Diversity of India through the Sari

Did you know there are more than 200 ways to drape a Sari? The Sari drape depends on many factors such as climate, geography, occupation, and caste. This diversity is what India represents.

Shot in 2017, this video showcases the versatility of the Sari across the North, South, East and West of India. The name of each drape is mentioned in the order of its appearance in the credits. Thank you to everyone who made this show possible and memorable.

Hope you enjoy the show! Let me know in comments which is your favourite drape and why.

The Fluid saree Zine

“The Fluid Zine” is a how-to learning guide on draping the unstitched Sari.

I have recently published “The Fluid Zine”. It is a one of a kind book that will teach you how to wear a Saree in 5 unique drapes that are functional, versatile and chic. It has some amazing art in it drawn by a young artist coupled with content that has never been published before. I am sure it will inspire you to wear the Sari!

The book is simple to follow and also doubles up as a colouring book! In this book, you will learn how to wear five different saree drapes. You will also learn to style the saree for work, casual wear and even sports! Each drape instruction comes with options on how to customize the drape to suit your taste, personality and mood. The book is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The book is available for online purchase here.

Images of The Fluid Saree Zine
The Fluid Zine

Want to know more about the drapes you will learn in the saree draping book, The Fluid Saree Zine? Keep reading and get inspired!

Dress drape

The dress drape is one that I am particularly proud of. I was meeting a friend at Starbucks and wanted to wear a Sari without the attention it begets in other drapes. I literally closed my eyes and envisioned a dress. Once opened, my eyes guided my hands and lo and behold, I improvised a new drape within minutes!

Nikaytaa wearing an Ikkat saree in the dress drape
Dress drape. Photo: SuruPixels

Odisha DANCE SAREE drape

Odisha dance saree drape as the name suggests finds its origins in the state of Odisha. It was worn by the Odissi dance community who need freedom of movement. The drape can further be modified to a jumpsuit, and a pair of pants or shorts.

The drape is comfortable and allows for fast strides. It is perfect for those who wish to ride a bike in a Sari! I have even run a 10k Pinkathon race in a modified pants drape (pic below).

Workshop participant wearing a handloom saree in the pants drape
Pants drape. Photo: Rkphotographyyy
Nikaytaa wearing the dhoti drape for Pinkathon 10k run
Variation – Pants drape modified to run comfortably

Madhubani saree drape

The Madhubani saree drape is originally from Bihar. It was worn by the rural community of North Bihar. The peplum pleats are a functional way of raising the height of the Sari to aid the wearer. The drape is traditionally worn with a Seedha palla (popularly known as the Gujarati pallu).

The drape is simple and allows for versatility in that it can be modified into a gown, a Sari drape and even a skirt. I usually complement the drape with a Sari that has a contrasting border.

Workshop participants in the Madhubani saree drape
Madhubani drape
Madhubani saree drape for a vacation
Variation – Madhubani drape with a tie-scarf. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

One shoulder saree drape

The one-shouldered saree drape is inspired by the Yakshagana Parvati Kase drape from Karnataka. The Yakshagana drape is worn with a nine-yard Sari. I improvised the nine-yard drape to a five yard so as to make it accessible for those who may not have a nine yard Sari in their collection yet.

The drape is smart, comfortable and versatile. It can be worn with a sweater, a t-shirt, a blouse and even without a bra! It is perfect for those hot humid summers in most of India.

Model wearing the One shoulder drape at a photoshoot
One-shouldered drape

Skirt saree drape

The skirt saree drape is the most simple drapes in my repertoire. With the right accessories it can be a formal as well as an informal drape. I pair this drape with sweaters, t-shirts, and crop tops. 99 out of 100 times, people do not notice I am wearing a Sari.

Workshop attendees in the skirt saree drape
Skirt drape. Photo: RkPhotographyyy
Nikaytaa in the Skirt drape at Lakme Fashion Week
Variation – Skirt drape. Photo: Tisva lighting

Feeling inspired and excited? Order your copy of The Fluid Zine now!

