More expensive saris had elaborate geometric, floral, orfigurative ornament created on the loom, as part of the fabric. Sometimes warpand weft threads were tie-dyed and then woven, creating gorgeous bridal baluchari patterns. Sometimes threads of differentcolors were woven into the base fabric in patterns an ornamented border, anelaborate pallu, and often, small repeated accents in the cloth itself onvarious qualities of silk, cotton, georgette, chiffonetc. These accents are called buttis or bhutties (spellings vary). For fancysaris, these patterns could be woven with gold orsilver thread, which is called zari work. Modern zari work is usually executedwith glittering synthetic fibers rather than real gold or silverthread (made by wrapping gold or silver around a base thread).

Sometimes the saris were further decorated, after weaving,with various sorts of embroidered works. Resham, zari or zardousi work isembroidery done with colored silk, golden, copper or silver thread for gorgeousbridal or wedding sarees or dulhan saris. Zardozi embroidery uses gold andsilver thread and sometimes pearls and non-precious stones.Cheap modern versions of zardozi use synthetic metallic thread and imitationstones, such as fake pearls, sequin beads and Swarovski crystals.

The word 'sari' is believed to derive from the Sanskrit word'sati', which means strip of cloth. This evolved into the Prakrit 'sadi' andthe sound later decayed into 'sari'.

Some versions of the history of Indian clothing trace thesari back to the Indus valley civilization, which flourished in 2800-1800 BCE. Oneancient statue shows a man in a draped robe which some sari researchers believeto be a precursor of the sari.

Ancient Tamil poetry, such as the Silappadhikaram and theKadambari by Banabhatta, describes women in exquisite drapery. This drapery isbelieved to be a sari. In the Natya Shastra (an ancient Indian treatisedescribing ancient dance and costumes), the navel ofthe Supreme Being is considered to be the source of life and creativity. Hencethe stomach of the dancer is to be left unconcealed, which some take toindicate the wearing of a sari.

Odissi dancer wearing a fishtail wrap. Some costumehistorians believe that the men's dhoti, which is the oldest Indian draped garment, is the forerunner of the sari. They say that untilthe 14th century, the dhoti was worn by both men and women.

Sculptures from the Gandhara, Mathura and Gupta schools (1st-6thcentury CE) show goddesses and dancers wearing what appears to be a dhotiwrap, in the "fishtail" version which covers the legs loosely andthen flows into a long, decorative drape in front of the legs. No bodices areshown.

Other sources say that everyday costume consisted of a dhotior lungi (sarong), combined with a breast band and a veil or wrap that could beused to cover the upper body or head. Some argue that the two-piece Keralamundum neryathum (mundu in malayalam is the same as dhoti or sarong and neryathmeans a cloth to cover the upper body similar to a shawl)is a survival of ancient Indian clothing styles, and that the one-piece sari isa modern innovation, created by combining the two pieces of the mundumneryathum.

It is generally accepted that wrapped sari-like garments,shawls, and veils have been worn by Indian women for a long time, and that theyhave been worn in their current form for hundreds of years.

One point of particular controversy is the history of thecholi, or sari blouse, and the petticoat. Some researchers state that thesewere unknown before the British arrived in India, and that they were introducedto satisfy British ideas of modesty. Previously, women only wore the one,draped cloth and casually exposed the upper body and breasts. Other historianspoint to much textual and artistic evidence for various forms of breast-bandand upper-body shawl.

It is possible that the researchers arguing for a recentorigin for the choli and the petticoat are extrapolating from South India,where it is indeed documented that in some areas, women wore only the sari andexposed the upper part of the body. Poetic references from works likeShilappadikaram indicate that during the sangam period in ancient South India,a single piece of clothing served as both lower garment and head covering,leaving the bosom and midriff completely uncovered. In Kerala there are manyreferences to women being topless, including many pictures by Raja Ravi Varma.Even today, women in some rural areas do not wear cholis

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