Should You Wear Sarees Below the Navel?

Red Lehenga Choli

The saree (also spelled sari or shari) is a garment whose origin can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Women have found many ways to wear sarees over the centuries, but one question has cropped up recently – should you wear sarees below your belly button? 

You can wear a saree below the navel if you’re comfortable doing it. History shows that women exposing their navels were seen as immodest and attractive in the east and west, but it’s generally ok to show them today. Drape a narrow pallu or wear it low on the waist if you want to show your navel.

There are two things we’re going to discuss in this article; if you should wear sarees below the navel and some tips on how to do it. 

Is It Better To Wear a Saree Below or Above the Navel?

You should wear a saree in whatever way makes you comfortable. The real questions you should ask yourself are, “Do I want to expose my navel?” and “Am I comfortable showing so much skin?” 

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that “exposing the navel” and exposing the skin.” is not necessarily the same thing. You can drape sarees in ways that show a bit of your abdominal area without revealing the belly button. You can also wear sarees that encompass your entire body. You don’t have to show any bit of skin if you don’t want to. 

If your answer to either of these questions is an emphatic no, then there are plenty of ways to drape sarees that don’t reveal skin or your navel. You can choose to show nothing or just a bit of your abdomen, whichever makes you more comfortable. 

Is Wearing a Saree Below the Navel Inappropriate?

Many women wonder how appropriate wearing a saree above the navel is. Historically speaking, the saree represents grace and modesty for women of Indian culture. There are, however, differing opinions even within Hinduism itself on how appropriate showing the navel really is.

According to some parts of the dharmashastra back then – the written text that denotes the tenets of dharma, or how one should live one’s life – women shouldn’t reveal their navels. There is another part of the Hindu scriptures, though, that says that showing the navels encourages creativity and was the source of life.

Today, sarees are worn by women for almost every occasion because of how versatile they are. You can wear them for parties, religious festivals, formal events, everyday living, and weddings. Many women (and men) would argue that there’s nothing wrong with showing the belly button when wearing a saree.

A simple answer to “Is wearing a saree below the navel inappropriate” would be “no,” and that wouldn’t be wrong. It’s perfectly fine for you to wear sarees underneath your navel, but it might be seen as inappropriate by some people regardless of how widely accepted or legal the practice may be. 

The History of Exposing Navels: East vs. West

The way people look at the navel has varied from culture to culture across the world. While showing the belly has become more mainstream with time, there have been many attempts to censor what sometimes has been seen as tasteless exposure. 

In ancient Indian culture, ladies have been showing their navels for an extremely long time. The idea behind showing the navel was that they were bearing their (symbolic) connection with life and birth, nurturing and its role and nature. 

The symbolic purpose of the navel went so far that it even represented the god Vishnu who created, protects, and incites change within all of existence. It’s from Vishnu’s navel that the entire universe arises. After a while, the dharmashastra we’d mentioned earlier stated that unveiled navels were immodest and should be covered. 

Years passed, and with the rise of dancers wearing navel-revealing sarees fitted like pants and sculptures that placed much focus on the sexuality and sensuality of women’s navels, the naked belly button seemed to be back in the limelight. 

Indian women started to travel to different countries and brought the below-the-waist saree fashion with them. The trend blew up around the 1950s, and as things became more liberalized, the saree transformed into a bold style all its own. Now, you can find sarees made of many materials that you could wear in hundreds of ways. 

To compare, let’s look at navel exposure in the United States. People were so against showing navels that the Hays Code (Motion Picture Production Code) made it illegal to show a woman’s belly button in Hollywood movies.

Unclothed navels were seen as such a problem that filmmakers and actors had to resort to workarounds to cover them. By the time the 60s came, actresses were allowed to show their navels, and in the 80s, navel exposure reached its peak. Musicians like Madonna, Paula Abdul, and the actress Cher were just a few women that made navels famous in the States.

Like in India now, exposed navels aren’t too much of a big deal, and it’s common to see women showing their belly buttons. 

Ideas for Wearing a Saree Below the Navel

Suppose you’re confident enough to wear your saree below the navel but aren’t entirely sure how; here are a few tips and tricks to put you on the right track. Read on if you need a few ideas on how to make your saree work for you.

Wear a Narrow Pallu

The less fabric that flows out from your pallu, the more your navel can be seen. If you’re looking to have more of your belly button exposed, your pallu needs to be folded narrower. The thin flow of fabric can help outline your curves and is a good choice for slimmer women. 

Wear the Saree Lower on the Waist

This tip probably seems like a no-brainer initially, but it might not be the first option many women want to choose. If you want your saree to show your navel, you can wear it just below it, lower down on your waist. More of your midriff will be on display, and it will catch people’s eyes. 

You May Want to Dress According to Height

Generally, taller women can pull off a longer blouse that cuts off just above their navels as they’ll likely have longer torsos. Meanwhile, shorter women may want to opt for a shorter blouse and wear the sari beneath the belly button. 

Try a Transparent Saree

If you want to show your navel but aren’t looking to expose your belly, you can opt for a transparent saree. These net-like outfits can still provide you with coverage without covering you completely. You can tie the petticoat directly below the navel, and the saree can be arranged in an open pallu. 

Be Confident

Perhaps the biggest key to comfortably wearing a saree is to stop worrying about how you think others think you look. If you’re relaxed and confident, you’ll be able to focus more on how you look and feel in your saree.


If you want to wear sarees below the navel, you can. You’re welcome to wear a saree that covers your entire midriff, a transparent saree, or whatever material or design comes to mind. Women have been exposing their navels for an incredibly long time, and it’s ok if you’d like to do it too. Hopefully, this article cleared up any questions or concerns you had about the matter.