Chettinad saris are named after the town in which they have been produced for many years. The town of Chettinad is located in the southern part of Tamil Nadu and the majority of population there belongs to the Chettiar community. They have a very distinctive culture, interesting food and a unique fashion sense. Chettinad saris have been worn by them for many centuries and carry with them a very long and detailed history.
Chettinad saris are made of a thick variety of cotton which gives the sari an opaque quality. The complex method of weaving used to make Chettinad saris creates a shimmering and supple look for the cotton fabric, making the saris more comfortable and formal at the same time. Cotton has always been preferred by the locals due to its high absorbency and breathability, which makes it the prefect fabric to wear during the hot and humid Tamil Nadu weather. Of late, the thread count has been increased to give it a smoother and more refined look.
The saris are woven in raised pit looms with a flying shuttle weaving technique. Originally the weavers used three shuttles to obtain a solid contrast colored border on both sides of the sari. This is however not done any more. The contrasting borders added to the bold vertical and horizontal stripes lend a striking look to the sari. In recent times, due to changing demands weavers have incorporated many new designs, where the sari borders have merged beautifully with embroidery designs and chic colorful patterns.
Chettinad saris have a distinctive palette of colors with earthy tones. Traditional designs are given utmost preference and importance. The main body of the sari is a palette of vibrant colors, contrasting shades and traditional vintage combinations. The authenticity of color and traditional vintage are what makes them a treasure. The pallu of the sari is woven with weft stripe to which checks, stripes and contrasting shades are added. This is the basic style employed by the local artisans, while the sari weave and the highlighting motifs are added later by hand.
Chettinad saris are especially versatile when it comes to contemporary designs. They are the perfect option for formal occasions or parties and celebrations at work. Celebrities and glitterati are making bold fashion statements by wearing them with contemporary jewellery, creating the perfect combination of the modern with the traditional.
Today a few entrepreneurs have undertaken the initiative to preserve these traditional designs, giving them a new life by blending silk with cotton and giving the Chettinad saris designer status. Garments like the Chettinad sari may not have received the universal fame of other mainstream saris but they certainly deserve all the accolades they get more and more.