How many ways can you drape a saree? Don’t try to answer that – the possibilities are infinite. Traditional saree draping itself varies from region to region and these are no subtle changes. In tune with the demands of modern woman, saree draping styles are also keeping up with latest trends – we have the lehenga, butterfly or mermaid styles for proof. In fact, anyone with a little creativity can come up with innovative ways to drape a saree.
Did you know? Saree got its name from the Sanskrit word Sati, which simply means “a strip of cloth”. Indeed, in its most basic form, saree draping is nothing but a strip of cloth being wrapped around your body. And it is because of this simplicity that we can shape it into a hundred different styles. When draped aesthetically, there is no argument about the saree being the most graceful and versatile garment for a woman. Global fashion agrees too – The Pussycat Dolls flaunted a variety of black and gold saree drapes on the red carpet, while international designers have their models walking in saree inspired garments at major fashion weeks. Our Indian celebrities have been doing their bit too – Shilpa Shetty, Vidya Balan, Sonam Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and Deepika Padukone are just a few who have been proudly showcasing stylishly draped sarees at home and abroad.
Before we find out how to drape a saree in different styles, let’s have a look at the nitty-gritties of saree draping.
The origin of draping a saree is several centuries old – apparently it was first recorded in the Indus valley civilization. However, the modern 6 yards saree evolved from the original two-piece garment of yesteryears. In the beginning, saree is believed to have been a garment for the lower body only. This style can still be seen on temple sculptures which show goddesses and dancers wearing a dothi-wrap. This fish-tale saree wearing style loosely covers the legs and has long decorative pleats down the front. This saree drape not only facilitated easy movement but also made the wearer look more feminine. None of these historical examples show bodices. Usually the upper body was left bare or another piece of cloth was used to cover it. This tradition is still alive in Kerala’sMundum-Neryathum and Assam’s Mekhela Chador.
The short figure hugging blouse for the upper body reportedly evolved only in the 10th Century. The bodice originally covered only the front and strings of cloth held the garment together at the back, which was then covered by the Pallu. In South India, the women in some communities did not cover their upper body until the 20th Century. These saree draping styles are beautifully depicted in Raja Ravi Varma paintings. Through the long history of its evolution, there is one thing that has remained same in saree wearing styles – baring the midriff.
In modern times, a saree is draped around the waist over an underskirt called lehenga, ghaghra, Pavada or shaya. One end of the saree is draped over the upper garment called blouse or Choli. The midriff is left bare in almost all saree draping styles and the pleats are tucked in below the navel. Some styles have the Palluhanging over the shoulders; others have it tucked into the waist. The drape varies from six to nine yards in length and three to four feet in breadth. From cotton to chiffon, silk and satin, sarees are available in both natural and synthetic fabrics. From traditional Zariand Zardozi to sequined and painted designs, the embellishments used to decorate the draped garment are also many. Saree wearing styles of different regions also influence the choice in fabric and decorations. For example, silk with zariis representative of South Indian culture, while the north prefers colourful dyes like Bandhani with heavy embroidery like Zardozi.
Now that you know the basics of saree draping, let’s learn how to drape sarees in some of the most popular saree wearing styles.
Different Saree Draping Styles
Nivi Saree Draping Style
Type “How to drape a saree” or “How to wear a saree” on Google and it will instantly present you with a thousand links to saree draping tutorials. Without doubt, more than two-thirds of these will tell you how to wear a saree in the Nivi style. This is simply because the Niviis the most widely accepted saree wearing style – irrespective of north-south, traditional-modern or dailywear – partywear. Though this style is native to Andhra Pradesh, Nivi is the universal way to wear a saree today.
Here are The Steps to Drape a Saree in the Nivi Style:
- The Nivi drape starts with one end of the saree tucked into an underskirt at the waist.
- The saree is then wrapped around the lower body once, from right to left.
- Gather the saree into 6-7 even pleats of about 5 inches and tuck them into the skirt, just below the navel. These pleats give the saree a feminine grace that can be compared to flower petals.
- Once the pleats are in place, the saree is draped around once more over the right hip.
- The loose end is then taken diagonally across the blouse on the upper body and draped over the shoulder. You can adjust this to reveal or conceal the midriff.
- The loose end called Pallu can be left to hang down the shoulder in pleats or without. The Pallu is usually the most elaborately decorated part of the saree.
- You may also wrap the Pallu around and tuck it in at your waist, drape it over your right shoulder or cover your head with it.
