Tutorial on How to Wrap a Sari

Women holding colorful fabric at festival, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Jeremy Woodhouse / Getty Images

sari (sometimes called a saree) is a traditional garment worn by women in India. It is a rectangular piece of cloth, traditionally made of cotton or silk about 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 meters) in length, that is wrapped around the body and worn with two other garments:

  • petticoat is a waist-to-floor undergarment tied tightly at the waist by a drawstring like pajama pants. The petticoat should match the base sari color as closely as possible. No part of the petticoat should be visible outside the sari.
  • blouse can be short sleeved or sleeveless with a variety of necklines. The blouse ends just below the bust and should be tight-fitting.

Saris come in a range of colors, sometimes adorned along the borders with fringe or elaborate patterns. Saris worn for special occasions, such as a wedding, may also be decorated with woven gold or silver embroidery. This guide will show you how to wear a sari. 

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Fitting the Petticoat

Sari: Fitting the Petticoat

Start wearing the sari by tucking its 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 sari should be touching the floor, and that the whole length of the sari comes on the left-hand side. Next, wrap the sari around yourself once, ending in the front on your right side.

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Gather the Pleats

Sari: Gather the Pleats

Make about five to seven pleats, each about 5 inches long, starting at the tucked-in end. Gather the pleats together, ensuring that the lower edge of the pleats is even and just off the ground. The pleats should fall straight and evenly. A safety pin may be used to stop the pleats from scattering.

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Tuck the Pleats

Sari: Tuck the Pleats

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.

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Drape and Wrap

Sari: Drape and Wrap

Drape the remaining fabric around yourself once more, left to right. Bring it around your hips to the front, holding the top edge of the sari.

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Fasten the End

Sari: Fasten the End

Slightly raise the remaining portion of the sari on your back, bringing it up under the right arm and over the left shoulder so that the end of it falls to about the level of your knees.

The end portion draped from the left shoulder is called the pallav or the pallu. It can be prevented from slipping by fastening it at the shoulder to the blouse with a small safety pin.

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Different Ways of Wearing a Sari

Women wearing saris
hadynyah / Getty Images

Different regions of India have their own distinct forms of draping a sari. These are some of the most common regional variations in sari style:

  • Gujarati: This version of draping, commonly known as the seedha pallu way, is also found in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar. Instead of opening to the left, the pleats are tucked so that they open to the right. Then the pallu is taken to the back and brought over the right shoulder. Finally, it is spread across the chest, and the left edge is tucked in the petticoat at the back.
  • Maharashtra: Instead of the usual 16 feet (5 meters), the sari in this version measures 26 feet (8 meters). One portion of the sari is drawn up between the legs and tucked in behind at the waist, while another portion is draped as a pallu over the bosom. This forms a kind of divided sari, allowing greater freedom of movement.
  • Tamilian: Like the Maharashtra version, this sari is 26 feet (8 meters) long. After wrapping around the waist, the pleats are positioned along the left leg. The rest of the sari is taken over the left shoulder, wrapped once again around the waist, and tucked on the left side.
  • Bengali: The sari is worn pleatless. It is wrapped around the waist, then brought back to the right side, and the pallu is thrown over the left shoulder. The pallu is then brought up under the right arm and once again cast over the left shoulder.
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Das, Subhamoy. "Tutorial on How to Wrap a Sari." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, learnreligions.com/how-to-wear-a-sari-1770006. Das, Subhamoy. (2023, April 5). Tutorial on How to Wrap a Sari. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/how-to-wear-a-sari-1770006 Das, Subhamoy. "Tutorial on How to Wrap a Sari." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/how-to-wear-a-sari-1770006 (accessed May 29, 2023).