Within the very classic and classy world of the Kanjivaram, there exist two very interesting interpretations — the checks (Kattam, in Tamil) and the stripes (Vari, in Tamil). And even though we recognise these two manifestations instantly, it is interesting how they find articulations in the Kanjivaram palette, lending the wearer a slew of looks and identities that range from a sense of the dignified, a character of boldness, understated minimalism, a feeling of grand and even a royal sophistication.
Unfortunately though, as all striking personalities do, wearers of the Kanjivaram have a love-hate relationship with the Kattam and the Vari. I know many friends and customers who don’t wear the stripes because they believe it isn’t flattering to their bodies; some others tend to believe that the checks essentially are meant for those who are tall and thin.
Neither of those myths is true. In fact, I think that the versatility of the silk, the possibility in weaving technique, and the choice of colours, the interplay between these factors can completely change the dynamic of the stripes and the checks and therefore in the way they make you look, and feel.
Take the Vari, for instance. When worn, the stripes are always in the diagonal, beautifully draping around your body adding to the sari a character of its own. Of course, the ‘fine-ness’ of the staples can have a huge role to play in this matter. Imagine a sari that finely combines thin stripes of blue and yellow; the resultant effect, from afar, is that of a shimmering green that sparkles in beauty. The layering of threads of two contrasting colours can result in the creation of the illusion of another colour altogether.
Then there is the possibility of a design pattern itself creating a stripe; the Thuthiripoo, for example, that consists of two parallel lines and a flower that create the look for a stripe; geometric expressions that are both strong and signal a sense of the definite, both from a weaving and a wearer point of view.
Likewise with the Kattam. I’m particularly fascinated with this category for the sense of the grand and the bold that it empowers its wearer with. Even from a design, weaving and colours perspective, Kattam allows interesting possibilities in innovation, creating looks that can span an entire range of adjectives. One of my favourite Kattam saris is one that I own; it has been with me for many years and every time I wear it, I’m amazed at its beauty form both a craft and a creation perspective. It’s an off-white sari with black and red checks with every box of checks outlined in gold. This sari, set in the oldest format of the Kanjivaram, with a korvai border and a korvai pallu, is a signature piece of its own.
And yes, it’s very flattering to my personality. I think it’s imperative to cultivate an open-mindedness to the very many possibilities within the Kanjivaram and with a conviction that within the many categories that it boasts of, interesting inter-plays in weaving and choice of colours can make a difference, and thereby allow you to wear what you love, with elan, and pride!
Shop Kanakavalli Kattam/Vari saris here
- AHALYA S