A sari / saree is the traditional female garment in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives.

The sari is a very long strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from four to nine metres in length, which can be draped in various styles.

The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the midriff.

The sari is usually worn over a petticoat ( pavada / pavadai in the south, and shaya in eastern India), with a blouse known as a choli / ravika forming the upper garment.

The choli has short sleeves with a low neck and is usually cropped, which is particularly well-suited for wear in the sultry South Asian summers. Office dress codes, however, prohibit cropped, sleeveless cholis; similarly, women in the armed forces, when wearing a sari uniform, don a half-sleeve shirt tucked in at the waist.

The most common style of draping a sari is wrapped around the waist and the bust then one end is draped over the shoulder. However, the sari can be draped in several different styles, though some styles do require a sari of a particular length or form.


  • Nivi - styles originally worn in Tamil Nadu; besides the modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked into the waist at the back. This allows free movement while covering the legs.

  • North Indian / Gujarati - this style differs from the nivi only in the manner that the loose end is handled: in this style, the loose end is draped over the right shoulder rather than the left, and is also draped back-to-front rather than the other way around.

  • Maharashtrian / Kache - This drape (front and back) is very similar to that of the male Maharashtrian dhoti. The center of the sari (held lengthwise) is placed at the center back, the ends are brought forward and tied securely, then the two ends are wrapped around the legs. When worn as a sari, an extra-long cloth is used and the ends are then passed up over the shoulders and the upper body. They are primarily worn by Brahmin women of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

  • Dravidian - sari drapes worn in Tamil Nadu; many feature a pinkosu, or pleated rosette, at the waist.

  • Madisaara style - This drape is typical of Brahmin ladies from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

  • Kodagu style - This drape is confined to ladies hailing from the Kodagu district of Karnataka. In this style, the pleats are created in the rear, instead of the front. The loose end of the sari is draped back-to-front over the right shoulder, and is pinned to the rest of the sari.

  • Gond - sari styles found in many parts of Central India. The cloth is first draped over the left shoulder, then arranged to cover the body.

  • The two-piece sari, or Mundum Neryathum, worn in Kerala. Usually made of unbleached cotton and decorated with gold or colored stripes and/or borders.

  • Tribal styles - often secured by tying them firmly across the chest, covering the breasts.


Sri Lanka:
Sri Lankan women wear saris in many styles. However, two ways of draping the sari are popular and tend to dominate; the Indian style (classic nivi drape) and the Kandyan style (or 'osaria' in Sinhalese). The Kandyan style is generally more popular in the hill country region of Kandy from which the style gets its name. Though local preferences play a role, most women decide on style depending on personal preference or what is perceived to be most flattering for their figure.

The traditional Kandyan (Osaria) style consists of a full blouse which covers the midriff completely, and is partially tucked in at the front as is seen in this 19th century portrait. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring the midriff. The final tail of the sari is neatly pleated rather than free-flowing. This is rather similar to the pleated rosette used in the 'Dravidian' style noted earlier in the article.

In Pakistan, the wearing of saris has almost completely been replaced by the Shalwar kameez for everyday wear, though it remains a popular dress for formal functions, especially weddings amongst the Pakistani elite. However, the sari is often worn as daily-wear, mostly in Karachi, by those elderly women who were used to wearing it in pre-partition India.


Saris are woven with one plain end (the end that is concealed inside the wrap), two long decorative borders running the length of the sari, and a one to three foot section at the other end which continues and elaborates the length-wise decoration. This end is called the pallu; it is the part thrown over the shoulder in the Nivi style of draping.

In past times, saris were woven of silk or cotton. The rich could afford finely-woven, diaphanous silk saris that, according to folklore, could be passed through a finger-ring. The poor wore coarsely woven cotton saris. All saris were handwoven and represented a considerable investment of time or money.

