How to Wear a Mermaid-Style Saree

As with any saree drape, practice is key to success.
As with any saree drape, practice is key to success. (Image: bdspn/iStock/Getty Images)

Donning a saree requires a little more mindfulness than the average garment. In addition to cultural considerations -- namely, walking the fine line between honoring Indian culture and treating the piece like a costume -- you have plentiful options for arranging this flowing drape, from crisscrossing it to show a little midriff or layering it with a blouse and skirt for a more eclectic look. Like the butterfly and Lehenga drapes, this style works with a standard-sized saree. The mermaid-style drape lends your ensemble a modern edge and flatters most body shapes, making it suitable for casual and semi-formal occasions.

Things You'll Need

  • High heels
  • 5- to 6-yard saree
  • Saree clips
  • Small safety pin

Don a pair of high heels, which will help you keep the bottom hem of the saree at just the right distance from the ground. Hold the corner of the saree -- a standard-sized saree of about 5 to 6 yards works for this drape -- in front of you at waist level, so that it drapes in a horizontal fashion, with the longer edge of the garment parallel with the ground.

Tuck the edges of the saree neatly and securely into the waistband of your bottoms. Start on your right hip, then tuck the garment all the way around your waist, wrapping it twice until it overlaps in front of you. The overlap should fall just around your navel, resembling a pair of closed window drapes. At this point in the process, the saree resembles a skirt with a long, flowing train.

Gather the train of the saree from the ground. This train will often have a pattern different from the rest of the saree; in the mermaid-style drape, the embellished pallu of the saree forms this train. Lift the train up, lifting the skirt of saree in turn. Raise the train until the bottom skirt hem of the saree skirt clears your heels, falling about an inch from the floor.

Hold the pallu up to about ear-level and fold it vertically into itself, first one way, then the other, creating an accordion-style fold known as pallu pleats. Keep folding in this fashion until you have a folded pallu that measures about 8 inches wide. Secure the fold by placing saree clips on its side.

Bring the folded train around your back, then drape it over the front of your right shoulder until its bottom hem hangs about 3 inches above the hem of the skirt. You'll notice that the skirt has some excess fabric, near the point where the pallu meets the bottom of the skirt. Tuck this loose part of the train into the waistband on the right-hand side of your bottoms. This fabric now hangs in a "U" shape on your right hip.

Unfold the bottom layer of the pallu, now draped over your shoulder, bringing the bottom "panel" of the accordion-folded pallu around your back and all the way to the front. With a small safety pin, pin the corner of the panel to the front of the skirt -- the corner should fall right under the pallu that hangs over your shoulder -- to secure your mermaid-style saree drape for wear.

Tips & Warnings

  • For a versatile ensemble that jells with a mermaid-draped saree, go with a sleeveless top, long skirt, semi-formal heels and bold, intricate jewelry. For more casual occasions, feel free to choose a top that shows some midriff.
  • For your base layer, choose clothes that match the secondary colors of your saree.

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