Traditional No-Sew Dressing

In the last blog we looked at the clothing of ancient cultures, namely the Egyptians, Greek and Romans, and how they used uncut cloth to drape garments that required no sewing.

There are, however, cultures that use this method down to the present day.

Many women on the Indian subcontinent (India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) wear the sari. This consists of a colourful piece of cloth 60 to 120 cm wide and 4,5 to 8 metres long. There are more than 80 recorded ways of draping this graceful garment, most frequently over a short blouse called a choli.


Women in sari’s                                                          Man wearing a dhoti

The male counterpart of the sari is the dhoti. It is wrapped from the waist in a variety of styles, and is normally white or cream in colour.

In Southeast Asia, both men and women wear the sarong. It is roughly 90cm wide and just under 2,5 m long, and for men, often woven in a check pattern. Women’s sarongs are dyed in the batik method.


Sri Lankan men in hand woven sarongs           Indonesian ladies wearing sarongs to a reception

Polynesians have the pareu or pareo, a single piece of cloth wrapped as a skirt or dress. The fabric is beautifully decorated, often with floral motifs, and larger for women than for men.


Tahitian pareos count among the most colourful      French Polynesian man in a pareo

Draped clothes are worn across Sub-Saharan Africa, the beautiful patterns on the brightly coloured fabric varying from region to region. Very distinctive is the predominantly red kanga worn by Masai men in Kenya.


Masai warrior                            Masai women

Although wrap/drape dressing appears to be characteristic of warmer climates, there is one notable exception: the great kilt as traditionally worn by Scottish highlanders. 4 to 4,5 m of 150cm wide woollen plaid is pleated, wrapped around the body and secured with a belt, allowing the wearer to use excess fabric as a cloak as well in very cold weather.


Wearing a great kilt                                      Helping  someone put it on

The long and the short of it is you can create your own apparel, even if you cannot sew a stitch!