Silky and stylish, a sari is a traditional Indian dress. Sari styles have been around since ancient times and have become synonymous with Indian culture and heritage. As far back as 2800 BCE, the classic sari drape made its appearance in ancient scripts and paintings. In fact, the name sari (also called saree) actually translates to a piece of cloth in Sanskrit. Still, the sari is so much more than a humble piece of cloth - it is a striking symbol of cultural richness across all of India's states and a place where the stitches of tradition meet striking design and innovative thinking. Sari's are part of the everyday dress, but more elaborate styles are also worn for celebrations, holidays, and festivals like weddings, Diwali, and Eid. These saris are more likely to be stitched with intricate detailing and in bold and bright colors.
It is said that every sari has its story, and this can be captured in the wide and wild array of designs out there. From simple, lightweight sarees to elegant embroidered sarees, there are many decadent and different choices of this traditional dress out there. But it's not only the style of the sari but also how you wear it. Another amazing thing about saris is the fact that you can wrap them in different ways. If you've never worn a sari, you may feel a little intimidated by the swathes of fabric, but this guide gives you some easy ideas and simple steps on how to wrap a sari.
Choosing the Right Sari
One of the most important aspects of choosing the right sari is finding the right fabric. Silk is a firm favorite when it comes to the sari as it drapes beautifully, looks elegant, and holds color well. Cotton saris are also popular, especially as they are lightweight and breathable, making them a great choice in hot weather.
Color has a lot of meaning when it comes to saris - but vibrant paint box shades tend to be adored across India. Brides often wear red as it symbolizes love and fertility. White is common during a mourning period, and festive shades veer towards turquoise, orange, pink, and gold. The color choice can also depend on the occasion - with earthy hues and pastel shades for daywear and rich, more luxuriant silk sari colors for parties and celebrations.
Length and Width
Length and width are important for achieving that graceful sari drape. Saris tend to be around 5-9 yards in length, although, of course, this will vary depending on the individual and also the place where the sari is worn. For example, in South India, saris tend to be shorter and favor the wrapped look more, whereas in Punjab, the pleated pallu look may be more popular.
Preparing for the Wrap
Choosing a Blouse
Also known as a choli, preparing your sari look means wearing a saree blouse. Traditionally you would wear a blouse or choli in the same color and fabric as your sari wrap. If you want a more modern aesthetic, you can choose a choli pattern with a more playful neckline or backless features.
Selecting the Right Undergarments
If you are seeking that sleek sari look, then well-fitted or seamless underwear may be your best bet. For those who are worried about transparency in their sari look, wearing a slip under your sari can help maintain modesty but make sure you consider a matching color scheme to keep it coherent.
Ensuring the Sari is Clean and Wrinkle-free
The delicate fabric of sari silk can crumple quickly, and part of the look is ensuring that your sari is sleek, and smooth, and has that unrumpled and graceful sari drape. Depending on the fabric, you may need to dry clean your sari and iron it carefully so that you can achieve neat pleats and a perfect sari drape.
How to Wrap a Sari
Step 1: Tuck the Sari
Tuck the nondecorative end of the sari into your petticoat at your naval.
Step 2: Forming the Pleats
Hold the fabric at this tucked-in point and start to make your pleats. You should aim to make around 5-7 pleats at around 5-6 inches wide. Fold the fabric towards the left and ensure it is neat and even.
Step 3: Draping the Pleats
Bring the pleats towards your left hip and tuck them into the petticoat just to the left of your navel.
Step 4: Bringing the Pallu Forward
Bring the remaining fabric (the Pallu) over your left shoulder from behind, letting it drape naturally over your left arm.
Step 5: Making Sure the Sari is Secure
Take the loose end of the Pallu and bring it across your chest and under your right arm. Bring it to the front - over your shoulder and tuck it into the petticoat waist to keep it secure.
Step 6: Adjusting the Pallu
Adjust accordingly and let the pallu fall freely or pin it with a pretty brooch.
Different Fabrics and Their Unique Wrapping Techniques:
The weight and stiffness of certain fabrics can change the way your sari's pleats and drape look. For example, silk saris will hold pleats beautifully and easily, whereas cotton may require extra attention or be smaller because cotton can be a lightweight and whimsical fabric. Chiffon sarees can also be a little more slippery as the fabric is sheer, so when pleating, you may also want to use smaller pleats and more pins.
