The Sari Blouse: Colonial Import or Indian Ingenuity?

Some would have you believe the British introduced the garment. But that’s far from the full story.

Untitled, anonymous, 1890s (Kalighat Pat) (DAG)

Isha Banerjee


May 22, 2024


8 min

In 1860s India, Jnanadanandini Tagore, the wife of Rabindranath Tagore’s eldest brother, was moving to Bombay with her husband, the first Indian officer to join the Indian Civil Service. Satyendranath was a big proponent of the women’s liberation movement and wanted to introduce Jnanadanandini to British social life in Bombay. But there was a problem — Satyendranath didn’t think the British would accept her wearing a sari, which involved wrapping the fabric around bare breasts. 

But Jnanadanandini didn’t want to desert the sari to appease the British. So she took inspiration from British fashion to come up with a unique solution, changing the way people wore saris forever. 

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