Wearing a Saree

A sari, saree, or shari is traditionally worn by females in the Indian subcontinent, mainly in India. A saree is a strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from 4 to 9 metres in length that is draped over the body in various styles. The most common style is for the saree to be wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder to expose the midriff and stomach region. The saree is usually worn on top of a petticoat or a chaniyo, with a blouse forming the upper garment.



The word 'saree' evolved from the Prakrit word 'sattika', as mentioned in earliest Jain and Buddhist literature.

The history of Indian clothing traces the saree back to the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), which flourished during 2800-1800 BCE around the Western part of the Indian subcontinent. The earliest known depiction of the saree in the Indian subcontinent is the statue of an Indus Valley priest wearing a drape.

It is generally accepted that wrapped saree-like garments, shawls, and veils have been worn by Indian women for a long time, and have been worn in their current form for hundreds of years.

How to Wear a Saree

Two essential parts of attire that go along with the saree need to be chosen carefully to complement the beauty of this garment. These are:.

A Blouse

This is a waist-to-floor garment tied tightly at the waist by a drawstring. The petticoat colour should match the base saree colour as closely as possible. Of course, no part of the petticoat is visible outside the saree after having worn it.

A Petticoat

This needs to be tight-fitting and a colour that matches well with your chosen saree. Your blouse can be short-sleeved or sleeveless with a variety of necklines, and will end just below the bust.


To comfortably wear your saree, simply tuck the plain/upper end into the petticoat at a position that is a little bit to the right of the navel. Make sure that the lower end of the saree is touching the floor, and that the whole length of the saree comes on the left-hand side. Now wrap the saree around yourself once, with the saree now coming back in the front, on your right side. 

Starting at the tucked-in end, make about 5 to 7 pleats of equal width of 5 inches. Gather the pleats together neatly, ensuring that the lower edge of the pleats is even and just off the ground. Also, make sure that all of the pleats fall straight and evenly. A safety pin may be used to stop the pleats from scattering. 

Neatly tuck the pleats into the petticoat at the waist, slightly to the left of the navel, in such a manner that they open to your left. Then drape the remaining fabric around yourself once more left to right, and bring it round your hips to the front, holding the top edge of the saree.  Slightly raise the remaining portion of the saree on your back, bringing it up under the right arm and over the left shoulder so that the end of the saree falls to about the level of your knees.

The end portion that is draped from the left shoulder onward is called the pallav or the pallu, and can be prevented from slipping off the shoulder. All you have to do is simply fasten it at the shoulder to the blouse with a small safety pin.

Styles of Draping

The saree is usually wrapped around the waist, with the loose end of the drape worn over the shoulder and baring the stomach. However, a saree can be draped in several different styles, although some styles do require a saree of a particular length or form.

The Nivi Style

The Nivi style is today's most popular saree style. The Nivi drape starts with one end of the saree tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. The cloth is wrapped around the lower body once and then hand-gathered into even pleats just below the navel. The pleats are also tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. They create a graceful, decorative effect that poets have likened to the petals of a flower.

After one more turn around the waist, the loose end is draped over the shoulder. The loose end is called the pallu or pallav, and is draped diagonally in front of the torso. It is worn across the right hip and over the left shoulder, partly baring the midriff.

The navel can be revealed or concealed by the wearer by adjusting the pallu, depending on the social setting in which the saree is being worn. The long end of the pallu hanging from the back of the shoulder is often intricately decorated. The pallav may be left hanging freely, tucked in at the waist, used to cover the head, or simply used to cover the neck by draping it across the right shoulder as well. Some Nivi styles are worn with the pallu draped from the back towards the front.

Wedding Market

Nowadays, the typical bride already has her wedding day prepared long before she meets the perfect gentleman. There are different
outfits available for brides, from beautiful, flowing sarees to lenghas that start from approximately £500 as luxurious items. These are also worn in a typical fashion, however instead of draping, there is a skirt, top, and dupatta.


Types of Sarees

While an international image of the 'modern-style' saree may have been popularised by airline stewardesses, each region in the Indian subcontinent has developed its unique saree style over the centuries. Here are some well-known varieties on the basis of fabric, weaving style, or motif in South Asia:

Northern Styles

  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Banarasi
  • Shalu
  • Uttar Pradesh

Central Styles

  • Chanderi
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Maheshwari
  • Kosa Silk
  • Chhattisgarh

As for Southern and Eastern styles, they have far too many to even begin to describe.

Contact us today, to discover more about our beautiful selection of Indian clothing serving customers throughout the UK.