The earliest versions of the sari can be traced back to 2,000 B.C. to the western section of India. However, the present style of the draped dress has roots in the 14th century. Sewing a sari isn't very complicated. At its most basic, a sari or saree is made from a piece of material that's about 45 inches wide and 6 to 9 yards long. A border typically runs the width of the material, and, when folded, helps create the pleats that can make the dress so dazzling.
Many modern saris are sewn with pleats so all you have to do is wrap the fabric around and tuck it in. However, the pleats limit some of the style variations. With over 80 ways to fold a sari, you'll want to learn at least a few different ways to turn the fabric into a distinctive dress.
Things You'll Need
- Fabric at least 6 yards long and 45 inches wide
- Sewing machine
- Embellishments (optional)
- Fabric glue
Step 1: Decide on the Style
While the most common way to wear a sari is to wrap it around the waist with the loose end of it draped over the shoulder, you can experiment with numerous styles and folds. Keep in mind many of the folds require a petticoat to be worn underneath. Some of the most common include:
- Nivi: One of the most popular approaches, the nivi has seven to nine elegant pleats at the waist with a long pallu -- or scarf -- draped over the shoulder that hangs down to the wrist. This style covers the legs and also allows free movement.
- The Bengali Drape: This style begins at the right hip and has two large pleats in front with the pallu wrapped around twice at the top.
- Kappulu: The flowing pleats in the back of the sari accentuate the form. It's best to begin this style with a longer piece of material, of at least 7 yards.
- Tamil Pinkosu: The pleats in back of this fold accentuate the hips, and it's typically worn without a petticoat.
Step 2: Choose the Fabric
The type of fabric used in saris ranges from sheer silk to heavyweight cotton. Each sari's material not only influences how warm the wearer will be while wearing it, but also how the fabric drapes. A sheer silk fabric is light, flexible and revealing, while a heavy cotton tends to be warmer and hold its shape. Before buying the fabric, you should decide if you want to use one of the folds that requires 6 yards of material or one that needs 9 yards. You may also want to research different fabrics, such as chiffon, crepe and georgette.
Step 3: Take Measurements
Put on the shoes you want to wear with the sari and measure the distance from your waist to the floor. Add 3 inches to that length for the seam. This is the height measurement.
Step 4: Cut the Fabric
Depending on the style of sari you intend to wrap, the length of the fabric will be between 6 and 9 yards. Trim the width of it to the height measurement.
Step 5: Add a Hem or Ribbon
While a hem isn't absolutely required for a sari, it can help accentuate the pleats and folds and stop the fabric from unraveling. If preferred, hem the top edge of the fabric with a rolled hem. Alternatively, you can glue a ribbon on the top edge to help with the sari's weight and keep the material from fraying.
Step 6: Decorate the Pallu
Since the scarf, or pallu, can be very ornate, they're often designed by tailors. The pallu is the 3-foot section of the sari wrapped over the shoulder of the dress. Pallus also have distinct folding styles such as the "square neck" and "back-u" that you may want to research. To add a little glamor to your sari, consider sewing or gluing on embellishments. Some decorations can be ironed on.
Step 7: Wrap the Sari
Wrapping the sari is one of the most important aspects of creating the dress style. Practice a few different folds to see which one looks best on you.