Drape Style – Saree


Today I will be discussing saree draping styles along with styling options. Sarees are usually worn with blouses with different embroideries and variations in necklines and sleeve lengths. I will not be discussing the basic blouses, instead I will talk about uncommon blouse options and how each can be styled in several ways. You can also use layering and accessories to create alluring looks with a saree.

The three common styles of draping the saree is the ulta-pallu (draping the aanchal of the saree over your shoulder to the back of the body), the wrapped ulta-pallu (after draping the saree in a ulta-pallu wrap the excess across back and take it over the opposite shoulder towards the front) and the seedha-pallu (draping the aanchal of the saree over the shoulder to the front of the body).


Style 1. In the first section I want to discuss slight variations in the drape of the basic styles. The shoulder pleats in a ulta-pallu are usually 4 to 5 inches wide and changing the width immediately changes the look of the saree. Try seven inches wide pleats at the shoulder along with a lower drape on the right side of the body. In a regular ulta-pallu drape after the waist pleats the saree is wrapped tightly across the hips towards the front and over the left shoulder but to achieve the first style variation after the waist pleats tuck the saree till the left front waist and let the pleats form across the hips and front waist over the left shoulder. You could also try twisting the aanchal of a light weight soft fabric and hold the twists with an embroidered tie up at the shoulder. While using this style make sure your blouse is well fitted, you should go for a thick fabric blouse or a completely embroidered blouse like the Anaikka beaded blouse.

Style 2. The second style is a variation of the seedha-pallu. After draping the aanchal over the right shoulder to the front of the body drape one side around the neck over the left shoulder and leave the other side falling at the front in a diagonal. This drape style is well suited for sarees with aanchal focused prints or embroideries.


Style 3. The saree need not always be worn with a conventional blouse, you could easily pair it with a crop top. Depending on your saree and the occasion you could make use of an existing crop top or invest in an embroidered crop top, these can easily be worn with western outfits. Raw Mango paired a silk saree draped in ulta-pallu and lower right side drape with a basic peter pan collar crop top for their catalog shoot. Anaikka draped a saree in seedha-pallu with a front zippered embroidered crop top. More recently socialite Natasha Poonawala paired a plain black saree with a Abu Jani & Sandeep Khosla gold beaded crop top wrapping the aanchal around the back waist and over the right forearm for a wedding reception, I can easily imagine pairing this gold top with palazzos.


Style 4. You could also wear your saree with a longer top. The top could either be made exactly matching with the saree like the Urvashi Kaur double hem empire waist top or it could be in a block colour matching any shade in the saree. You could also pick a complete contrast like the Masaba Gupta low-high hem top. Along with the various top options there are varied drape options too – a short aanchal seedha-pallu drape, ulta-pallu under the top with the aanchal wrapped around the neck, a under the top in the front ulta-pallu drape with the aanchal over the top at the back.


You could also drape the saree in a basic ulta-pallu drape over the top, remember the aanchal drape will be dependent on the length of your top, the saree should ideally fall below the top’s hem at the front waist where it crosses over to the shoulder. Apart from the shoulder change the difference in side drape length between Nikasha’s saree drape and Payal Singhal’s drape is quiet evident. You could also add additional styling with your top and saree combination like the shoulder fan seen in Archana Rao’s runway styling.


Sytle 5. The fifth styling option is to replace the blouse with a shirt. One of my favourite Indian designer duos Abraham and Thakore have explored the shirt and saree combination to the fullest in their WIFW AW/14 collection.  You can drape the saree over a shirt in the basic ulta-pallu style and even style it with a belt like Payal Pratap did with her embroidered shirt and white saree. Another way to drape is to wrap the aanchal around the neck bringing it to the front after the basic ulta-pallu, you can leave the entire aanchal over the shirt or wear your shirt over the wrap like the Abraham and Thakore saree styling. The grey metallic effect shirt and saree is to die-for!


Style 6. The sixth styling option is the use of belts with your saree, this adds a quick update to your regular saree and blouse or top pairing. You can use an embroidered belt, flat metallic belt, leather belt, traditional gold/silver belt or even a carved metallic belt- the choice is dependent on the look you are going for. An embroidered belt adds an imperial touch to the Tarun tahiliani saree while the black and metal belt gives a casual look to the Anju Modi saree. The flat metal belt gives the Anamika Khanna saree a modern twist along with the one corner drape. To achieve this drape diagonally pleat one corner of the aanchal in aprox 4 inches wide pleats and leaving a few inches at the back let the pleats fall naturally in the front.


