I thought chastity belts existed in Middle English knights-and-maidens fiction. Till I stumbled upon this. For the uninitiated, far on the right, is a new-age sari, designed by Tarun Tahiliani.
That's the same guy who managed to cover Lady Gaga up in nine-yards of what to me looked like whitish lurex. Before, of course, she decided to free her thighs of such bondage and tore it up into something that ended up looking like a very shiny towel draped on things her body is more familiar with - a tight, skimpy bodysuit and fishnet stockings.
Tahiliani still beamed, posed and gave snazzy bytes about the shredded 'sari' to a delirious media which was just tiring of her tri-colour dyed hair by then. However many similarities you find between Gaga in Tahiliani and video-game heroines in robes torn in inexplicable places, the man must have done something right. To him has been attributed the 'revival' of the sari by The New York Times. Along with Gaurav Gupta, Shivan and Narresh and Amit Agarwal.
"They are reinterpreting the millennia-old garb for a new generation of stylish women," the NYT article says. Poor old sari, which otherwise sits just perfectly on safety-pin queen Elizabeth Hurley, my mother, the neighbourhood vegetable vendor and almost all other women I can think of, apparently couldn't possibly have survived without being haute-coutured.
So what that there are enough ways known to fashion-glossy ignorant women all over India to drape it? So what that it's a piece of fabric that can gracefully trump grandma's wedding jewellery in heirloom glory? So what if most average Indian women would reach for a sari without needing it to be declared the 'it' silhouette by a self-proclaimed fashion pundits? None of them obviously knew how terribly the sari had fallen behind the times.
It needed to show leg - so Shivan-Narresh got you the bikini sari. Hailed fashion-world over as the hottest thing to have happened to the nine-yards since Mandakini, the bikini sari tossed out everything that made a sari a sari. It turned it into an unforgiving slippery piece of fabric flung over a bikini. So if you thought the sari is the answer to a hot-ish FB display pic despite all the butter-chicken love evident on your waist-line, here's the bad news - the re-invented sari now demands an endless stretch of taut thigh you thought only existed thanks to Photoshop. It now demands those beaten-flat abs you thought you could live without. But here's the flipside: Nobody can haul you up for walking into a wedding in your undergarments with a dupatta flung over. That's the in thing.
And if you still struggle a bit with folding the pallu into neat panels, you can instead opt for what looks a gift-box ribbon torn off by the restless cousin. That one's by Gaurav Gupta, another torch-bearer of the let's-make-the-sari-hip revolution.
The NYT acknowledges that all this sari experimentation might turn off traditionalists but this "updating" of an "ancient garment" was making it relevant again for a "younger audience." A "younger audience" which, presumably, is watching way too much Gossip Girl to know why every second Indian garment shop stocks saris.
“The sari suddenly became a super sexy garment,” said Mr. Tahiliani, the Gaga sari designer. “It gives you license to be as revealing or covered up as you want. It can inhabit your grandmother’s world or the world of a Versace dress.”
Suddenly, indeed! And here I thought it was just common sense, with a little help from trusty napthalene balls, that had kept the sari alive in our wardrobes. It turns out it was Lady Gaga in her mini-sari who was riding into to its rescue!