One Sari. Three work drapes. At The Bombay Zine Fest

Last weekend I was at the Bombay Zine Fest to promote my first book, “The Fluid Sari Zine”. The Fluid Zine is a learning guide that teaches how to drape a Sari in five different, functional ways. The drapes are suited for a variety of occasions both formal and informal. The instructions are in the form of illustrations assisted by minimal text. The book is simple to follow, offers styling options and also doubles up as a colouring book! The book is available for online purchase at https://bit.ly/TheFluidZine.

“The Fluid Zine” at The Bombay Zine Fest

Bombay Underground defines a zine as a small-circulation of self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced using a photocopier, printing press or just paper and pen. Bombay Zine Fest is a celebration of self-published and DIY comics and literature. The Bombay Zine Fest is organized annually by Bombay Underground, a Zine collective founded by Aqui Thami and Himanshu. The fest showcases independently published literature, comic books, poetry, journalism, and drawings.

More than 30 Zine makers showcased their work at The Bombay Zine Fest. Some, as me, had independent stalls where we could meet and interact with people. For three days, artists came together to share their passions, stories and expertise with a like-minded community.

Day 1 at The Bombay Zine Fest

My mini suitcase was filled with printed Zines and stall decor. I had space for one Sari apart from my running gear. I wore the same Sari on all the three days in drapes selected from my book. The idea of achieving minimalism through creativity caught everyone’s imagination at the fest.

Day 2 at The Bombay Zine Fest

The first day I wore the Skirt drape paired with a t-shirt and jacket. The second day I wore the dress drape and a belt from Baggit. On day three, I wore the Madhubani drape with a scarf pallu. I paired the Sari with a custom-made bankers’ shirt blouse. I donned my Brooks GTS 19 all three days for added comfort.

Day 3 at The Bombay Zine Fest

The Fest gave me a chance to connect with fellow artists from different walks of life. Multiple philosophies existed in the same room with some Zine-makers focussing on mental health while some talking about sustainability and feminism. There was inspiration all around us. Ashwini Hiremath (Instagram: boldstroke.pdf) even captured this ephemeral search for inspiration in her Zines (below). Also checkout the travelling salesperson Illesha in her Zine jacket (Instagram: Illesha).

With Aqui Thami. Founder of Sister Library // Co-founder of Bombay Underground

The Zine fest gave me an opportunity to connect with my virtual Sari friends from Bombay. It was lovely meeting you Koshy, Pritha, Sangeeta and Kajal! Thank you so much for stopping by. Sangeeta and Pritha both adorned in Saris made my day 😀

With Sangeeta, a Sari Friend from Instagram.
Sangeeta is wearing the one-shouldered drape from The Fluid (Sari) Zine.
With Koshy, a fellow participant and Zine maker

While in Bombay, I stayed at Co-hostels, Bandra. I love hostels as they give me a chance to connect with people who I otherwise wouldn’t have met. This time I was super lucky to share my room with the talented and unstoppable MMA athletes. Zeba Bano, Priya Saini and Suchitra (coach) represented Delhi Martial Arts Academy. The trio were in Bombay to compete for the Women’s Fight Night at Lord of the Drinks. I am so excited to share that both Zeba and Priya won their respective featherweight MAA Bout and 65kgs Grappling bout!!! Here’s us celebrating the win.

With Team Delhi MMA at Co-hostels.
Left to right: Zeba, Suchitra, Priya Saini, Nikaytaa

The Zine Fest, a first for me, was a great experience and allowed me step away from the virtual world and meet the ever-growing Sari and artist community in person. It was a fantastic experience to get feedback on the book. Thank you Bombay Underground for organizing and hosting us. Looking forward to many such collaborations together.

Running 10k in a Sari at Pinkathon Pune 2018

I ran ten kilometres.
I ran ten kilometres in a Sari.
I ran ten kilometres in a Sari effortlessly.

Being a fitness fanatic and a Sari Researcher, I had to find a way to pair the two effortlessly. I would be running a 10K race for the first time in my life. As I started mentally and physically preparing for the 10K Pinkathon Pune 2018 run, questions regarding the Sari plagued me. Would the Sari hold up to the challenge? Can I make the Sari equally, if not more, comfortable to run in than a pair of tights?

