Beginner’s Guide to Wearing an Indian Saree


Clothing is open to creative freedom.

With wedding season upon us again, the need for a solid outfit choice is all it takes. The Indian saree tends to be a popular choice, but how to wear it?

The sari is a traditional Indian attire that is extremely elegant and figure-flattering, regardless of shape or size.

Considered a symbol of feminism, many Desi women wear this garment with absolute pride, as it should.

For years it has been a popular choice in India and can be seen as a representative of the country and its culture.

Over time, it has also gained notoriety in other South Asian countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

History of the Saree

The word saree derives from the Sanskrit word meaning “strip of cloth”. In early versions of the costume, it was exactly that – an unsewn piece of fabric.

The garment originated in India and dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization.

However, over time, various adaptations of the outfit have been created. The range of fabrics used has expanded, along with the addition of embellishments and embroidery.

A sari can hold sentimental value to a family and is even considered an heirloom. Many have passed through the generations.

They can also be given as gifts to mark particular milestones in life, such as an important birthday or wedding.

In South Asian countries, its popularity has skyrocketed among older generations due to its functionality. Many would wear a sari to perform their daily tasks and often still do.

With the sloping globalization, for the younger generations, sarees have less importance.

With a bigger shift towards the practical wearing of garments such as the salwar kameez for everyday use.

Sarees are considered reserved for special occasions, especially because of the intricacy of their draping.

Despite this decline, they continue to be a fashion statement and have a great cultural influence on South Asians around the world.

Many designers are seizing a creative opportunity to help reinvent the saree and keep up with ever-changing fashion trends.

This can be seen in the choices of patterns, colors, fabrics and embroidery, which have become much more minimal in recent years.

Since India is also a powerhouse for garment production, the process of making a saree is even more important for the country.

In an article from Google Arts & Culture, Malika V Kashyap, expert in strategic fashion management, explains:

“Textile scholars and craft advocates agree that sari weaving accounts for a significant portion of the loom and embroidery industry in India.”

As it is a big industry, it therefore keeps a large part of the population in solid employment.

saree styles

Beginner's Guide to Wearing an Indian Saree - 4

The sari itself is made up of three basic components.

Saree is the ‘cloth strip’ itself which is used to drape around the body. Generally, it is 3 to 9 meters in length, but this can vary given the variety of saree styles.

A choli, also called a blouse, is a cropped, tight-fitting top worn under the drape.

Again, style can vary, however, a well embellished choli tends to be a popular choice.

A petticoat comes in the form of a long inner skirt and is worn over the lower half of the body. Traditionally, the choli and petticoat are not required for wearing the saree.

During the Victorian era and under the influence of the prudish British Raj in India, the sari was considered “immodest”.

Therefore, blouses and petticoats were introduced to reflect the conservatism of the time.

Since then, the saree has changed and most people wear the garment according to its British influence.

Sarees can be made from a range of materials, but are most popular in linen, cotton, silk and chiffon forms. Given the flexibility of these fabrics, they can effectively curve around the body.

There are over 100 documented ways to drape an Indian saree. With many undiscovered styles, clothing is open to creative freedom.

The style of draping chosen for a saree may differ depending on the region of India you are from.

This could also influence which shoulder the saree is draped over, right or left. Some of the most popular styles have been considered:

Nivi Drape

It is a widespread style and is most often associated with the wearing of the Indian sari. This is where the sari is wrapped around the waist, with the optional uncovering of the belly.

The pallu, also known as the free end of the sari, is then draped over the shoulder.

Seedha Pallu Drape

Another popular draping style, especially among the older generation. This style originated in Gujarat but is worn by women everywhere.

The style seems more comfortable, with the pallu draped over the right shoulder. This can be left free or tucked into the top left corner of the petticoat.

Parsi Drape

For this style to be the best, it is important to opt for the right saree which is the parsi gara saree. It’s heavy on the embroidery, especially around the hems which help weigh it down.

This is similar to the seedha pallu drape, except that when thrown over the shoulder, it sits closer to the top of the petticoat.

Nauvari or Maharashtrian drape

The word nauvari is translated as nine yards. Hence, this style works best with a nauvari style saree which is usually 8 yards or 9 yards in length.

Very popular among old Bollywood, this style is often considered a classic. This drape works well with most materials, but works best with silk.

This style allows for more movement around the leg area and can often be considered a more practical choice for getting around.

Athpourey Drape

This style originated in Bengal and is distinctly distinguished by its incorporation of two pallus.

Traditionally, when worn by Bengali women, they hung the keys on the pallu which was draped over the right shoulder.

The keys are a statement, meant to emphasize the authority of women in the household.

How to wear a saree

Beginner's Guide to Wearing an Indian Saree - 2

Before actually wearing a saree, there are a few important things to consider to ensure you wear it the best and feel the most confident.

The ideal starting point for choosing an Indian saree is to first decide which style of draping best suits your body type.

It is important to feel good, but also to be comfortable, especially when wearing it for long periods of time.

Second, consider the choice of fabric. Certain fabrics work better with particular draping styles, so you’ll already have an idea of ​​how much flexibility you need.

Once the saree is chosen, try it on with the shoes you plan to wear when wearing the garment.

This way you can avoid draping the saree too long or too short.

Next, have safety pins handy to help create pleats and ensure the saree holds in the right places.

The last tip is to take your time. As a beginner, this won’t come naturally, so take the time to practice and find a method that works for you.

Having an expert at hand is not always necessary given the accessibility of the Internet.

There are various YouTube videos available, as well as online guides that provide step-by-step instructions for achieving the desired drape.

Mentioned above, Indian sarees offer great creative freedom.

So, explore and discover a drape that suits you. It could end up being completely personal to you and your body.


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