There are iconic aspects of Indian culture – with one being that Bengalis loving sarees. In fact, the usual image of a Bengali woman is when she is wearing a saree, especially those in white colours and red borders – all thanks to the portrayal of Bengali women on the Bollywood scene.

The truth is far greater than that, though. Most Bengalis seem to share something in common: their love for experimenting with sarees through using different designs, shapes and colours. This has led to the creation of some of the most famous variants of Bengali sarees, such as the creation of Tangail sarees, Tant, Shantipuri sarees, and so on.

In addition, there is also a style of draping the saree that is unique to Bengali women. If this is something you are interested in or have always wondered how it is done, read on.

Styles of draping

The process is rather straightforward, which is good news if you are looking for an easy approach. There are two ways of draping, the traditional and the modern, with few differences between them. The main basis of the Bengali style in both approaches is quite similar to the regular style, also known as Nivi.

Traditional style

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You have probably seen the famous Bollywood productions of Parineeta or Devdas – and those will likely give you a good idea of the traditional Bengali style of draping sarees. It lays plenty of emphasis on the pleats and folds, many which are small in size – so you need to do it correctly for it to look neat.

The following are the steps you need to follow:

1. The tucking position of the saree fabric is important, so begin by doing this slightly above your navel. Begin from this place and tuck it as you go left, until you finish a complete circle around your waist and return to the starting point from the right.

2. After finishing the first step, you then cross the remaining fabric of the saree towards the left side. However, do not make a full circle like in the previous step – instead, you make one fold, then tuck it at your back near your waist, towards your left side.

3. As you are tucking the pleats below your navel, it is very important to ensure that the pleat’s bottom is level with the ground, at least before tucking it inside. This will ensure the end result is as neat as possible and the pleats will not unravel. In order to achieve this, use both hands to hold the box pleats, and stiffen the front of your saree to make sure it is flat, and this will result in a clean and neat finish.

4. When you are done with the box pleats and their formation, you can remove any wrinkles or crinkles in the saree, making sure it is smooth.

5. For the remaining fabric of the saree (mostly the pallu), you take it to your right side. Do this through taking the fabric along your front, with the aim of crossing the folds on your front. After this, you take the fabric through your right side and towards your back, then tuck it near the waist.

6. After finishing the pallu pleating, align its front part straight to the body, ensuring that it also falls close to the ground. To make it easier for you and prevent falls, you can wear heels. The pallu and the pleats should align in a straight line, and remain parallel to each other. This will allow you to adjust the pleats around your chest without forming wrinkles.

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7. Make sure you tuck it neatly. After this, you take the remainder of the fabric and drape it along the chest. Make sure it is as comfortable as possible, and then make some very neat pleats and rest them on your left shoulder. To keep the pleats secure, pin them on the blouse on the shoulder. Note that at this point, the border must be hanging downwards on your knee on the left side.

8. You then take the pallu corner that you have brought forward and move it to your right side, then move it to your right shoulder and flip it over.

Tips to use

. In order to enhance the Bengali draping style, you can use a bunch of keys, tie a knot using the pallu and the key ring. For added convenience, you can take the corner of the pallu that has the key, drape it, and allow the pallu to fall to your back from your right shoulder.

. For neatness, consider wearing blouses with long sleeves (even if not a full-sleeved blouse). Avoid the sleeveless blouses or the ones with very short sleeves.

. Having minor imperfections in the pleats is great, because it helps to add some charm to your appearance.

. Always look for sarees that have beautiful borders if you are going to use the Bengali draping style

. For married women, you can enhance your look through adding Pola (coral bangles) or Shankha (Conch bangles).

Modern draping style

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It is not common to find the traditional Bengali draping method as popular these days, unless you are attending a Bengali wedding, or other special festivals such as Durga Puja. The evidence of a modern style of Bengali draping is coming up, and this might seem like a more viable alternative for you.

To transform your look into the modern approach, you can implement the following tips:

. Pairing the saree with nice bags and jute slippers

. Simplify your jewellery if you are going for a casual look

. If you are heading to a function, you should pair gold jewellery and accessories with your look, then finish it off with a Bindi.

Final thoughts

If you are ready to pull off some of your favourite looks from Bengali draping inspirations, it all starts with choosing a beautiful saree and following the procedure to achieve your desired look. It may seem difficult at first glance, but with practice, it will come easily to you.