I focussed on the technicalities of the drape, the material of the Sari, and general safety.

If you’re interested in knowing how I maximised for running efficiently, read on.

1. The drape

My mind ran through varieties of drapes suited for running. The drape needed to fit the bill on many fronts.

  • Allow big leg strides
  • Avoid loose unmanageable fabric
  • Avoid chaffing
  • Easy to go to the toilet in

With this functionality list jotted down, the pants drape seemed number 1. The question was which one? There are many variations of the pants drape after all. In the past year, I have draped 10-12 variations of pants. I shortlisted three and tried them all during my practice runs. Two of them were the Odisha pants drape and a variation of the Dhangad drape.

The Odisha pants drape worked well when worn short but did not turn out to be comfortable with a below the knee length. The second drape was essentially a pair of shorts inside and a tennis skirt outside. The tennis skirt drape increased my body temperature as it was very compact. It did not help much with chaffing either and I dropped it after a 3-kilometre trial run.

For the final drape, I decided to create a customized drape selecting the best parts of all the pants drapes I knew. I looked through my past photographs in pants and stopped swiping when I saw the pants drape I’d worn in San Francisco on the occasion of my partner’s birthday. I would need to change one step to pee faster. One thing I am aware of is that textures affect the outcome of the drape. Getting the cascade effect below was not my priority. Getting the sturdiness at my waist, was.

Ready for a birthday party, San Francisco January 2018. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

2. The material

Running, as any other sport, generates heat. Since the start time varies race to race, I needed to be prepared for running in full sun. Undoubtedly, it would be a handloom cotton Sari.

I made a list of the fabric features. It had to

  • Allow rapid heat dissipation
  • Be lightweight
  • Be soft and comfortable

I had worn the Sari in the picture above for a 3K run with Milind Soman just a week ago. I chose it for the brightness and festive look. But wearing it for the final race was not an option. The thick border coupled with sweat gave me rashes on my stomach. The rather dense body did not help with heat dissipation.

The right Sari would need to be lightweight and porous to allow effective air and heat exchange. I never wear tights under my pants and this time wasn’t an exception. In fact, this time around I also wanted to avoid wearing an underwear. I needed a fabric that would have the minimum opacity for covering the pelvic region.

The missing weave Sari

After trying many fabrics, I finalized on my one and only missing weave Sari. A missing weave Sari is one where the Weft yarn is missing regularly or at intervals while weaving. This results in a gap in the weave and makes it permeable. As you can now imagine, this pervious fabric effectively regulated my body temperature and kept me from overheating.

A silk fabric would have the opposite effect. The thick silk fabric traps heat. In the absence of heat dissipation, the temperature of the body rises. This impedes the run and makes it uncomfortable and tiring. While working out, one needs clothes that allow quick and efficient heat dissipation.

3. General safety

I prioritize functionality over the aesthetic. I did not want a surprise on D-day and went to the toilet in each of the trials. If it added even a second extra to my regular peeing experience, I changed the drape.

I avoided loose fabric flapping such as the pallu to avoid distraction. I twisted the two ends of the Sari into ropes and finished the drape by tying my Sari at the back in a tight knot. I gave it the illusion of a bow 🙂 The ankle length drape prevented the Sari from getting stuck in my shoes.

Front view of the pants Sari drape


On 28th October 2018, I completed the 10K Pinkathon Pune run in 78 minutes at a pace of 7.51 minutes per kilometre. The Sari seemed like second-skin to me and did not impede my running at all. I even tucked a 500ml water bottle in my rope belt for the first 5 kilometres. For most of the experience, I had forgotten that I am wearing a Sari. Running has never felt this liberating and simple before.

This 10K race has inspired me to be a long-distance runner. After a week of post-race cool-down, I will begin my preparation for a half-marathon. Among many things, running has taught me patience and commitment. Seven weeks prior, I couldn’t run more than two kilometres without losing my breath. I learnt the importance of taking it one day at a time. All I focussed on was improving my last timing. And here I am a finisher. It took me all of seven weeks to prepare for the 10K Pinkathon Pune 2018 race.

