic drape, even fashion designers know better than to tamper with the timeless elegance of the sari. As designer Arjun Khanna says, "It is a classic. It suits most occasions. And along with beauty you get a very functional and manageable garment. You just cannot go wrong with a sari."

But where you can go wrong, seriously wrong, is with the choli. Gone are the days when women either didn't wear blouses or depending on tradition stuck to a backless choli a la Rajasthan or the more middle-class half-sleeved round necked version. Like rising and falling hemlines, sari blouses too need either the standard 80 cms or much less depending on the mood of the moment.

How do you decide what is perfect for you? The first rule when it comes to fashion diktats is stick to what suits your body type. Don't be such a slave to fashion that you start wearing sleeveless blouses when you are cursed with plump arms.

While leading fashion designers also don't stick to hard and fast rules, they recommend that you assess your needs before you set out to the tailor. Says Arjun, "The figure, the skin tone, the bone structure and the personality must be taken into account."

After that there are a few basic guidelines. For instance, Delhi's designer duo Bobby & Manju Grover recommend, "If you are round-shouldered, you should wear high-backed blouses." And though short women often stay away from longer blouses, if you are slim they can actually be rather flattering. A well-tapered longish blouse can actually create the impression of height. Well-endowed women also need to choose their blouses with care. A very high neck line is a no-no but then a very low neckline can also look very tacky.

This season, short sleeves and sleeveless blouses are the rage. If you are slim with well-shaped arms then you have no need to worry. But if not, then stick to half sleeves. "These create an illusion of slimness," says Arjun.

These days, designers like Arjun are concentrating on halter-neck and low-back sari blouses. But he is the first to admit that not everyone can wear these. "You have to have a good figure," he says. The styling of a blouse can change the whole effect of an outfit. "A long-sleeved blouse instead of a short-sleeved blouse can radically alter the look of the sari," adds Arjun.

For formal occasions, embroidered blouses are still very popular. And it is not just the designers who do these. Most traditional sari shops now have a range of blouses with threadwork that you can wear with a plain sari. Or, you can design your own -- buy a piece of brocade which you can team with a plain sari. But if you are short, the rule of less is better holds true. "You need less embroidery on a smaller person," suggests Arjun. Also, you have to be careful with any other additions that can make a sari look very bulky. For instance, the double pallu sari can be overwhelming on a petite person.

Designers also recommend that the skin tone should be taken into consideration before choosing what colour your blouse and sari should be. Fairer skins are at an advantage as they can carry any colour. Of course, darker hues such as navy and black make you slimmer, but Bobby & Manju also suggest trying neutral shades. "And no fluorescent colours, as they do nothing," they add. The colour of the moment is shades of blue and aqua.The hairstyle of the women also makes a difference. Women with short hair can wear lower necks and fancier styles. Long hair styles, unless worn up, can cover the fancy detail.

With readymade blouses flooding the market, fewer women are going to tailors or even designers to get sari blouses made. Bobby & Manju have two tips for buying readymade blouses. They should be well-cut with the darts placed properly. And, the way to tell a well-made blouse is to turn it inside out. A blouse should be as well-stitched on the inside as on the outside. And, the rest as always, depends on how well you carry yourself.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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