The sari, in essence, is a six- to nine-yard fabric draped freely across the physique.

However the garment, which is usually worn with a shirt and a petticoat, is available in many kinds, from mass-produced polyester variations to silk saris woven available looms. Many South Asian designers have put their stamp on the sari, and it has influenced the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga, Gianni Versace and the French couturier Madame Grès.

In April, Zendaya wore a glowing deep-blue sari by Rahul Mishra on a purple carpet in Mumbai, India. On the 2022 Cannes Movie Pageant, the Indian actress Deepika Padukone wore a shimmering gold-and-black sari by Sabyasachi Mukherjee that Vogue France known as “the star piece” of the competition. And finally 12 months’s Met Gala, Natasha Poonawalla, the chief director of an Indian biotechnology firm, wore a glittering gold sari by Mr. Mukherjee beneath a sculptural metallic corset by Schiaparelli.

Ms. Poonawalla’s Met Gala sari is among the many items featured in a brand new exhibition, “The Offbeat Sari,” opening on Friday on the Design Museum in London. The present, which runs by way of September, explores how the sari is being newly outlined, mentioned Priya Khanchandani, the top of curatorial on the museum.

The exhibition consists of saris made with typical supplies, however a lot of its items are extra uncommon. Amongst them are a sari embellished with sequins created from hospitals’ discarded X-ray pictures by the label Abraham & Thakore, a sculptural sari made with wonderful metal threads by the model Rimzim Dadu and a cocoon-shaped nylon sari with a quilted pallu (the top piece of a sari that may go over a shoulder) by the label Huemn.

A sari by Akaaro showcases the model’s work with zari, a cloth made from silk or cotton threads round which skinny layers of silver or gold are wrapped. A ruffled sari by Amit Aggarwal within the exhibition makes use of boning created from industrial waste. The bodice of his sari, Mr. Aggarwal mentioned, appears to be like like a coral reef underwater.

Sure clothes present how the sari’s building and styling have advanced. They embody a half sari by Anamika Khanna, which is paired with tailor-made pants and a cape, and Tarun Tahiliani’s silvery jersey sari-gown with crystal-studded chains, which was worn by Woman Gaga. The sari-gown, a hybrid fashion Mr. Tahiliani is extensively credited with creating, is understood for having mounted draping and components like zippers.

Sari-gowns began to look within the Nineties, and a few purists have argued that their mounted building is at odds with how saris are historically wrapped by hand across the physique. There are greater than 100 regional kinds of hand draping throughout India, a few of which “The Offbeat Sari” options in movies that present numerous methods a sari will be worn.

The commonest draping fashion, Nivi, emerged in India within the mid-Nineteenth century. It includes wrapping a sari across the waist and throughout the torso, with the pallu hanging over the left shoulder. Saris worn this fashion are sometimes paired with a choli, or cropped shirt.

Sumathi Ramaswamy, a historical past professor at Duke College who makes a speciality of South Asian tradition, described the Nivi fashion as “a product of Victorian ideas of modesty and respectability when the country was under British rule.” She added that components like blouses and petticoats had been adopted to cover a lady’s kind.

Although usually worn for particular events, saris are a each day wardrobe staple for many individuals throughout India — together with members of Gulabi Gang, a ladies’s rights group identified for dressing in brilliant pink saris. (“Gulabi” means pink in Hindi.) Ms. Khanchandani included a sari belonging to the group’s founder, Sampat Pal, within the exhibition to spotlight the garment’s function “as a symbol of female activism and resistance,” she mentioned.

Ms. Khanchandani mentioned that as India has modernized, its tradition has remained patriarchal. And regardless of the event or fashion, she mentioned in an e-mail, the sari “seems to represent an emerging countermovement and an important vehicle for female expression.”