Lehengas and sarees are two of the most popular pieces of Indian clothing. Beautiful, elaborate, and complex, sarees are not exactly the easiest piece of clothing to put on — particularly if you are also responsible for dressing other friends or family members before a big event.
The creation of a lehenga-style saree has solved this problem by combining two fabulous festive garments into one while still honoring traditional style. Read on to learn our six tips for styling and draping lehenga-style sarees.
What Is a Lehenga-Style Saree?
A lehenga-style saree is a garment that mixes elements of both lehengas and traditional sarees into one. Lehengas are traditional ankle-length skirts. Sarees are long, billowing stretches of fabric meant to be draped over the body like a sort of robe.
Instead of wearing multiple pieces, lehenga-style sarees simply need to be tucked into the waistband and draped over the shoulders. Lehenga-style sarees are worn over a base skirt and paired with a blouse or sometimes a traditional choli blouse.
How Do You Drape Lehenga-Style Sarees?
1. The Most Traditional Look
The most traditional way to drape a lehenga-style saree is to tuck the saree in, creating small pleats as you go around your waist.
For this technique, start on your right and work toward the left. Once you’ve completed pleating all the way around your waistband, pleat the remainder of the fabric and place it over your shoulder about where you’d like it to lie.
Grab ahold of the opposite hanging corner, bring it around the left side of your waist, and pull it in tight. (Make sure it isn't too loose!) Pin that edge to your waistband before securing the pallu into place on your shoulder.
Pleat the rest of the fabric on your shoulder to attain a neat and tidy look before fastening these details into place with another pin. Now, you have completed one of the most essential draping styles of lehenga-style sarees. Even still, there are dozens of other ways to drape sarees.
2. Combine Two Sarees
For a super unique look without having to dig too deep into your pocketbook, you’ll need two beautiful sarees from your collection. Start with a skirt and blouse, preferably in a neutral, golden, or silver color. This will make it super simple to coordinate multiple pieces so that everything matches properly.
Starting from the right side, tuck your saree in, folding in pleats as you go. Picking a soft, flowy material will make for a smoother appearance and an easier process without adding extra bulk to your waistband. Pleat all the way around the skirt to create a lehenga.
You can elevate it a step further by adding a second saree in a corresponding color to the look. Pleat the short side of the saree, with each pleat about six inches wide.
Drape the pleated fabric over your left shoulder and secure it into place with a safety pin. Pull it around the right side of your back and measure.
Once you’ve determined where you need to pleat, continue to fold the fabric, leaving about a meter of fabric unpleated. Tuck these pleats into the center of your back.
Now, form very wide folds with the remaining untucked fabric, bring it around your left side, and tuck it into the front of your waistband.
You could also try this look with sarees in contrasting colors for a bold statement sure to capture everyone’s attention.
3. Create a Dramatic Shape
For a new spin on this concept, look for one of your more voluminous base skirts, preferably a cancan-style skirt. Pair this with a beautiful, flowing silk saree.
Just like you normally would, tuck the saree in, making small pleats around the waistband and going all the way around, starting on your right side. Leave the rest of the fabric untucked.
Pleat the remaining width of the pallu and make sure everything is stacked up nice and tidy. Then, pull it across the front and tuck it into the left side of your skirt.
This cool approach creates dimension, layers, and movement. It allows you to move freely throughout the night while limiting the full use of your hands.
By using an extra-voluminous style skirt, you’ll create an A-line shape and the illusion of an even smaller waistline. Don’t have such a petticoat? Try layering two ordinary petticoats on top of one another!
4. Accessorize With a Belt
Some women aren’t huge fans of traditional sarees because their figures can get lost underneath all the layers of voluminous fabric. If you like the slimming idea from the last tip, here’s one way to take it a step further.
Pleat your saree all the way around, starting on the right side of your waist. Take the remaining length of the fabric and hold both remaining corners out straight in front of you.
Transfer both ends of the fabric behind you. Tuck the end now in your left hand into the front of your waistband, and pin the corner in your right hand to the top of your shoulder.
Secure the piece on your shoulder into place with a safety pin. Now, fasten a gold belt around your waist to bring the look all together and give yourself a stunning shape, even while wearing such a grand, billowing piece.
