Art & Culture

The art of draping a saree

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A self-made Indian professional sari draper/stylist, author and entrepreneur, Kalpana Shah is the go-to person when it comes to the art of draping a saree. Her expertise is often called for by A-Listers, Bollywood celebrities and at fashion shows. Having professionally pursued the art of sari draping since 1985, the dynamic lady shares her wisdom with the coffee table book ‘The Whole 9 Yards’. She gives us some insider tips and talks about her inspiration.

What inspired you to write the coffee table book ‘The Whole 9 Yards?’ 

I have been professionally pursuing the art of sari draping since the year 1985. I noticed a lot of women wearing saris could not handle them and moved uncomfortably. These were some of the factors that drove me to a career in sari-draping.

My interest in authoring and publishing a book comes from a desire to popularize the sari and extend its fame all over the world.

Another reason why I wrote the coffee table book is because all my students who came to learn the art of draping a sari from me always asked me for notes and pictures. I have noticed that most women hesitate because they are unaware about the do-how’s of a sari. The simplicity of communication in this book allows you to understand and learn the nuances without any confusion.

The title ‘The Whole 9 Yards’ is born not only from the truth that the original sari worn until a few decades ago measured 9 yards, but because it is intended to be a comprehensive, all-inclusive guide to the art of draping a sari. The book contains instructions for almost all sorts of styles of sari draping. From the basic style for beginners to complex and traditional styles for those who would like to experiment further. It covers every little detail of sari draping and explains them well through the use of text as well as descriptive images.

Sari Facts

1. Is it essential that one begins with the basic style of sari?

According to me, the basic style is the stepping stone to the art of draping a sari. Mastering this style can overcome any possible unfamiliarity or complexities of draping a sari in various other styles.

2. Why use a pin?

A pin ensures that your pleats don’t come undone, or slide around, which could ruin the entire silhouette of the sari or worse, unravel it.

3. Which saris are the easiest and the most difficult to drape?

In my experience, crepe and soft silk saris are the easiest to drape whereas heavy saris with a lot of zari works are difficult to wear as well as to pin.

4. What sari styles are ideally suited for young women?

Figure hugging styles, where the stomach pleats start below the navel is generally preferred by young women. Particularly saris, with a heavy pallu or blouse.

5. What is the ideal material for an underskirt?

Cotton or crepe is ideal; satin can also add some shimmer.

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