24 thoughts on “SNARK WEEK: Sorry Not Sari

  1. I notice sari fabric and trim, mostly because I’ve used it myself and have done a lot of shopping for it, so I recognize it. That being said, I’ve only ever used it in Regency gowns, which makes it a bit more in-period, and once or twice for 1920s beaded dresses.

  2. I haven’t noticed it a lot, but I am getting better at noticing. As your examples point out, there are some ways to use it that can be more in keeping with history and help save on the budget side. What I wonder though is whether anyone’s thought it worth it to work with some manufacturers there? I imagine custom work is more affordable or they may have options that might be able to be used well as some designers have managed to do.

  3. I’m not educated enough in fabrics to recognize sari patters but I can tell that it looks wrong but often it’s so pretty one let’s it pass.

  4. As an indian,I must say that sarees are an integral part of our culture.For a costume designer,it is just a heap of glitzy cloth at a low prize.But designers for period pieces fail to understand that even sarees come in quality.The rhinostone applique bordered sarees are seldom worn even in a casual party,with women preferring plain silk sarees that designers could use in place of heavy taffetas(if you are stooping low,don’t sink to the bottom of the earth;substitute shouldn’t scream SUBSTITUTE).Banarasi and Kaanjeevaram sarees feature beautiful closely woven thread borders(no glitter,just ultrafine copper twisted with silk)that could be a perfect for small patches requiring brocadey fabric particularly in tudorbethan costumes.Inaccurate,but really doesn’t show it it is a geometric motif in dark silk.Case in point,most of the gable hoods in the Other Boleyn Girl (the best thing in that atrociously inaccurate film)feature saree border on the lappets,which seems like brocade unless you peer at it in high resolutions and try to spot the densely woven motifs.But no,designers insist at using the worst available fabric in the most conspicuous places.
    Even my sister regularly uses sarees and gets them made into gowns,and it doesn’t really show if the fabric choice is right.Maybe if the designers have no desire to use quality fabric,they should atleast purchase sarees from silk fabs instead of online transactions;fabs are subsidised so heavily that you can purchase saree worth 540dollars at 70dollars(or ₹32000 at ₹4000).My family purchases sarees from fabs only.Elsewhere in India it has become hard to find fine sarees at a reasonable price.
    Anyways,it is not the fabric but the threads of the costume designer that matters.We saw how denim was used brilliantly in The Favourite and…not so well in Mary Queen of Denim.

    1. Exactly! If you are going to try to save money by using saris fabric used saris that look like you’re trying to copy! Or instead of cutting up a sari for Elizabethan trim, go to India and hire the people who are still doing goldwork embroidery the traditional way and have them make you proper trim.

    2. Yep, if a designer has a more period eye & chooses better quality Indian fabrics, it can totally work! Like ‘Anonymous’ above, I can tell it’s Indian trim, but just barely & it still works for 16th-century. Unlike all the cheap shiny glitter stuff used in ‘The Tudors.’

      I had an amazing experience visiting Varanasi silk weavers many years ago, & oh yes, they make some stunning high-quality fabrics! Totally different than so much of the junky imports we tend to get in the U.S.

  5. Even when the costume designer has a small budget and has to take some shortcuts, I appreciate when they try… Like the theater costuming tricks of the historical flicks from the 1970s where they used glue dots in place of pearls and tried to match the look to a portrait from the era. Or like Sandy Powell’s cost saving tricks on The Favorite, using denim for the servants and laser-cut vinyl instead of lace.

    I don’t always catch sari fabrics onscreen, and some I don’t mind much, like the trims you show on the screencaps from Anonymous. Those seem to be done with restraint in an outfit that’s generally aiming for historical. Even if I didn’t know that sari fabric was used, seeing the front panels of the dresses in The Spanish Process and The Virgin Queen, my only reaction is, what the frock…?

    That veil in Borgias made me laugh. Looks like someone would try to get past Props & Atmosphere at my medieval LARP.

      1. Spanish process is also correct.A process in which a spanish princess generated political turmoil by wearing a high efficiency windmill,with friction offered by margaret weldingapronfort and using henry8.0 fuel.That sums up what the author had in mind while writing the book.

  6. I usually notice it’s off but I didn’t realise it was Indian fabric and how often it’s used. Wow.

  7. The BBC Much Ado About Nothing from 1984 (Cherie Lunghi and Robert Lindsay as Beatrice and Benedick) is pretty well entirely costumed in sari fabric, some of which was embroidered in India for the production (Hero’s cream dress w/blue gillyflowers is especially charming). They are gorgeously colorful and they move beautifully in the dance numbers–I’m particularly fond of a black and white number on an unnamed extra.

  8. My stash is too big to consider sari shopping, and I don’t want to sacrifice the saris I already have. The sentimental value is too strong.

    On the other hand, I’m in dire need of new cholis.

  9. Two things: I know I’ve done it – my Last Night on the Titanic Dinner dress (GBACG, 2012) was made with a sari, but being pale seafoam green it didn’t scream SARI. Second: I spell it shit-ton.

  10. Anyone here have or know the Kyoto Costume Institute’s lovely book of their exhibition “Revolution in Fashion 1715-1815”? There’s a blue-and silver c.1795 gown illustrated in it, pictured here on the right: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/118078821465122904/ (you won’t find it in the KCI archives, it was a loan from a private collection). It has silver stripes and dots woven through the blue silk gauze sari fabric, and borders of silvered shells stitched on.

    A lovely thing, but it caused one of the most wrong-headed of the professional makers of costumes for the British Napoleonic reenactment movement to run around showing it to prospective clients and saying excitedly ‘Look! Sari fabric is authentic for the period! Why not have me make you a ballgown out of this lovely emerald green sari with gold lurex trim?’ And of course no amount of boring old me grumping along behind, shouting ‘Read the words, dammit! It was made for the wife of the Chief Justice of CALCUTTA! SHE WAS LIVING IN INDIA! IT WAS MADE THERE! OF COURSE SHE WORE INDIAN FABRICS & TRIMS! That doesn’t mean that they were commonplace in Britain!’ made the slightest difference, and a rash of gowns made out of cheap lurex-trimmed saris in violent shades of green and orange broke out among the female contingent of the NA.

    1. That’s exactly what I’m talking about — there were times & places in history when specific types of Indian fabrics were used in European fashions. But it wasn’t random!

  11. The purple dress worn by Katheryn Howard in The Tudors IS actually a recycled dress from Dangerous Beauty…. so there you go.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from Frock Flicks

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading