Sarees are one of the most iconic fashions in Indian culture. Learning how to pleat a saree can mean the difference between a saree outfit looking classy and looking like a sloppy disaster. There are also different standards for sarees depending on where they’re being worn. Sarees worn to formal events need to be neater and more put-together than daily wear.
Below you’ll find some of the best tricks and tips for pleating a saree and how to make your saree pleats work for your look. Learning the best methods for pleating your saree and accentuating your pleats can help you end up in an outfit you’ll be proud of!
Try Pleating Your Saree the Night Before
One of the easiest tips for getting good pleats in your saree without ending up with last-minute mistakes is to pleat the saree the night before. Doing this allows the wearer to iron the pleats into the saree, which helps the pleats hold in place when the saree is being worn.
Pleating a saree the night before also allows you to set the pleats by spreading the saree out rather than having to drape it over yourself. For those who are new to pleating sarees, this method can give you a more consistent and professional look even if you don’t have a lot of pleating experience.
Here’s a method for how you can pleat your saree the night before.
- Hold the saree up to your waist to see where the fabric’s bottom edge will hit the ground. Keep the saree’s bottom edge level with the ground as you wrap it around and tuck it at the waist.
- Pull the pallu portion of the saree over your shoulder and begin pleating by hand. All pleats should be made to the inside edge of the pallu. Create pleats by winding the fabric between the thumb and pinky finger.
- Adjust the pleats and even them out with your fingers to make sure that they all stack neatly beneath the pallu’s top layer. Add a safety pin where all the pleats stack together to fix them in a static position.
- Bring the saree around at the hip and pin it at your blouse on the bottom edge if you don’t want to bare your midriff, or pin it at the hip if you’re planning to show some skin. To increase the number of pleats, you can fold at the front of the saree, making the drape of the pallu shorter.
- Remove any pins holding the saree at your saree blouse and waist, but leave safety pins at the juncture of the pleats in the waist and pallu. This will help hold the pleats in place even after the saree is removed.
- Gently pull the saree off and fold it with the pallu and waist pleats preserved. At this point, the pleats can be ironed in stiffer or more formal fabrics to give them a crisper look.
- For a saree that will be worn the next day, laying it out flat on a surface can help prevent wrinkles and keep any pre-arranged pleats in place. For a saree that needs to be packed for storage or transport, the saree should be folded. Start by folding the pallu and waist pleats together, then folding the stack of fabric a few times to reduce its volume.
Setting the pleats in your saree ahead can save you loads of time in getting dressed the next day, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time on accessories like makeup, henna, jewelry, bindi, and shoes to go with your outfit.
Learn How to Make Pleats While Draping
Another way to pleat a saree is to pin the pleats while the saree is being draped. This is a good option for softer, looser fabrics where the pleats will naturally be less stiff and even. Pleating while you drape the saree is also a good option if you have someone to help you get your outfit ready or you don’t have time to prepare your saree ahead.
The steps for learning to make pleats before wearing are similar to the steps for making pleats beforehand. Rather than folding the saree up or laying it out, however, the saree is wrapped, draped, and pinned right before wearing it.
Use a Magnetic Pleat Maker
If you have difficulties pleating your saree, one way to make this process easier is to use a magnetic pleat maker. This is a specialized device that can make pleating a saree quick and painless compared to doing it by hand.
A pleat maker is a good way to make sure that your pleats don’t slip while you’re folding them, and it can also make pleats to several different sizes. This means that you can make pleats for a variety of different saree styles and fabrics to change up your wardrobe.
Simplifying the pleating process with a device that keeps them even lets you spend more time on other aspects of your outfit. It’s also a good option for pleating a saree well for a formal occasion if you don’t have much practice with getting them ready to wear.
Choose a Fabric That Pleats Easily
If you’re new to the art of pleating sarees, the last thing you’ll want to do is choose a fabric that is difficult to fold. It takes practice to get good at making saree pleats. To start with you should choose a simple fabric that can hold a fold well. Clingy fabrics like lycra, shimmer, or netting are not good fabrics for practicing your pleats.
Silk fabric is one of the most popular fabrics for formal sarees, but it is smooth and difficult to fold. Instead, saree wearers who are starting out should start out with fabrics such as traditional cotton, which are easy to fold. However, cotton sarees need to be draped and stored carefully to avoid wrinkles.
Prepare Saree Accessories and Supplies Ahead
When you’re first learning how to pleat a saree properly, it’s a good idea to have any supplies and accessories that you’ll need to go with your saree already gathered ahead of time. Making sure you have everything you need close by lets you put your full focus on pleating the saree properly, and you’re bound to end up with straighter, more even pleats as a result.
Here are some of the things you should prepare when you’re getting ready to pleat your saree:
- Safety pins
- Hair accessories
The more elaborate you expect your saree outfit to be, the more prepared you’ll need to be ahead of time before you ever start folding your saree. Pleating a saree can be a somewhat tedious process, especially if you’re working with a more slippery fabric type. Knowing that you have essentials like safety pins in easy reach can allow you to pleat with confidence.
Secure Pleats Using Safety Pins
Other than brooches, safety pins are the most popular means of keeping saree pleats from slipping out of place after folding. However, using safety pins correctly while pleating a saree can prevent problems down the road. Here are a few tips for using safety pins for pleating your saree:
- Pin the safety pin vertically, not horizontally. Pinning a safety pin in a saree horizontally can cause it to rip the saree fabric over time as it is subjected to the movements of your body. Safety pins that are pinned horizontally are also at a greater risk of coming unpinned and stabbing the wearer.
- Use colored safety pins. Colored safety pins blend more easily into the fabric of your saree and can prevent them from being visible to onlookers even if you pin your saree from the outside of the fabric.
- Pin saree pleats from the inside. Hiding the pin on the inside of the saree makes the outfit look more efforless and keeps the pin from drawing negative attention. Draping pallus should look sleek and effortless, which means hiding the pins holding everything together is a must.
- Safety pins can prevent static bunching. Have a problem with your saree bunching up or wrinkling as a result of static electricity? Safety pins placed inside the saree against your skin can act as an electrical ground and prevent this fashion disaster.
- Don’t use too many safety pins. While it’s good to pin a saree securely at the blouse and pallu to keep the outfit together, using too many safety pins can decrease the comfort of the outfit and make it more likely that you will tear or prick your saree.
Safety pins are a vital tool when it comes to getting a good pleat for your saree. They’re especially helpful for pleating your saree in advance for efficiency and convenience. Even though safety pins are simple to use, they should be treated with respect if you want to avoid getting accidentally stabbed or pricked while pleating your saree.
Don’t Add Too Many Pleats
A mistake that many new saree wearers make is trying to put too many pleats in their saree. While having at least 6-7 pleats can make a saree look structured and classy, adding too many pleats can make a woman look thicker around their midriff.
Extra pleats can be sophisticated on a woman who has a slender waist that can take the extra bulk, but longer, looser pleats can be more flattering on some body types. Experimenting with the number of pleats you use depending on each individual saree you own can help you determine the optimal number of pleats for your personal style.
Don’t Wear Your Saree Too Low
The position of your saree when you wrap it around the hip makes a big difference in how your saree pleats look in your finished outfit. Setting your saree too high can seem outdated and prudish, while positioning it too low at the hip can look cheap or immodest. It also causes the wearer’s legs to seem shortened by optical illusion, which makes the saree appear ill-fitting.
Choose a Saree Blouse That Fits for Good Pleats
One tip that can make pleating a saree much easier is choosing a well-fitted saree blouse to place it over. A saree blouse that is ill-fitting will bunch unattractively and will not provide a level surface for you to fold or drape your saree pleats on.
Not only does a misfit blouse make it harder to fold your pleats evenly, it can also be unflattering. A blouse that is too small will make you look chunky from behind and can cause back fat to bulge out. A blouse that is too loose will look old-fashioned and can give the impression that a person’s frame is larger than it actually is.
The best way to get a saree blouse that fits perfectly is to get a blouse that is customized to your body by a tailor. This gives wearers perfect measurements for their blouse to ensure a fitted look. The more ornate and flowing a person’s saree is, the more it benefits their outfit to get a sleek-looking blouse to set it off.
Get Help From a Relative or a Friend
When you’re trying to pleat a saree for a formal event, it can sometimes be easier to get the saree draped and pleated correctly if you have a relative or friend help you get dressed. This is especially helpful if you are planning to pleat the saree as you go rather than pre-pleating it the evening before.
One of the benefits of having someone help you pleat your saree is that they can help you make adjustments at the back of the saree where it wouldn’t be easy to adjust on your own without causing more problems. Helpers can also help pin the saree securely in place at points where it would be difficult for the wearer to reach themselves.
Use a Brooch to Pin Your Pleats
Using a safety pin is a popular method for pinning saree pleats, especially in places where you don’t want the pins holding the saree together to be visible to onlookers.
To pin your pallu pleats at the shoulder, a flashy jewelry brooch can be another way to secure your saree in a more conspicuous way. Brooches are an especially good way to pin your saree pleats if you’re attending a formal event such as a grand Indian wedding.
Make Pleats Even
One of the quickest ways to make a saree look sloppy is to just heap a bunch of pleats together carelessly. Instead, saree wearers should take the time to make sure that each pleat they make is even and has the same measurement across. When ironing pleats into a saree ahead of time, measuring tape can be used to ensure that each pleat is perfect.
Saree wearers should keep in mind that the more formal the occasion, the more likely it is that a structured saree look is needed. In this case, it becomes even more important to make sure that the pleats are even throughout the saree for a consistent and symmetrical look.
Flowing Fabrics Need Fewer Pleats
When you’re pleating a saree, you should keep in mind that certain fabrics will be harder to pleat than others, and it’s okay to leave these flowing fabrics with a looser pleat regardless of which saree style you go with. Here are some fabrics which might be more difficult to pleat evenly because of how lightweight they are:
Types of fabric that can benefit from a tighter, more rigid structure of pleats are denser weaves such as the following:
Pleating a saree isn’t a one-size-fits-all method, and changing up the fabrics in your saree means you need to adjust your pleating to match. Stiffer fabrics such as cotton and brocade can benefit from precise pleats, while lightweight saree fabrics can draped loosely for a more flowing, organic look.
Don’t Be Afraid to Start Over
If you just finished pleating your saree and you don’t like the look of the end result, it’s easy to get discouraged. But an important part of learning how to pleat a saree correctly is just practicing the motions of draping and folding over and over again until they become second nature.
You shouldn’t be afraid to take off your saree and try again if you find that your saree isn’t level or you haven’t left yourself enough length in your pallu for pleating. Each time you practice your pleats, they will get more even and your folding movements will grow less clumsy. Before long, you’ll be a regular saree guru!
Pleating Sarees Is an Art Form
There are many different types of sarees and saree pleats, so having a wide pool of knowledge about how to pleat them easily and correctly can make your saree wardrobe more beautiful and versatile. Learning how to pleat a saree is a skill that has to be mastered with repetition and time, but the process is methodical and can be learned by any woman regardless of what type of saree you wear.