Sari making a comeback in Pakistani fashion

Pakistani Supermodel Neha in a Sari

Pakistani Supermodel Neha in a Sari

The Sari in Pakistan did a disappearing act after it was declared un-Islamic by Zia. But the whole six yards has made a comeback in the form of formal wear as well as in the trousseaus of Pak girls. Therefore, Pakistan is seeing the resurgence of the Saris in a big way. Earlier the Sari was donned by prominent women like Fatima Jinnah, Begum Liaqat Ali and Nusrat Bhutto. However, later Gen Zia declared that saris implied an un-Islamic connotation and that’s when the Saris lost their grip on the Pakistani fashion and gradually started to fade away.

Today the strong revival of the Sari in Pakistan has lead to many women dressed in this attire. Many women consider it as a symbol of independence and individuality. Popular Indian soaps have essentially contributed to the revival of the sari. The intricate and ornate saris are a favorite as a bridal wear. The tall and stately Nusrat Bhutto was one of the first ladies of Pakistan to wield power. She was usually seen in exquisite silk saris accessorized by pearl necklaces. However, her daughter Benazir Bhutto preferred the salwar kameez over the sari. She would team this up with a green jacket and a white chiffon dupatta, pinned properly to her head. This was more of an expression of nationalism than making a fashion statement.

The sari is a “softer” image of Pakistan that reveals too much of a woman’s body for an Islamic republic. No Pakistani woman parliamentarian today goes to the assembly in a sari. However, the fashion conscious Pakistani women are boldly donning the elegant attire, enough to make a splash and stir up and vex the zealots. Finally the mid riff baring attire has found its way back on the Pakistani soil. However, the salwar kameez still reigns supreme and is widely preferred over the sari. Nonetheless, the sari is not imperiled to become defunct.

The sari is not only worn by the Parsis and Hindus but also by women from (non-Punjabi) Urdu-speaking families. “My mother still doesn’t own a formal salwar kameez,” says Amna Jamot, who belongs to a family of middle-class Urdu-speaking migrants. “She wore only saris and it comes naturally to her generation.” Quite often at the age of 18, Pakistani girls are allowed to wear a sari to their graduation party, Pakistan’s fashion equivalent of prom night. The sari lends them the ultimate feel of womanhood, independence and elegance. It’s also become an expression of freedom and rebellion for celebrities like Ali Saleem, Pakistan’s most famous cross-dresser. Begum Nawazish Ali hosts a popular talk show on AAJ TV. Ali wears exquisite designer saris which are quite exotic and intricately embellished. In fact Ali’s ultimate fantasy is to “die performing on a glass stage in the middle of a vast sea with the whole world watching”!

However wearing a sari gathers one a lot of attention and many members of the Hindu minority living in Karachi have experienced this feeling. Moreover, the sari has become an almost indispensable piece of attire especially on special occasions like weddings and festivals. “I’ve always worn the sari,” says Ira Bai, a Hindu housemaid working in the city’s posh Bath Island. “But my daughter now wears the salwar kameez. She lives in Hyderabad and commutes a lot between cities. Wearing the sari attracts too much unwanted attention.”

Pakistan’s trendiest fashion designer, Deepak Perwani, belongs to a Hindu household but confesses a disinterest in reviving saris in Pakistan. He however prefers to create trendy fashionable clothing for the fashion conscious elite.

“I design for the young, and the young in Pakistan don’t wear saris,” he says. Out of every 100 clients only seven or eight will go for one, he adds. “It’s an extremely elegant garment and the salwar kameez can never replace that elegance and style, but the sari belongs to the gentry of Pakistan or the older generation. The old aunties still wear saris but it’s just not practical for the modern woman.” However, when it comes to his bride he would prefer her to be attired in the whole six yards when he decides to take the plunge.

According to Pakistan’s ace bridal couturiers Umar Sayeed the revival of the sari is seen in Pakistan largely contributed by the demand of formal and bridal wear. According to him, it’s the increasing demand for saris for weddings that allows sari-manufacturing areas like Karachi’s Orangi Town to prosper.

“Someone must be buying these saris for the production to be on a constant high,” he says. “As a designer I see a 1:3 ratio (of saris to salwar kameezes) and brides from all over Pakistan are coming to us for saris to wear to their Valimas (a traditional dinner hosted by the groom’s parents one day after the main wedding ceremony). The demand for bridal saris is increasing. They are timeless and people realize the worth of investing in them.”