I sincerely urge you to try running a few kilometres. As Desiree Linden, Boston marathon 2018 winner says “No one’s ever finished that and said ‘Wow! I wish I hadn’t gone for a run today!'”.

Rear view of the pants Sari drape


The Odisha Pants drape

There are more than 200 drapes worn across India. Each drape is unique, creative and functional for those who wear it. In a series of posts, Nikaytaa will be sharing videos and demystifying the drapes she wears. In this post, she will speak about her love for the Pants drape especially the Odisha dancer drape.

The dancer drape from Odisha is versatile, functional, and comfortable. It is a super practical drape for someone who is on the run. It is simple to wear, easy to carry off, and adaptable. With one change in the draping of the pallu it becomes a dress, a halter, and a gown.

History of the pants drape

People across India wear the pants drape albeit with some variations. It is worn by those who need to perform a range of functions such as riding, swimming, walking, and running. For example, the dancers of Odisha wear the Sari as pants assisting big strides across the stage.

Rani Lakshmibai wore a Sari while riding a horse and fighting the British army. The Koli fisherwomen of coastal Maharashtra wear the pants as shorts. They fish in the ocean, walk across the beach soaking wet, and squat in the marketplace to sell the fish: all in a day’s work. Maharashtrian women, mostly brahmin, wear the Navvari drape. The Dhangad drape (below) is worn by the farmers of Savantwadi. The farmer in the picture below shared that the shorts allowed her to squat and work with ease all day. She pees with dignity while in the field and manoeuvres the cattle with efficiency.

Where and how do you wear the Odissi pants drape?

Nikaytaa wears the Odisha pants drape for work especially on days she has to be on her feet or ride a bike. She also wears the pants as evening wear where she drapes the pallu around her neck as a scarf. At times, she has also twisted her pallu like a rope and draped it around her waist like a rope belt. One can choose to hang the end of the pallu by your waist or tuck it in. Both expressions are super classy and fun. Nikaytaa also loves wearing a version of this drape during her 10K practice runs and will be wearing it on race day this weekend!

Dhoti drape with pallu as a scarf. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

What Sari does this drape demand?

Nikaytaa prefers wearing a handloom Sari for the comfort and thickness of the material. She does not wear a pair of tights inside the drape and thus prefers the opacity the handloom provides. “The handloom drapes better than a power loom Sari”, she quips. In the feature photo of this post, she is wearing a handloom Maheshwari from TheLoomSaree. The Sari in the video below is one of her favourites. It is a handloom Sari from Tamil Nadu sourced from GoCoop.

The original Odisha pants drape needs a Sari of 5 or 6 meters in length. This is not a hard and fast rule. The length required can vary according to your height and girth. Those who are tall and/ or voluptuous might need a 7 or 8 meter Sari. It is suggested one tries different lengths to find their perfect fit.

There are many variations of the pants drape. The Maharashtrian Navvari and Konkani Koli fisherwoman shorts need a 9 meter Sari. The Madhava Kacche requires an 8 meter Sari.

Dhangad drape
Savantwadi farmer in Dhangad drape. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

How does one go to the toilet in this drape?

As you’ll see in the video, the two separate portions wrap on each leg and tuck at the waist. The Sari has two separates that join at the pelvis area: one from the left leg and one from the right leg. When you need to visit the toilet, part the two sides and squat. This is possible only when you are not wearing a pair of tights inside. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to take a dump in this drape as well. In case you are wearing tights, there is no resort other than to disassemble the whole drape.

Nikaytaa has gone to pee wearing this drape and she didn’t have any accident; in case you were wondering. On the contrary, she says she felt happy that the Sari covered her skin. She felt relieved knowing she wouldn’t contract a UTI from the loo.

How is it worn?

Watch the video below!

Are you now feeling confident of wearing and carrying off the Odisha pants drape? Do try it and feel the exuberance hidden in the weaves of the Sari. Use the hashtag #TheIndianDrapingCo when sharing on social media. Feel free to leave comments on this post. Do share your experience with this drape or simply say “hello”!