Simple hand-woven villagers' saris are often decorated with checks or stripes woven into the cloth. Inexpensive saris were also decorated with block printing using carved wooden blocks and vegetable dyes, or tie-dyeing, known in India as bhandani work.

More expensive saris had elaborate geometric, floral, or figurative ornament created on the loom, as part of the fabric. Sometimes warp and weft threads were tie-dyed and then woven, creating ikat patterns. Sometimes threads of different colors were woven into the base fabric in patterns; an ornamented border, an elaborate pallu, and often, small repeated accents in the cloth itself. These accents are called buttis or bhutties (spellings vary). For fancy saris, these patterns could be woven with gold or silver thread, which is called zari work.

Sometimes the saris were further decorated, after weaving, with various sorts of embroidery. Resham work is embroidery done with colored silk thread. Zardozi embroidery uses gold and silver thread and sometimes pearls and precious stones. Cheap modern versions of zardozi use synthetic metallic thread and imitation stones, such as fake pearls and Swarovski crystals.

In modern times, saris are increasingly woven on mechanical looms and made of artificial fibers, such as polyester, nylon, or rayon, which do not require starching or ironing. They are printed by machine, or woven in simple patterns made with floats across the back of the sari. This can create an elaborate appearance on the front, while looking ugly on the back. The punchra work is imitated with inexpensive machine-made tassel trim.

Hand-woven, hand-decorated saris are naturally much more expensive than the machine imitations. While the over-all market for handweaving has plummeted (leading to much distress among Indian handweavers), hand-woven saris are still popular for weddings and other grand social occasions.


While an international image of the 'modern style' sari may have been popularised by airline stewardesses, each region in the Indian subcontinent has developed, over the centuries, its own unique sari style. Following are the well known varieties, distinct on the basis of fabric, weaving style or motif:

Northern styles
  • Chikan - Lucknow

  • Banarasi - Benares
     -  Tant
     -  Jamdani
     -  Tanchoi
     -  Shalu

  • Kantha - West Bengal

  • Baluchari West Bengal

  • Ikat - Orissa

Western styles
  • Paithani - Maharashtra

  • Bandhani - Gujarat and Rajasthan

  • Kota doria Rajasthan

  • Lugade - Maharashtra

Central styles
  • Chanderi - Madhya Pradesh
Southern styles
  • Pochampalli Andhra Pradesh

  • Venkatagiri - Andhra Pradesh

  • Gadwal - Andhra Pradesh

  • Guntur - Andhra Pradesh

  • Narayanpet - Andhra Pradesh

  • Mangalagiri - Andhra Pradesh

  • Balarampuram - Kerala

  • Coimbatore - Tamil Nadu

  • Kanchipuram (locally called Kanjivaram) - Tamil Nadu

  • Chettinad - Tamil Nadu

  • Mysore Silk - Karnataka

  • Ilkal saree - Karnataka

Bangladeshi saris
  • Jamdani

  • Dhakai Benarosi

  • Rajshahi Silk

  • Tangail Tanter Sari

  • Katan Sari


Nepalese women wear saris of many styles. Various saris are named according to the community and types of saris as well. Haku patasi worn by Jyapu community of Nepal is one of the most representative of Nepalese saris. It consists of a black sari with red margin.


The word 'sari' evolved from the Prakrit 'sattika' as mentioned in earliest buddhist jain literature.

The history of Indian clothing trace the sari back to the Indus valley civilization, which flourished in 2800-1800 BCE. The earliest known depiction of the saree in the Indiain subcontinent is the statue of an Indus valley priest wearing a drape.

Ancient Tamil poetry, such as the Silappadhikaram and the Kadambari by Banabhatta, describes women in exquisite drapery or saree. [6] In ancient Indian tradition and the Natya Shastra (an ancient Indian treatise describing ancient dance and costumes), the navel of the Supreme Being is considered to be the source of life and creativity, hence the midriff is to be left bare by the saree.

Some costume historians believe that the men's dhoti, which is the oldest Indian draped garment, is the forerunner of the sari. They say that until the 14th century, the dhoti was worn by both men and women.