The chairperson of Fashion Pakistan, one of Pakistan’s fashion councils, Maheen Khan has altered the style of the sari in a bid to modernize the attire. She has created the ‘half-sari’, a two piece combination that tucks a separate dupatta into a folded petticoat. Pakistani designer saris are made of delicate chiffon fabric and usually intricately embellished. These come at a price tag of at least Rs.50, 000 Pakistani rupees.

Younger generations prefer saris in simple chiffons or light silks teamed with a stylish sleeveless blouse. As far as cotton saris go, India is the best place to look for quality and genuineness. Designer saris are best preferred for formal wear.

The Indian cinema and soaps have hugely contributed to the resurrection of the sari in Pakistan; however its presence is felt stronger in the south as compared to north. Karachi in particular houses a vast variety in saris as it is home to various communities. In northern Pakistan, the sari is usually preferred essentially as a bridal wear. In the North Western Frontier, however the sari disappears completely or remains hidden behind the burqa.

Courtesy Hindustan Times


Filed under Pakistan

32 responses to “Sari making a comeback in Pakistani fashion

  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Pakistan: Sari Makes A Comeback To Fashion

  2. odin

    I didn’t know Zia had decalred Sari being un-islamic – or is it just another pure hogwash?

    Sari has never been a traditional dress in the region what is now known as Pakistan. Only Urdu-Speaking women immigrants from India used to wear it but they have also shunned it in favour of Shalwar Qameez. And even among Urdu-speaking women Mughlai dress like Gahrara was more popular than Sari, mostly old women used to wear Sari.

    Paksitani dramas made Shalwar-Qameez popular in India, now even south Indian and Sri Lnakan women wear Shalwar Qameez although they way they wear it is horrible – and Indian dramas made Sari popular in Pakistan.

    I personally think that Shalwar-Qameez is a better dress for women, especially for young girls who look good in Shalwar-Qameez.

  3. Majumdar


    More ladies in India, even Bdesh are wearing salwar kameez now because it is easy to wear and care for unlike sarees. Sarees require a fair bit of dexterity to put on.

    As far as what looks better, well beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


  4. simply61

    Thank God.Idhar to it is Salwar Kameez from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.New lease of life for the incredible saree weavers here….
    Ladies tell me if there is a demand for saree tourism and who knows a new business may flourish cross border(uff this ‘dirty’ word….cross-border)

  5. simply61

    BTW,was there anything that the ‘good general’did not deem unislamic?

  6. Amber

    In India most of the young girls wear sari only during their marriages or some special occasions. You will hardly find a girl wearing sari in Indian colleges (at least in cities) as it is considered uncool.

  7. Milind Kher

    Neha is looking absolutely superb. Let us hope this trend picks up in Pakistan, and then we can see more and more pics 🙂

  8. aliarqam

    good trend at PTH……..atleast we have seen something beyond 11th aug. speech…..

  9. Riddler

    Milind Kher..

    bloody hell. What do you do for a living?

    the other day i was flipping through the pages of outlook, letters to the editor, and a certain ‘Milind Kher’ had written the letter of the week.

    Do you have a job? Are you a real person?

  10. YLH


    The trend is pretty old :). I just thought it is important to showcase it.

    Ali mian,

    Don’t worry. August 11 is part of PTH editorial policy.

  11. Atleast STH else Got the space at PTH

  12. yasserlatifhamdani

    Or may all this is the “tabeer” of that dream… that we wish all points of view represented … completely impartially.

  13. WHERE in this frantic and highly-stressed age have good manners and common courtesy vanished?
    Who bothers today to stand as a mark of respect….Even this PTH blog is a victim of our social behaviours,lack of direction and everyone claims of his own policy of PTH
    I have searched back PTH previous Entries of last few months,though a long list of contributors,Just two or three of them are contributing here….And in comment session,every issue comes to a narrow pathline,useless,irritating,and repeating same arguments…Thanks to the Editor who delete indecent comments

  14. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear Shaista,

    Could you point out where the “argument” is on this board?

    There is no victim here. The traffic stats (check alexa), the media attention and PTH’s role as an internationally recognized voice from Pakistan presenting its own point of view indicate a pheonix like rise of PTH …. the good work that Raza started as a small blogosphere is now a vibrant community which hammers out differences through dialogue.

