While in London, Bill is staying with some friends from college. They were kind enough to have us over for dinner. Oz is from Sri Lanka, and his wife is an American. She was lovely enough to cook a massive Sri Lankan-style meal for us that came complete with daal and biryani both of which were excellent and something we could never duplicate. We’re not used to elaborate spicing, and the medley of so many herbs and spices was really beautiful. If you are interested in trying it, here is a recipe for daal, and for biryani, though these are not the exact recipes we had that evening.
After the meal, she offered to show me how to tie and wear a traditional Sri Lankan sari. Having never done this, I was really eager to try. I’ve seen so many beautiful Saris and wondered how they kept them on and tied them so expertly. Here is what I learned:
First you have to buy an under skirt and under shirt. Usually they match the fabric of your sari, or at least compliment the colors. She lent me a bright orange under skirt and under shirt to wear while trying on the sari. The shirt, I’ll note, is like a belly shirt with short sleeves and is incredibly tight. The skirt is form-fitted as well, so that when the entire outfit is finally on I found it a bit difficult to walk.
Once your under outfit is on (and your shoes, so you can gage the right length to drape the sari) you are ready to begin the fun part. She helped me put it on, and although you apparently usually use pins, we didn’t bother for this short demonstration. First you take the sari and starting at one end, wrap it around your waist. When it is entirely around your waist, drape eight or nine pleats into the front, folding them ever smaller so they hang nicely.
Once your pleats are in, tuck the entire part around your waist into your under skirt to keep it in place. Your belly should be still visible. Now take the remaining fabric and drape it from one side of your waist to the opposite shoulder. I’m told your belly and a small portion of your back should still be showing (hence the smaller under shirt). There you have it! She managed to make it look great while if I had done it alone it would have been a toga disaster. Hopefully you can find someone to help you drape it the first time. It was a fun experience, and along with the amazing food it made for a really great and memorable night.