I must confess that all I knew of the Sri Lankan sari was that it was “a variant of the Indian sari”. It turns out that this is not entirely true. Sri Lanka has a rich and varied sartorial history that incorporates a number of local and foreign influences. What I know is just a little but I will post a few examples today. All photographs are from the 1880s-1910s because Sri Lanka was extensively documented by Skeen, Scowen (and Fiebig) – you can find many examples at Images of Ceylon and Lankapura.
Very broadly the types of attire are the Sinhalese costumes – the sarong+jacket outfits of the South and the “osariya” of upcountry. Then there are the Tamil sari styles (there are other styles in this period as well as styles from previous centuries that I am not posting here). As Nira Wikramasinghe’s extract above indicates, Sri Lanka went through its own process of inventing a national dress-I suspect the choice of the osariya also has to do with it being very elegant. The osariya blouse covers the waist and is rich in detail – what I find most interesting is that in almost every photograph the sari and blouse are harmonious, unlike the mixed results in India as we evolved the modern sari.
I haven’t got around to reading “Ceylon: Twentieth Century Impressions – Its History, People, Commerce” by Arnold Wright but I hear it has a bit on dress in Ceylon.
The Ceylon post here.
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