  15. I belong to an Enlightened family,well educated
    My father,two of my sisters are Chartered Accountants..Am doing BBA from SZABIST,typical Karacheete gal ,wearing Jeans and having all the facilities which are not easily available to our typical Pakistani Girls but I dont feel sense of pride when someone measure our freedom with what we the girl have worn,
    Feel Pitty for the man.kind approach
    both type symbolise our bodies with depiction of their mindsets
    Shuttle cocks or revealing unnecessarily
    As for the bollywood idiotic flicks,picturising song in Switzerland,Men with full dress and girl with insufficient dress…Tum Mard bhi Naa…

  16. Yasser etc etc
    PTH is recognized worldwide for what
    “On Pak Tea House, there’s not only posts on political developements but also stories on subjects like Pakistan’s booming sex industry”
    Further PTH editorial policy is pasted,which is found nowhere in most of the posts here
    Secondly At BBC and NYTimes for covering the terrorist attack on SL Cricket team,Not for PTH having his commitement with his aim as it states at his introductory page.
    And U are not Privileged to write the word “Dear” with my name….U can just call me Shaista or Miss Shaista…if decency exist here

  17. Sorry for a bit flouting

  18. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear Shaista,

    “And U are not Privileged to write the word “Dear” with my name….U can just call me Shaista or Miss Shaista…if decency exist here”

    The English word “Dear” has no sexual or romantic connotations… as is evidenced from “Dear Sir” … “Dear Madam”… fyi.

  19. shaistapth

    Thats Ok…..was a bit over reaction…..Sorry for that

  20. shaistapth

    Thats Ok…..
    A bit over reaction
    Sorry for that

  21. sikander00

    Sari and Taliban are both making a comeback in Pakistan! The more saris there are the more Talibs to stop women from wearing those.

  22. Milind Kher


    Do you know that in India, most people believe that Pakistani women are wrapped up either in chadors or Burqas?

    Pakistan needs to be telling people outside that there are women who wear jeans, get an education for themselves etc.

  23. PMA

    Sari making a comeback in Pakistan……. what a stupid statement……. And leave it to Pak Tea House to give ‘air time’ to such nonsense. Sari was and always will be an apparel for Indian women just like ‘dhoti’ is for Indian men. It is part of their religion and culture. Now if Hindus of India have started wearing Pakistani Shalwar-Kameeze so be it. Zia was a rascal but please don’t blame him for the disappearance of sari and dhoti from Pakistan. That form of dress left Pakistan landscape with Hindus six decades ago.

  24. PMA

    “Do you know that in India, most people believe that Pakistani women are wrapped up either in chadors or Burqas?”

    Well Mi Lind. Who gives a damn what them Indians think and believe. Many people also think that Indians drink cow urine and apply it on their forehead. Do Indians need to be telling people outside that there are some and not all who do that?

  25. Pingback: Hinduism Today Magazine - BlogsNews » Sari Making A Comeback In Pakistani Fashion

  26. Majumdar

    PMA sb,

    Sari was and always will be an apparel for Indian women, That form of dress left Pakistan landscape with Hindus six decades ago.

    Until Dec 16, 1971, the sari was the dress of a majority of Pakistan’s women.


  27. laurk

    I am not sure where everyone got the idea that Gen.Zia banned or enabled ban the sari. I remember him saying otherwise in an interview on his only visit to India, when he had come to watch cricket. There are lots of women, my mother, and mothers of my fellow SAARCians be they Muslims, Hinus, Parsis, Jains, and Sikhs who would tell you that there is no dress more elegant, comfortable and versatile than the sari. The salwar kameez’s popularity in India isn’t due to the popularity of PTV serials. It is due to increasing participation of younger women in the private sector workforce starting with the South. As more women started commuting by bus, or riding a two-wheeler it became inconvenient to wear a sari, and also maintain it. Even synthetic saris did not help, giving way to the salwar kameez.
    There are v.fine cotton saris that can be had from the Bengal region – some would say the finest. They are v.expensive because of the quality of the thread, the weave and the embroidery. The saris worn by the Begums of Bangladesh are worth well over 10s of 1000s of rupees.

  28. Pingback: Topics about India-clothing » Sari making a comeback in Pakistani fashion

  29. Pingback: Topics about India-clothing » Sari making a comeback in Pakistani fashion « Pak Tea House

  30. kamran

    shalwar qameez didnt become popular in india bcoz of ptv serials, and moreover no one watches those serials. shlwar qameez is the traditional dress of the indian punjab also. punjabi hindus and sikhs wear shalwar qameez and not sari. they wear them very rarely on formal occasions. the bollywood industry was dominated by the punjabis in the 50s ,60s,…..and to a certain extent even now. its they who made shalwar qameez popular among the sari-wearing people.

  31. Ranjeet

    Sarees are dying out in India. The young generation of girls hardly ever wears them except on special occasions.

    The girls in the big cities don’t even wear Punjabi suits, it’s mainly jeans and short skirts and other Western wear. Globalization is causing Indian youth to become Westernized too fast. Even the concept of dating has become normal for middle class youths.