When it comes to pallu style, the wrapping technique will also need to be tailored to fit the fabric. Silk saris tend to be longer than cotton ones so you may need to use a classic safety pin or a fancy saree pin to keep it in place when draping over the left shoulder.
Traditional Styles of Sari Draping
The Nivi style is one of the most recognizable and distinct saree styles. It first came from Andhra Pradesh. With the Nivi style, you pleat at the waist and let the pallu hang over the left shoulder.
The Gujrati style is all about celebration. Here the pallu drapes from the back to the front over the right shoulder, whereas the Rajasthani style brings the pallu around the shoulders to form a V-shaped drape at the front and then wrap the remaining fabric around the body.
Another fundamental sari wrap, Bengali style tucks and tapers the pleats at the waist and the pallu is placed over the left shoulder so you get a v shape at the back.
Kaccha Nivi Style
A variation on the classic saree drape of the Nivi style, the Kaccha Nivi style comes from Maharashtra and involves multiple pleats at the back and bringing these to the front and having a beautiful pallu draping over the left shoulder.
Pant-Style Sari Draping
The pant saree is a modern method of saree draping styles for added comfort and ease. As the name suggests, the sari is draped in the style of pants with pleats at the front and the pallu over the shoulder.
Mermaid-style saris take their inspiration from the mythological silhouette of the mermaid and is a modern take on saree styles. You tightly drape the sari around the waist and the hips and then bring the pallu up to drape over the shoulder, delivering a fitted yet flowing silhouette.
Indo-Western Sari Drape Style
East meets West in this saree look, where traditional saree wrap styles are paired with Western influences like belts, blazers, and other accessories.
Tips for Wearing a Sari
Practice Makes Perfect
Creating the perfect saree wrap the first time can be tricky, but like everything - the more you practice, the better you will get. Watch tutorials, read instructions, and play around with pleats and pins until you can wrap and wear your sari with simplicity and ease.
Invest in Good Quality Safety Pins
Good safety pins are worth their weight in gold when wearing saris. You will need these for securing the pleats and the Palu. Invest in a few different-sized safety pins and make sure they are sturdy enough to hold the swathes of fabric.
Keep the Pallu in Place with a Brooch or Pin
A delicate brooch or pin can be used to keep the loose fabric in place and brings an ornate edge to your saree style. Securing your pallu with something ornamental serves the dual purpose of keeping everything in place and looking pretty.
Wear the Sari with Confidence
Confidence is key when wearing anything, and the sari is no different. If you have a beautiful sari, you may want to practice walking in it and taking small steps until you get used to the drape.
Sari Accessories and Complements:
Bring even more oomph to your sari look with beautiful accessories. From a sari scarf to bindis, anklets, and elegant hair combs, these items tend to be traditionally worn with a sari. You can also look for jewelry made of gemstones and bright clean copper to complement your sari look. Sivana has a great range of crystal rings, crystal necklaces, copper and crystal earrings, healing bracelets for women, gemstone bracelets, and copper jewelry to suit the sari look.
Where to Buy a Sari
There are lots of places to buy saris - either from traditional sari shops or online. Always do your research and look for authenticity and high quality before purchasing your sari. You may also want to consider the size and the fit by taking measurements if buying online and looking for details on return policies.
Whether a silk sari for a special occasion or an everyday cotton or linen sari for comfort and joy, saris can be a dream to wear. While getting the hang of a sari wrap may seem strange at first, with practice and playing around with different styles and techniques, you can get the pallu & pleats just right and wear your sari with confidence.
How to wrap saree like a dress?
There are many different ways of wrapping and wearing a sari. You can wrap it like a dress by wearing a fitted dress or tube top underneath as the base. Then wrap the sari around your waist and tie a knot to the side. Lift the corners and tie them in a knot and then loop your arm through the knot and adjust the drape.
What do you wear under a sari?
You can wear a blouse under a sari and a petticoat or womens tanks. You can also buy special saree shapewear or depending on the style of the wrap, you can just wear your normal undergarments.
How to wrap a saree step by step?
There are many different ways to wrap a saree and many different styles. The simplest way is to start from the non-palu end and wrap it around your waist several times until you are back where you started. Next, form the pleats and secure them with a safety pin. With the leftover Palu, you can drape, pin, or wrap it.
Is it inappropriate to wear a sari?
No, it's not inappropriate to wear a sari regardless of cultural background. This assumes you respectfully wear the sari and are mindful of its cultural heritage.
How can I look attractive in a sari?
Getting the right fit and finding a saree with a style and color you love can help you to feel more confident and attractive in your sari.