Portraying the shades of India through saree draping styles

A single piece of unstitched fabric, but a sari is so much more than just that. For some, it is a trip down memory lane to the soft cottony moments spent with their grandmother. For some, it is reliving the nostalgia of their wedding day. With us Indians, a sari is never just a sari. Sometimes it is a gift for a milestone moment. Sometimes it is an heirloom, wrapped in blessings. It is passed down from generation to generation. While some of us dress regularly in pants, skirts and salwar kameez and the sari is reserved for ceremonial occasions. Millions of women flaunt their glossy Benarasis and satiny Kanchipurams in different saree draping style with enviable ease every day.

Our humble Indian saree does so much more than being a functional everyday garment.  According to the textile ministry annual report 2016, sari weaving employs 11 million craftsmen in the handloom and embroidery sector, in India. It is also a wonderful example of the ‘unity in diversity’ in our country. You will see women of every caste or social-economic background flash this beloved apparel. Your house help might wear a comfortable cotton or polyester sadi saree, while your neighborhood auntie will wear a glistening brocade benarasi, as a party wear saree. But this modest item of clothing gracefully binds us Indian ladies together.

Saree wearing might have a reputation for being difficult to wear and at risk of ‘falling off’. But if wrapped and tied right, you can be rest assured; your sari will stay secure. Zero safety pins needed.

A country as vast and diverse as ours is bound to have a varied number of saree draping styles. Some are inspired by functionality and need, while some just for the sake of vanity and art.

  • The Bengal drape: A throwback to the stunning Aishwarya Rai in the iconic movie Devdas, is the perfect example for the Athpourey or the Bengal saree wearing style. The pallu pleated in a box style coming from the back to the front. Traditionally the power lady, the one, of the houses in Bengal hung a bunch of keys on the palu of the Bengal saree. It symbolized her prestige authority of running the household. If there is no power battle in the ladies of your home, you can add a brooch instead of the keys and give the old tradition a fancier modern twist.

bengali draping style saree aishwarya rai devdas

  • The Andhra drape: This one is less a regional and more a universal drape. Formerly worn by the regal and monarchical families of India. It is the most widely accepted style of draping, out of the 108 draping styles, especially when wearing bridal sarees. We guess what makes it so famous is it is versatile and highlights every element of the ensemble, the blouse, the pallu even the silhouette of the wearer. The latest saree trend of ready-made saree is the derivative of the Nivi style.

deepika Padukone Nivi draping style saree celebrity

  • The Assamese drape: Artistically woven into ornamental designs, the mekhela chador is a traditional two piece sari. It looks best when made of Cotton, Muga or Pat silk. The bottom portion is a wide sarong-like cloth. It is folded into pleats to fit around the waist on the right side, unlike the Nivi draping style where the pleats are folded on the left. The bottom part ‘chador’ is tucked in triangular folds. With one end tucked into the upper portion of the Mekhela and the other wrapped daintily around the body.

mekhela chador bipasha basu north east assamese style saree drape

  • The Mee-Maratha drape: This traditional Maharashtrian draping style commonly known as the Nauvari or Kaastha. Popularized and started by the Peshvai reign, the drape has stood the test of time. The saree’s center is placed at the center of the waist. The ends of the saree are tied at the front, then wrapped around the legs, the pallu is wrapped around the shoulder. The technique does require precision, but this saree draping style is worn by women from all walks of life. Alavani folk dancer, a warrior, a farmland worker, women dabbawallas and Bollywood celebrities wear it with equal fondness. Picture Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra in Bajirao Mastani.nauvari saree style drape saree deepika padukone priyanka chopra

  • The Gujarat aka soap opera style drape: You will recognize this draping style distinctly and immediately. Thanks to the modern Star plus sitcoms from the early 2000s, that our mothers watched so religiously. Although if you are an inhabitant of Gujarat, UP or Odisha, you know that it is an everyday saree draping style. It very closely resembles a lehenga-choli. The pleats of the sari are tucked very similarly to the Nivi-style drape. The unique aspect is taking the loose end from the back and draping it across the right shoulder, displaying the intricate designs and embroidery like Gota in all its glory.

gujrati style saree draping

  • The Tamil Nadu aka Madisar drape: Madi which means the long pallu folded into to parts and Thaar which means bringing the saree to the front between the legs like a dhoti. It is perhaps the most difficult draping style. Madisar was traditionally worn by brides and made in hues of red and maroon. (now worn on other occasions and available in more shades) The drape which requires a nine-yard saree is deeply rooted in the Iyer and Iyengar Brahmin culture.

madisaru style saree drape


  • The Parsi Akho Garo sari drape: Yes, a minority group like Parsis too have their own draping style. That is our Incredible India. Parsi women consider this draping style, an identity of sorts. They start wearing this saree after the saree peravan ceremony. It is most beautiful when worn in Georgettes, Silks, and Chiffons. It is worn on occasions like marriages and special events like the Navjote ceremony. Decorating with intricate Chinese-style embroidery is a common practice. The origin of this saree draping style was a side effect of wealthy Parsi and Jewish traders who bought Chinese embroidered silks for their families back home in India. 



  • The Phanek or Inaphi drape of Manipur: Northeast India's richly intricate and mosaic fashion is surely not emphasized enough. Sarees in Manipur are made of cotton or silk and adorned with delicate embroidery. The phanek is the ethnic saree draping style of this small but significant state. There is a certain uniqueness to the style, design, and color of this saree draping style worn like a sarong or wrap-around. Innaphi is a rectangular and transparent version of the Manipuri drape.