Half a saree??? Yes, there is one out there and it is called ‘thaavani’ or ‘dhavani’. Call it the south Indian phenomena; it is worn by girls crossing childhood to adolescence. Pre-puberty girls wear it in schools, so that they are manageable. Yep, they have those pleats, they are small, and cover the lumps (breasts are embarrassing for the growing girl!).
. Tamil Nadu abounds with young girls in half saree. They are familiarized with the ‘big saree’ once they are of marriageable age. Many young girls have memories of wearing colored and matching thaavani to important functions. One sees many variations in other states but the ones down south have a unique appeal. To those who have never seen the half saree, they are similar to gathered kilts of the Scottish highlanders (of course without the bagpipes!).
As times have changed, the half saree has been replaced by the uniform salwar kameez or jeans and tops which is common all over India. But the concept of half saree is still prevalent in some traditional homes. Many Tamil girls still pride themselves on wearing this original garment with grace.
Like teenagers worldwide these girls are also experimenting with the half saree. New rich colors, patterns and prints dominate new fashions. One can only say that as Victorian and Edwardian fashions have been eclipsed, so has the thaavani. But fashion comes to a full circle. The innocent appeal of the half saree will make its return to the fashion scene one day.