Sculptures from the Gandhara, Mathura and Gupta schools (1st-6th century CE) show goddesses and dancers wearing what appears to be a dhoti wrap, in the "fishtail" version which covers the legs loosely and then flows into a long, decorative drape in front of the legs. No bodices are shown.

Other sources say that everyday costume consisted of a dhoti or lungi (sarong), combined with a breast band and a veil or wrap that could be used to cover the upper body or head. The two-piece Kerala mundum neryathum (mundu, a dhoti or sarong, neryath, a shawl, in Malayalam) is a survival of ancient Indian clothing styles, the one-piece sari is a modern innovation, created by combining the two pieces of the mundum neryathum.

It is generally accepted that wrapped sari-like garments, shawls, and veils have been worn by Indian women for a long time, and that they have been worn in their current form for hundreds of years.

One point of particular controversy is the history of the choli, or sari blouse, and the petticoat. Some researchers state that these were unknown before the British arrived in India, and that they were introduced to satisfy Victorian ideas of modesty. Previously, women only wore one draped cloth and casually exposed the upper body and breasts. Other historians point to much textual and artistic evidence for various forms of breastband and upper-body shawl.

In South India, it is indeed documented that women from many communities wore only the sari and exposed the upper part of the body till the 20th century. Poetic references from works like Shilappadikaram indicate that during the sangam period in ancient South India, a single piece of clothing served as both lower garment and head covering, leaving the bosom and midriff completely uncovered. In Kerala there are many references to women being bare-breasted. including many pictures by Raja Ravi Varma. Even today, women in some rural areas do not wear cholis. In the privacy of homes, even city women sometimes find it convenient to drape the sari as a cover-all, without the choli.

Salwar Kameez:

Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both religious and regional and one is likely to witness a plethora of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the Indians. Apart from this, the rich tradition of Indian embroidery has long been made use of by fashion designers from other countries.

To a foreigner, the powerful attraction is the colorful attire of the people in India. With globalization, dresses are also getting westernized. Though the majority of the Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men seem to be more comfortable in western clothing.

Salwar kameez is made of a long tunic called a khameez and pyjama-like trousers drawn tightly in at the waist called salwar. Salwar kameez originated in northern India, but soon spread across the country.

Today the salwar kameez stands as the second most popular women’s dress in most parts of India. The popularity and comfort of the salwar kameez has reached such stupendous heights that most of the new breed designers have started channelizing a major portion of their creative abilities to give this ensemble a new look. Varying from the ethnic touch to the cocktail look, the salwar kameez has come to suit all occasions and what could be better and more creative than adaptation of embroideries of various countries on salwar kameez.

Salwar kameez has many different names. Call it Kurta churidar or Punjabi suit

A churidar is similar to the salwar but is tighter fitting at the hips, thighs and ankles more like leggings. Over this, one might wear a collarless or mandarin-collar dress called a kurta.

India has been known to have wonderful dresses and costumes specially Salwar Kameez. Though the majority of Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be found in more conventional western clothing. Tailored clothing is very common in India, as women's blouses have to be made-to-fit. Clothing for both men and women has evolved and is keeping designers busy. The shalwar khameez can be richly decorated or simple for everyday use. Other styles are closely fitted and almost like leggings. The tunic can also vary: long and flared or short and straight. Women today often wear some version of the salwar kameez when relaxing at home, since the costume is very comfortable and practical for daily use.

When women wear the salwar kameez, they usually wear a long scarf or shawl called a dupatta around the head or neck. For Muslim women, the dupatta is a less stringent alternative to the chador or burqa. For Hindu women (especially those from northern India, where the salwar kameez is most popular), the dupatta is useful when the head must be covered, as in a temple or the presence of elders. For other women, the dupatta is simply a stylish accessory that can be worn over one shoulder or draped around the chest and over both shoulders.