Gujarati Saree Draping Style
The Gujarati style of wearing a saree is very much similar to the Nivi style, except for the Pallu drape. After the front pleats are tucked into the underskirt, the loose end of the saree is pleated and brought over the right shoulder towards the front. The left end of the pallu is then spread over the blouse and tucked in at the left hip or behind. This saree wearing style is ideal to show off intricate embellishments on the pallu. In some modern variations, the pallu is left hanging to bare the midriff too.
Let’s Find out How to Drape a Saree in the Gujarati style:
- Tuck the plain end of the saree into the underskirt and wrap it around from right to left.
- Make 6-7 pleats of about 5 inches and tuck them in just below the navel. The pleats should face towards your right.
- Now, hold the loose end of the saree and make pallu pleats. You can make them wide or narrow according to your style preference.
- Now take the pleated pallu around your back and over the right shoulder.
- Pin it up to the choli with the pleats hanging in the front.
- Take the inside pleat end, cross the pallu over your chest and tuck in or pin the pallu end behind.
- The pallu can be used to cover the head in this style too.
Bengali Saree Draping Style
Bengali saree draping style is quite unique and elegant. Most people think that it is difficult to drape a saree in the Bengali style. But in reality, this saree drape is easier than the Nivi saree draping style with just two wide front pleats. The pallu is wrapped around twice and traditionally the end is weighed down by a large key. The Bengali saree wearing style also highlights the pallu. Handloom sarees and light weight cottons are ideal for this saree drape. But you can try heavy brocades too.
Follow These Steps to Drape a Saree in Bengali Saree Draping Style:
- As usual start tucking in the non-pallu end of the saree from right to left. Wrap it around your lower body once and bring it back to where you started.
- Make two wide pleats and tuck it in to the skirt as well.
- Now take the pallu and make pleats.
- Take the pleated pallu over your left shoulder. The pallu would be longer than in Nivi style saree drape because of the lesser number of pleats used.
- Take the end corner of the pallu from behind, pass it under your right arm and hang it over your right shoulder.
- Use a heavy ornament or key to keep the pallu in place. You may also pin it up for extra support.
Butterfly Saree Draping Style
The Butterfly saree draping style is very much similar to the usual Nivi style – except for the pallu. The pallu is pleated very thin to reveal the midriff. It is ideally worn with a statement blouse with heavy embellishments. The pallu should also be decorated lavishly. Lightweight sarees like chiffons and nets are ideal for this modern saree draping style. This style is also sometimes called the Bollywood style. Sarees with pre-pleated and stitched butterfly pallus are also available. These are a favourite for party wear.
How Can You Drape a Saree in Butterfly style? Find Out Below:
Starting from your right side tuck in the top border of your saree around the waist. Make sure that the bottom border is touching the floor.
- When you have it wrapped around once, make 5-7 pleats and tuck them in as well. The pleats should face left.
- Now, take the pallu around from your back, make small pleats and pin it over your left shoulder to hang at the back.
- You may partially cover your chest by spreading the pleats or leave the pallu thin to reveal the navel.
- You can also pin up the pleats to the front of your blouse.
Lehenga Saree Draping Style
The Lehenga saree drape is a modern style that combines two elegant Indian costumes – the saree and the lehenga. The saree is draped to look like a lehenga with the help of pleats. The ulta pallu is usually used in this style. However, pre-stitched lehenga sarees are now available, which has the normal pallu too. This saree wearing style is ideal for a curvaceous figure. The saree drape is well-suited for celebratory occasions.
Here’s how you can drape a saree in the lehenga style:
- Starting from the centre back, tuck in the non-pallu end of your saree at the waist. Bring it forward through your right side. Stop at the right hip.
- Now make a single pleat and tuck it in. Similarly, make more pleats and tuck them in till you reach the left hip. These pleats will give make the saree look like a lehenga skirt.
- From the left hip, tuck in the top border of the saree till the centre back, where you started the drape.
- Pick up the pallu and make pallu pleats.
- Bring the pallu over your right shoulder to the front.
- Take the end corner of the inside pleat and tuck it in or pin it up at your left hip to cover your chest and midriff with the pallu.
- You can also wear a long choli and choose not to cover your midriff or chest.
- You could double drape the pallu and hang it at the back, over the left shoulder.
