Although there are actually many different types of dress worn by women across India, the sari is the garment most often associated with female dress. Saris tend to be worn by adult women, especially after marriage. Saris are a draped, as opposed to stitched, garment and there are hundreds of ways that they can be draped. Saris can be made of cotton, silk wool or synthetics, all of which can be woven at different weights.
Saris often are worn with a petticoat, or drawstring skirt and a choli underneath. A choli is a tight-fitting blouse that typically reveals the midriff, although the sari generally is draped to cover most of the stomach. A choli usually has short sleeves, but some cholis are sleeveless. Many women wear cholis and petticoats that match their saris.
A great deal of meaning can be encoded in the type of sari a woman wears, including the region she is from, her class and her stage in life. Color is one of the clearest and important ways that messages are sent. The colors women wear change over the course of the lifetime. A young newly-married woman will wear the brightest colors with the most decoration, and the older one gets the paler garments become. An elderly woman whose husband is still alive will wear pastels, whereas widows traditionally have worn white.
In the final entry on saris I'll show four styles of draping.