Salwar Kameez helps keep cool on those hot sweltering days, as it doesn't cling to the body.

In the 1960s, the most sensational fashion discovery of all times hit the West - the mini. The skirt went an inch above the knee and then higher and higher till there was nothing left to the imagination. The Indian woman was not as daring, but the kameez did sneak up quite a few inches above the knee.

The salwar kameez adapted to fashion changes in the West in terms of cut, length and hemlines. It was a long journey for this peasant attire from the fields of Punjab to the fashion capital of India, Mumbai.

The kurta by now had reached just below the hips. Other innovations that followed the churidar kurta were the lungi kurta and ghagra choli. Sometimes the kurta was worn with bell-bottoms or denim pants. All these innovations that revolved around the kurta made it the most versatile garment of the 1960s and 1970s. By the end of the 1970s the salwar kameez and churidar kurta learnt to co-exist with variations.

Types of salwar kameez
  • Indo-western salwar kameez

  • Casual wear salwar kameez

  • Party wear salwar kameez

  • Printed salwar kameez

  • Kurta churidar

  • Short kurta pant

 The fusion of styles in Indian clothing and western clothing resulted in Indo western salwar kameez. These lady’s salwar kameez suits are specially designed to give western look with Indian tradition. An Indo western salwar kameez suit may have a sleeveless top and a salwar. Indo western salwar kameez suits also come in spaghetti straps instead of sleeves.

Designers have pioneered the concept of blending ethnic ethos and international trends to give a modern and trendy look to contemporary Indian women

The cliché that dressing is done to please others has become passé. Today's generation wears clothes to please themselves. Even designers belonging to the younger breed carry the same chip on their shoulder. "Designer inspiration varies with attitude and the 'in thing.' Detailing is important. Today's generation wants to show off their body without appearing obscene," says NIFT graduate Gunjan Karmakar.

The casual salwar kameez are wonderfully comfortable, ideal for the long hot Indian summer. Available in designs ranging from ethnic chic to traditional, to modern prints, in a wide range of fabrics. Many kurtas are free size, and with their flowing lines, are wonderfully flattering for the fuller figure. Women of all sizes can wear these outfits with confidence, knowing they will turn heads everywhere they go.

Cotton is the best salwar kameez as casual wear. They are cool, flowing and elegant. Fancy shalwar kameez are suitable for any occasion, casual or formal.

Traditional salwar kameez are the ideal dress for going to temples, birthday parties, and eveningwear, while working at home or office.

Party wear salwar kameez are made up of a silk, satin, crepe and georgette fabrics, can be worn on festivals or other celebrations. Feminine and graceful, the Indian Party wear salwar kameez is decorated with embroidery and mirror work. The dupatta is also in festive colors and has gorgeous embroidery.

Indian Party wear salwar kameez suits come in many different styles. People prefer Party wear salwar kameez in silk, satin, crepe and georgette fabric embroidered with as many as eighty panels with ornate embroidery and mirror work. Many could afford more intricate brocade, tanchoi and heavy satins even with real gold and silver embroidery, studded with precious stones.

Embroidery beautifies salwar kameez. Embroidery, like every other art form, needs to be understood to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Insight of the principles not only creates the urge to "paint" with needle and thread but also gives one the knowledge that enables a more keen perception of the old masterpieces as well as modern day pieces. There are no fix shapes and sizes of embroidery. It may vary from inches to feet.

Indian salwar kameez suit is one of the most successful evergreen attire of Indian sub-continent. Indian salwar kameez suits are available in many types. One of the famous types is Printed salwar kameez. Different type of printing is done on fabrics like cotton, crepe and chiffon. These fabrics are very comfortable for daily use.

Printed salwar kameez looks very pretty. It is not necessary that both salwar and kameez have to be printed. Most time it is the kameez, which is printed, and the salwar is in contrast color.

Generally printed salwar kameez are available in sets. The sets consist of kameez, salwar and dupatta.