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“Saree: A Faded Zero Waste Indian Fashion!”

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Human behavior revolves around multiple aspects of his surroundings, people, and experiences. In building one’s identity clothes play a very significant role. Clothes not only can tell the mood of the person but can also signify the culture, caste, creed, and approaches of the person. Indian saree is not a part of Indian cultural identity but it’s a representation of past, experience, and way of living.

"Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the Future." – Paulo Freire

According to the Atharvaveda and Haribhadra’s Samaraiccakaha (130 BC - 185 AD), the origination of saree is well inscribed in the manuscripts. From there the ‘rectangular fabric’ became the part of Indian woman’s identity, legacy, memories, and reciprocating indigenous knowledge.

Picture Source: Google

From the times when handloom weaving and crafts was a daily practice every household, descended the rectangular piece. The drape of the three-dimensional garment adapts its prominence in all parts of India. When a girl is married, she is given multiple sarees from her mother’s collection and mother in law’s collection, the combination of mixture welcomes the brides into the new home.

In the story of the saree, there are multiple rakhshas who have threatened the integrity of the rectangular piece.

  1. After 1995, Britishers started the import of fabrics in India, they also set different sartorial regimes to incorporate mandates on wearing western clothing in working spaces. Thereby creating a decline in wearing Indian saree, and handloom industry. Although the Indian women wore the saree no matter of religion, caste, or regimes.

  2. The popular phase of development called industrialization began – power loom. This phase created an impact on the buying behavior of the consumer. The people started buying products from the retailers rather than making or buying from the craft clusters. Thereby the start of FAST FASHION.

  3. Globalization bought industrial machinery, mechanized manufacturing giants from all over the world to create and sell products. Encouraging different forms of clothing fashion was acknowledged.

  4. From the 1930s Indian cinema became an important source of entertainment, people started worshiping the actors as gods and started following their clothing style and facial characteristics. Even Indian cinema played a strong role as a demon. In many movies during the late 90’s, there were usually two important feminine actresses portraying the positive and negative roles. The negative role actress wore who is a known at all, the confident girl wore western clothing in style and the lady portraying the good character - an innocent girl, who has no understanding of the world would wear the Indian saree in a simplistic style. This created a mindset in people for both attires, but eventually, no one wanted to be dull and unknown. Thereby the inclination of western clothing became more and more vivid and independent in India.

In 2020, females consciously or unconsciously have predominantly shifted the daily use of Saree to Indo western clothing. According to a Border and Fall survey – 52% of women find difficulty in draping the saree, and 94% only wear the saree on occasions. Although the survey only included 100 women, but the percentile shares the truth of decline in buying behavior.


To understand this, one needs to understand the sustainable approaches of the garment. When a fabric is weaved on a loom, it is weaved in a rectangular shape. After that, it is cut into pieces to construct the desired patterns. A rectangular piece or a saree is a zero-waste fabric and approach. As the saree is weaved with borders using different threads and zari, it is ready to wear. In ancient times the culture of petticoat and blouse wasn’t there, women used to drape the garment in such a way that it used to create a full covering for the body. The culture of India is so vast and diverse that in each region there were different types of drapes. Each drape would represent the cast, social status, and region of the bearer.

Although after independence we have embraced a common style, particularly called the nivi style of saree draping. From the origin to evolution each saree reciprocates its own language of itself and also for the person who wears it.

The Fashion Industry is the second-largest producer of pollution all over the world. It is important to understand how each individual can daily step ahead and go back to our roots to welcome the new normal or as I like to call it, sustainable is only normal.

The idea behind zero waste is not only to understand the pre-manufacturing times of the product but also to understand the post-consumer behavior patterns. After the saree gets old it can be transformed into rugs, curtains, and bed covers in the house. The saree does not need to leave the house for ages.

Picture: Saree adaptation in a gown by Designer Tarun Tahilianai

The vividness of the garment showcases the mental diversity of human behavior in olden times. We all have forgotten the age-old methods and secrets to living our life more human-centric. Hopefully, this post will help to create a trigger in our lifestyle. It is not only about understanding the old methods and approaches but also adapting to our own lifestyle.


Deepshikha Garg is an educator, designer, and conscious nature lover. Currently, she is working as an Associate Professor at Chitkara University. She has a keen interest in traditional crafts, traditional practices, and culture. As a part of the NID FDP fellowship, she practices sustainable experiences in teaching fashion and textiles. She believes in practicing what you preach.


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