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Fashion trends in India change every now and then, but there’s one constant that remains: the classic Indian saree. Since time immemorial, the saree has been India’s very own garment that has always reflected a woman’s beauty and elegance. India has a treasure of different saree varieties and styles that have even inspired the international fashion world. There are a number of ways a saree is draped in different parts of India and here are our top picks of the most traditional styles.
One of the most identifiable saree-draping styles is the Bengali atpoure shari. This traditional Bengali saree comes in a white colour and has a red border. It is draped with box pleats in the front, while the pallu (veil) appears on both shoulders. The veil comes from the back on the left shoulder first and then comes from the back on the right shoulder. It used to be prevalent for Bengali women to tie a bunch of keys to the veil end that goes over the right shoulder – this used to signify an important woman and, therefore, she commanded respect and honour.
In Maharashtra, there’s a completely unique style of draping a saree, called nauvari (nine-yard saree). It is worn like a dhoti (loincloth), with one end going front to back between the legs, which is then tucked around the waist, while the other end or upper part is draped much like a normal saree. The folk dance of Maharashtra, lavani, best demonstrates this nauvari saree-draping style. Not only does this particular style make women look elegant, but it also allows easy leg movements.
A draping style practiced in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha, seedha pallu sarees are worn here by folk women on an everyday basis. Quite similar to a lehenga choli, in this style, the veil is used in place of a dupatta. This particular style allows for free hand movements and works really well for heavy-work sarees as the shoulders do not have to bear the weight of heavily worked decorations on the veil. Also, it’s the best way to showcase all the intricate designs found around the saree’s veil and border.
Assamese handloom sarees are called mekhela chadar, and this particular style constitutes draping these sarees only, hence the name. Worn by the young girls of Assam, mekhela chadar comprises two pieces. One piece is worn at the bottom like a sarong with crisscross pleats in front, while one end of the second piece is tucked around the waist on the left side and the other end is draped onto the shoulder like a shawl.
Worn by the women of Tamil Nadu, pinkosu is a saree-draping style best suitable for hot weather. The word ‘pinkosu’ literary means ‘pleats at the back’, hence in this style, the saree is wrapped around the waist one and a half times, providing more coverage, where unlike a normal saree, the pleats fall towards the outside of the wrap from the inside. So basically, the underside of the saree shows, so women must choose their saree accordingly. Handloom cotton sarees are therefore preferred for this style, as they are reversible and can be worn from both sides.
Madisaru, which plays an important role in the Iyengar and Iyer culture of Tamil Nadu, is a saree-draping style that was traditionally worn by women after their marriage. Nowadays, it is generally worn during festive or special occasions. No blouse or petticoat is required to wear this style. It is one of the most complicated saree-draping styles, wherein the lower half is worn like a loincloth while the upper half is pleated like a normal saree.
An undoubtedly elegant drape, today, kappulu is worn only by the older women of the kappulu cast in Andhra Pradesh. Unlike normal sarees that are wrapped from right to left, this style requires women to drape a saree from left to right. The Kappulu style has two main features – one is the slight and slender pleat at the back that enhances a woman’s curves, while the other is the falls of cloth created by twisting the end around the body two times. The veil is taken from the front over the right shoulder to either hang loose or be wrapped around the neck.
As the name suggests, this draping style is regularly worn by Parsi women, as well as on festive occasions. A georgette or light chiffon saree is generally preferred for this kind of drape. The veil comes from behind and goes all over the blouse on the left shoulder and is then brought to the front over the right shoulder, forming folds at the front. The front part of the veil thus falls quite close to the hem.
Halakki Vokkaliga are the aboriginals of Karnataka and live at the base of the Western Ghats. Particularly, the women of this aborigine wear this distinguishing saree-draping style, hence the name. The saree is first tied around the neck and then wrapped around under the shoulders like a sarong, which makes a blouse or petticoat completely unnecessary. Along with the saree, women wear a lot of accessories, like colourful flowers and beads, to complete their look.
Coorg is a hill station in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. To make climbing the hilly slopes of the area easy for women, this style of saree-draping was brought into practice. It helped them climb trees and do their daily work actively. A Coorgi style saree has pleats at the back, whereas the end or veil of the saree is brought from the back under both shoulders and then secured on the right shoulder with a knot. Red and golden Kanjeevaram silk sarees are worn by brides in this style during their weddings.
This is an ancient saree-draping style, which was followed by the tribal women of Goa way before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. A very basic draping style, it requires wrapping the saree around the waist and simply knotting it on the right shoulder. It is tied much above the ankles to provide ease and comfort to the women working in rice fields.