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The allure of the Indian Saree

The classic Nivi sari drape

By far the most popular drape in India - This is probably the drape that most people consider to be "the sari". Most likely you will have only seen this sari drape worn in the west. The nivi has an elegant long line of 7 to 9 pleats folded at the front waist. They have a lovely way of sweeping out when you walk. The long pallu draped over the shoulder and hanging down to wrist length gives more of a sweeping vertical element, lending an instant elegance. While modern Indian women in big metros want to appear so and drape their sarees Nivi rather than their mother's or grandmother's regional style, in many regions you still see other kinds of traditional wraps and not only on older women.

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The first step is putting the first wrap of fabric around your body, right to left, This first wrap is then tucked into the petticoat, making sure to keep the bottom edge even at the desired length. Hold the sari up as in photo 1 to get the desired length, then fold at the waist and tuck the fabric in all around. Give yourself enough room at the bottom to move your legs. It is better to have the fabric skim you loosely around the hips at this point. You can make gathers at the waist or small pleats to take up the slack. Now you can begin pleating the front pleats.

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The first pleat should fold down the center of your body. Make sure that the pleats are falling straight with the grain. Make about 5 to 7 four inch pleats. Line them all up on top of one another and make sure that they are all even at the front. Now hold the whole stack of pleats in place, lining up the bottom edge with the previous wrapping. Take the remaining length of sari and wrap it to the left around back and up over your left shoulder. Adjust the pallu if needed and take up the slack by folding the last pleat farther to the right of the others.

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Carefully tuck the pleats inside the petticoat, making sure to keep them together at the point where they tuck in at the waistband. You can use a pin to secure the pleats to the petticoat, either by pinning through them on the inside, or by putting a pin under the pleats on the outside. Make sure the pin goes all the way through the petticoat and the pleats.

To arrange the sari on the front pull it up with your right hand and fit it tightly into the armpit, then drape it diagonally over your left shoulder. You can pleat the shoulder four or five times, leaving the last pleat to hang mid upper arm - we don't want to be too indiscreet. For slippery fabrics pinning these in place is a really good idea. Pin through all layers of the pleats on the shoulder from the inside of the choli, just behind the shoulder seam.

Another option is to wrap the remaining fabric towards the back, don't go all the way around, instead throw the pallu over the right shoulder - this makes a pretty effect having the pallu on the front of your body. This is called the Gujarati style drape and you see it often in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

A Gallery of sari drapes is available for your inspiration.
Please see the Vintage sari draping instructions:  Chennai  |  Karachi
and read some General Wearing Tips

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