Style 7. The seventh styling option is to layer the saree and blouse with a jacket. There are numerous silhouette options for the jacket- long jacket, cape, short jacket or waist coat, and these are not limited to the conventional definitions of the terms. You could pick a soft fabric long jacket like the Priyadarshini Rao chanderi jakcet or even go for a structure brocde jacket. The cape is quiet in trend at the moment and you can pair it with your western wear too. For the short jacket and waist coat you can choose between various lengths and fabrics. Wear the jacket just as an outerwear with the basic ulta-pallu saree drape.


Style 8. In this section I will discuss the various saree draping options with jackets apart from the basic ulta-pallu. The first styling variation is to drape the saree under a long coat taking only the aanchal over the coat at the front and over the shoulder. Keep in mind the coat needs to have enough ease to accommodate the saree pleats and fabric excess. The second styling variations is the seedha-pallu drape over a long jacket, the aanchal comes over the jacket at the back and over the shoulder to the front. The third style does not require any extra blouse underneath and is suitable for long kurtas paired with sarees or full front closed jackets, this is a simple ulta-pallu drape with a very low side drape. You could additionally use a belt to add definition to the waist.


The saree drape styles remain similar for the short jacket pairings too. The main difference is that with most short jackets you do not require an additional blouse underneath, the short length jackets are usually tight fitted. You could even pair your western black sequinned jacket with a saree like Vineet Bahl, if you have a bomber jacket to loose it’s sporty character tuck the waist band into the saree waist. You could pick anything between a flowy kimono styled jacket to a structured peplum jacket. The best part is the multi-functionality since most of us occasionally wear Indianwear and at other times we could pair the jackets with out westernwear.


Style 9. The next styling option is the combination of various styles. For example Manish Arora has combined his ulta-pallu draped saree with a broad cummerbund and a long structured front open jacket. You could even layer a lace top with a black saree and short sleeve gold lapel jacket along with a gold belt. The sleeve length detailing adds to the impudence of the look. In this saree styling Archana Rao has played with the peek-a-boo concept by layering a corset and sheer paneled jacket with the saree.


Style 10. The tenth saree styling option is the use of an additional dupatta. Pick a dupatta in the same colour family as the saree for a muted effect or go for a contrast dupatta for a more dramatic look. The first draping variation with a ulta-pallu saree is to tuck one corner of the dupatta at the waist in the front and taking it over the head at the back pleating the excess at the opposite shoulder and leaving the dupatta in the front. This is the best option when you have a heavy dupatta and still need both your hands free. The next variation is to use a half width dupatta (not more than 22 inches wide) and pleat it over one shoulder, you make drape your saree in the diagonal corner pleat style too (refer Anamika Khanna drape in style no.6). The third styling variation is the simplest- drape the dupatta over your head leaving the rest at the back, this is suitable for light weight dupattas or minimally embroidered dupattas only because your head won’t be able to take the weight of the heavy dupattas.


Style 11. This style is experimental and edgy. You require a flared full length skirt or a skirt with frilled hem, preferably pair a skirt in the same colour family as the saree or the blouse. The idea is simple- a few inches of the skirt should be visible below the saree. Either wear a longer length skirt than your usual petticoat length or tuck in a few extra inches of the saree at the waist. You could easily wear this style with a pair of high heels since unlike most saree drapes the skirt’s flare will cover the back of the heels. Opt for a skirt with some hem detailing, either borders or frills or horizontal prints will also look interesting.


Style 12. This is not a draping style but an added styling option for the saree. Brooches add character to your saree style. Go for a vintage themed brooch set like the one from Little Shilpa or add a touch of royalty with a pearl and beads brooch. The pairing of the heart brooch with the the handloom saree adds a quirky flavor to the outfit.


ANAVILA. A special mention to the brand Anavila by Anavila Mishra. Her aim is to make the saree an everyday garment people love and she uses no embellishment apart from detailings with the same material as the saree. Apart from the simplicity I am also fascinated with her drapes, she uses the six meters and creates beautiful forms out of them. They look complicated but once you start trying them out you get a hang of it. An additional wrap at the waist , a dhoti like loop at one side or a simple even pleating with an extra tuck– choose the style you like and try it.Anavila’s pairing of sarees with linen tops, most of us would own atleast one of them, is contemporary. Even the simplest of the saree looks dressy with the top and experimental drape. You could even drape a silk or georgette saree in either of the styles.



I am not discussing the dhoti saree, half saree or the pre-draped sarees since they are a separate category of clothing and do not fall under saree draping styles.

The next time you have to wear a saree ditch the basic drape and choose from the wide range of styles mentioned. If you wish to use any form of layering pre-plan the outfit a minimum of fifteen days in advance especially if you have to get a matching jacket or blouse stitched. If you plan to buy a ready made top, blouse, skirt or dupatta- carry your saree along for better matching and if possible try the pairing before the final purchase. While buying any garment think of atleast one western pairing from your existing wardrobe for a more multi-functional buy.

Keep experimenting! Enjoy. 🙂