An amateur's guide on how to drape a sari


An amateur’s guide on how to drape a sari

Expert opinion

By Shweta Gandhi  April 30th, 2018

If you, like the many other millennials, are perplexed at the thought of draping the traditional six yards, we’ve found the answer. No, it’s not escaping to the solace of wearing a sari gown or getting a professional ‘parlour lady’ to drape it for you — we’ve got a long-lasting solution, straight from designer Payal Khandwala, which promises to keep those disconcerting thoughts at bay. Here, Payal gives us a step-by-step procedure of how to drape a sari.

1. Decide on your sari’s fabric 

“The fabric of your sari plays an important role since it affects your drape and fall. For beginners, I recommend opting for silk or brocade. The latter, with its heavy-weight metal threadwork ensures that the sari falls the right way,” says Payal.

2. Pick the right petticoat

“Your petticoat should give you a snug fit. I prefer petticoats that are A-line skirts with a cotton dori which help securing the sari and keeping them in place — especially the heavy ones — as opposed to the elasticated ones. Decide where you want to wear your sari — low waist, on the navel, above the navel — and position your petticoat there.”

3. Wear your footwear

“Always wear your flats or heels before you start draping the sari. This way, you know the length the sari should ultimately be. I don’t like the sari touching the floor, so aim to have it just a little off the floor,” recommends Payal.

4. Begin the draping process 

“First, stand in front of a mirror. Right-handed girls can begin from the right side and vice versa. Start tucking in your sari from the right side, and go around one time. Then from what’s left, decide on a length that you would like the pallu to be. A short length doesn’t look too appealing, and a long one can trip you, so the ideal length is usually mid-thigh — right between your hips and your knee. Remember the pallu comes over the left shoulder. Once you’ve bunched up all the fabric required for the pallu, throw it behind you, and begin pleating your sari.”

5. Pleating your sari

“Now, this is the trickiest part, where most girls falter. The key is to have the top pleat covering all the ones below, all stuck to one another. Make sure your pleats are no longer than 5 inches and sit right in the centre. All your pleats should vertically fall in the same direction. Keep making the pleats, and towards the end, tuck them all in place, right in the front. One way to know you have messed up is if your pleats are all going in the wrong direction. Then you’ll have to start all over again. But if your top pleat falls in accordance to the ones below, then you’ve got them right. Remember that your petticoat must never be seen,” says Payal.

6. Pleating your pallu

“Your pallu should not be more than 6 inches wide, and it should not extend over the shoulder too much. The pleats towards the shoulder should be shorter. The pallu is the easiest to handle when it’s draped in a fitted fashion and pinned up. Otherwise, you’ll keep fidgeting with it.” 

“When draping a sari for the first time, keep it simple. Your sari should not be more than 5.5 metres. At the end, it really doesn’t matter if your sari’s length is shorter or longer — as long as you’re comfortable to walk in it,” says Payal. And as the adage goes, practice makes perfect. With more experience, you can experiment with different drape styles like the dhoti style, butterfly drape and mermaid style.