Not only are gold belts a great way to accentuate your waistline and create an hourglass illusion, but they are also perfect for balancing out any oversized and ornate jewelry you might be wearing on your head and around your neck.
5. Highlight the Draping
For this next style, you’ll want to start tucking at your navel and work toward the left, unlike all the other styles we’ve covered. Tuck and pleat all the way around till you’ve reached the front, and overlap the pleating a little bit onto the left side of your waistline.
Take the upper edge of the remaining fabric and bring it up onto your shoulder, securing it with a pin. Pin it into place multiple times if needed. Wearing a thicker or tighter blouse might also be a good idea for this style, as opposed to a more simple, loose, or stretchy piece.
Allow the rest of the fabric to drape dramatically off your shoulder and down the length of your arm for a show stopper.
6. Start With the Shoulder
Tucking does not always need to come first! Instead, you could start with the shorter end of your saree, pleat it, throw it over your shoulder, then fasten it in place. Let the fabric flow down across your body toward your right side, then bring it around your back.
Working along the long edge, fold the fabric neatly into smaller pleats. After about a dozen folds, tuck the fabric into the front of your waistband and enjoy a truly effortless and simple look.
Another option is to pleat your saree starting on the back, folding toward the right side first. Then, pull the remaining fabric around your right side in front of you and pleat the short edge.
Once your folds are neat and tidy, you’ll want to drape the fabric over your shoulder, but come from the back. Secure it in place with a safety pin.
Next, pull out the lower layer of the pleating, bring it across the left side of your body, and pin it into place. Then look at the rest of your pleats that haven’t been stretched out.
Restack them to make sure they are all in a straight line, and fasten them into place. You can also let the rest of the fabric hang freely or hold it in place and create a bit of a smoothing effect with a belt.
How Can You Elevate a Lehenga-Style Saree?
Lehenga-style sarees are a newer addition to the Indian fashion scene. Although it is a more simplified way of dressing, there are a few things you might want to remember while getting dressed.
Here are two more tips to keep in mind while shopping and dressing:
Opt for a softer fabric like the silk organza used in our Red Floral Organza Saree. This will prevent any odd looking bulging around the waistline.
In addition to softer fabrics not gathering up as much, you’ll also feel much more comfortable and be less likely to fidget at your look throughout the evening.
Make sure your underskirt is a heavier material than your lehenga saree, especially if that top layer is made of a super lightweight fabric. This also helps to give a more natural and authentic look as you move and glide across the dancefloor.
We briefly mentioned this earlier but consider throwing a belt around your waist to further accentuate your figure. Metallic belts can help tie a look together, bring an unexpected touch of gilded glam, and balance out any heavy or elaborate jewelry you might be wearing up top.
All in the Details
Take into account what type of shoes you’ll be wearing. You don’t want to measure yourself flat-footed and put on a pair of high heels before heading out only to find your saree is now just a bit too short.
To make sure you have uniform pleats across the edge of your waistline, consider turning your skirt as you go instead of trying to reach behind your back. Not only is this much easier, but you’ll ensure you don’t have any gaps in pleats or crooked folds on your backside.
Make sure to check your sarees for any accidental sweat stains at the end of the evening, especially if you were wearing multiple petticoats or out in the heat for many hours.
Sarees that were tucked into your waistband might need to be pre-treated for stains, should be washed promptly after wearing, and should be stored appropriately away from light in a cool and dry place. You should also wash your sarees pretty soon after wearing them to prevent any permanent creases from settling into some fabrics, such as silk organza.
A Bold New Saree
Combining the best of both worlds, lehenga sarees have provided a perfect solution for one of the more tedious and complicated parts of Indian dress.
Particularly handy if you need to dress multiple members of your household or have to dress yourself without the help of additional hands or eyes, lehenga-style sarees are easy to fasten into place within a matter of mere minutes.
A lehenga-style saree allows you to meet all your fashion goals, stay on trend, stand out in a crowd, and add variety to your wardrobe. Browse our extensive online selection to find your next party look today.
History of Sari and Draping Styles | JD Institute of Fashion Technology
The history of sari: The nine yard wonder | Times of India
15 Variations on the Sari: India’s Iconic Drape | Google Arts & Culture