After a few days, he began to visit the boy’s home in Palayamkottai and met his sisters who, dressed in the daring new style of pavadai, blouse and dhavani, strolled about book in hand. Extracts from Padmavati, A. Madhaviah, Trs by Meenakshi Tyagarajan.
A three piece dress comprising a blouse (choli), skirt/lehnga/dhoti and a shawl/dupatta is the most common of all forms of Indian historical clothing.
The pavadai-davani or langa-voni was probably not entirely uncommon for young girls in South India (see this 1868 pic) but as the extract from this 1898 novel shows its evolution into a dress for young, educated women probably dates from the end of the 19th century. At this point it was a “Christian” style, the girls referred to in this paragraph are Christian. I have to add that I haven’t seen too many pics to support this since most pics of Christian girls have them in a sari. However Madhaviah was writing in that period and as such the observation has to be take as correct. It then seems to have been universally adopted over time but by the 70s or so it is increasingly more of a rustic garment.
The stills for today’s post are from Vaagai Sooda Vaa set in the 1960s.
Over the years of doing this blog one of the frustrations is finding Indian texts that allow one to construct a rudimentary fashion history. Unfortunately if you primarily read English there is a good deal that is inaccessible. As an e.g. even though Madhaviah was one of the pioneers of modern Tamil writing and this book has a number of references to clothing in Tamil Nadu of the time which I wasn’t aware of, it is accessible only because the family arranged for a translation. Similarly a Tagore novella has numerous details on the clothes of upper class Bengalis, a work I recently read makes a casual reference to famous stores for buying saree jackets. That kind of detail is only possible if one is able to read the original or has access to translations, the latter are far and few in India. Finding and then working through the texts is a bit difficult but I will try and refer to extracts now and then.