An ode to the Half Sari:Khadi Couture

It was the film “Chennai Express” that first introduced me to the world of the half-sari.

In an opening scene, Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone runs towards a chugging train in a heart-stopping combination: A mustard-yellow full skirt with a marigold-orange blouse and a perfectly tied chili-green scarf. The rest of the film was pretty forgettable but a year on, I can’t forget that half-sari.

The half-sari is essentially a full-length flowing skirt, or ghera skirt, combined with a midriff-baring sari blouse.

Usually worn in the southern Indian states, it’s traditionally the outfit for girls between puberty and marriage. As such it’s much less forgiving on the figure than the full sari and acts as a kind of entry-level garment before women are ready to handle the folds and flairs of the real thing.

But I don’t see why a half-sari can’t be worn by just about anyone, not just teens and Bollywood stars.


The blouse and skirt are worn with a piece of fabric that is almost like a dupatta (the scarf usually worn with a salwar kameez), but longer and more ornate to look like the part of the sari  known as the pallu that hangs off the left shoulder.

To most north Indians, this outfit will sound very similar to a lehenga choli,another ghera skirt, blouse and dupatta combination.

But there’s a crucial difference: the scarf. Wrapped around the waist and flung over the left shoulder it creates the demi-sari effect.

Traditionally each of the three pieces are different colors or fabrics, and this is how Ms. Padukone got it so right in “Chennai Express.”


Of course, Tamil cinema has been using the half-sari for years. Tamil actress Bindu Madhavi is well known for the striking color and textures of hers.

Now Bollywood seems to be catching on, with stars such as Sonakshi Sinha, Priyanka Chopra and Vidya Balan all choosing the half-sari in recent red carpet appearances.

I’ll certainly be adding it to my wardrobe.

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