Maharashtrian Saree Draping Style
The Maharashtrian saree wearing style is different from every other saree draping styles we have. The Nuavarisaree used for this drape is 9 yards long, while the normal saree is 5 – 6 yards long. Also, this drape does not require an underskirt or petticoat. You can use shorts or knee length leggings instead. The tuck ins are done on the saree itself. The traditional Maharashtrian style is to wear this saree drape with green bangles, pearl or temple jewellery – especially a nose ring and jasmine flowers.
Let’s Find out How to Drape a Nuavari saree in the Maharashtian Style:
- Take the non-pallu end of the saree leaving one yard to the left.
- Drape the saree around your waist from behind and tie a double knot at the front.
- Now, take the shorter end of the saree, take it between your legs and tuck it in at the back. In another variation, the centre pleat is taken between the legs and tucked in at the back.
- Take the longer end of the saree, make 5-6 pleats and tuck it in over the knot at the front.
- Now, make pallu pleats and take the pallu around your body to drape it over your left shoulder towards the back.
- Pin up the pallu to keep it secured.
Mermaid Saree Draping Style
The Mermaid saree draping style is suited for every body shape. This saree drape is very easy to execute as it does not require any pleating at the waist. Half and half or double toned designer sarees with heavily decorated borders and pallu is ideal for this saree wearing style. This drape can make you look slimmer with the diagonal pallu drape and fitted look. Also, the lower portion looks more like a skirt rather than a saree and is ideal for curvaceous looks.
How to Wear a Saree in the Mermaid Style:
- Start from the left as usual and tuck in the saree at the waist to take a full round from left to right.
- To allow space for easy movement, tuck in some pleats at the back while you bring the saree over to your left. Tuck in the saree till you reach the right side of your waist.
- Now, make pallu pleats and bring the pallu over to the front from your right shoulder. The pallu should hang about 4 inches from the floor. Pin it up to your blouse.
- Take the inside pleat, wrap the pallu around you to bring it back to the front and pin it up to your underskirt. The pleats in the front should cover this.
- The warp around gives you a snug fit and curvaceous look. Make sure that you choose a stylishly embellished saree to show off this draping style.
Rajrani Saree Draping Style
Reminiscent of India’s royal elegance, the Rajrani saree draping style is reserved for the very best of occasions. The sarees used for this drape are also required to be elegantly rich. Nets and silk fabrics heavily adorned with intricate embellishments are ideal for this saree drape. Bright colours are also a favourite for this style. This saree wearing style differs from the rest in terms of its right facing front pleats and v-shaped pallu drape in the front.
Here’s How You Can Easily Drape a Saree in the Rajrani Style of Saree Draping:
- As always, take one end of the saree and tuck it in neatly around the waist from right to left.
- Once you have made on round around your lower body, pick up the pallu end and make pleats.
- Bring the pallu around your body to the front over your right shoulder. It should hang just above the knee.
- Now, make pleats with the rest of the saree and neatly tuck it in at the waist, facing the right side.
- The pallu should be securely pined to your blouse at the right shoulder.
- Take the end corner of the pallu’s inside pleat and pin it up on your left shoulder to form a v-shape in front.
- Now, you can accessorize with complimenting jewellery.
Half Saree Draping Style
The Half saree style, also called LangaVoni or Daavani is a unique costume of the south Indian states. It is a combination of skirt and saree. A full 6 yard saree is not used for this saree wearing style. Instead, this costume comprises of 3 separate garments – a pavadai or long skirt, a Daavani – a fine see-through cloth like a shawl which is 2-2.5 metres long and a blouse or Choli. The LangaVoni was once used by teenage girls as daily wear, but now it is usually used only for celebrations and special occasions.
How to Wear the Half Saree Drape:
- Wear the skirt and blouse.
- Take one end of the Daavani and tuck in a corner at the centre of your waist.
- Now, make pleats on the other end and take it around your body from left to right.
- Cross the Daavani over your chest and hang the palluat the back over your left shoulder.
- Adjust the pleats appropriately to cover your chest and midriff.
Saree draping is truly an art. Take care of these tiny but important details when you wear a Saree:
- Wear your footwear before draping the saree, so you can drape it at the right length.
- The saree should ideally touch the floor, even after wearing your footwear.
- Choose the underskirt or saree slip in a colour that is similar to the saree’s body.
- In the Nivi style saree drape, the pallu should ideally hang down till the knee.
- Using clamps or pins to hold the pleats together can make it easier to handle the pallu. You can take them off once you have the pallu in place.
- Always remember to pin the saree at 3 places – Waist pleats, Pallu pleats and Pallu-to-blouse. Keep more safety pins handy whenever you go out wearing a saree.