Embracing the Sri Lankan Saree Style

Sarees are traditional ethnic wear in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. The Sri Lanka saree style is more than just traditional clothing; it is a symbol of grace and cultural identity. Mastering this style is essential for those who value the finer things in life, and in this blog, we'll delve into the elegant world of Sri Lankan saree style.

The Basics of Sri Lankan Saree Draping Techniques

To achieve a comfortable and elegant look when draping a saree, you must first understand the fundamentals of the technique. Sri Lankan women traditionally wear a saree called the "Osariya" or "Kandyan Saree." This is worn by the elite in Sri Lanka. This is a traditional and elegant saree style that dates back to Sri Lanka's last independent monarchy, the Kandyan Kingdom. The Kandyan saree is divided into five parts: the main body, jacket or blouse, inner skirt or petticoat, shoulder drape or pallu, and frill or neriya. The Kandyan saree is usually made of silk, cotton, or a combination of the two.

Sri Lankan saree draping techniques involve a few key steps.

Main body- Begin by tucking the saree into the waistband of a petticoat, making sure the lower end is on the floor. The main body of the saree is wrapped around the waist and tucked into the back, with one end draped over the shoulder.

Blouse- The jacket or blouse is a form-fitting garment that covers the upper body and has short sleeves and a round neckline.

Petticoat- The inner skirt, also known as the petticoat, is a long piece of cloth worn beneath the saree to give it support and shape.

Pallu- The most decorative part of the saree is the shoulder drape, or pallu, which hangs from the left shoulder to the ankle.

Pota and Neriya- Two distinct features of Sri Lankan saree draping are the "Neriya" and the "Pota." Neriya is a small sari that wraps around the midsection. Although there are no fixed pleats, it is designed to be pleated. The "Pota" (known as Pallu in Indian Sari styles) is a section of the saree that starts below the Neriya. The Neriya, which sits on top, covers the beginning of the Pota. This section of the saree, which partially covers the belly, is pleated with up to 3-4 pleats and pinned to the blouse's shoulder with a pin or brooch. The rest of the "Pota" goes behind the blouse.

In Sri Lanka, the saree is also typically worn with a long tunic called a Kandyan saree blouse. This is draped around the waist and then over one shoulder in a straight pleat. The garment is wrapped around the waist very tightly, and it is generally worn with a blouse that has frills, as well as intricate jewellery and accessories. Sri Lankans wear the Kandyan textile in silks, cotton, or even Batik prints, depending on the occasion and traditions. The 20th century was the most fashion-conscious century in Sri Lanka. Different sari draping styles can be seen. The nivi draping style was popular and later became the national sari drape. The nivi style of drape was commonly worn by both Sinhalese and Tamil urban middle-class women.

 Kandyan Saree

The Kandyan saree symbolises Sri Lankan culture and heritage. It captures the beauty, grace, and dignity of Sri Lankan women. It is also a versatile and fashionable garment that can be worn in a variety of ways to accommodate different tastes and styles. The Kandyan, the traditional sari worn by the majority of Sinhalese women, emerges as the clear winner in the popularity contest. In Sinhalese culture, the Kandyan saree, also known as the osari style, is considered the most elegant and versatile attire for women.

Sri Lankan women wear the Kandyan saree for special occasions like weddings, festivals, ceremonies, and cultural events. The colour, design, and pattern of the saree can change depending on the occasion and personal preference. Common colours include white, red, gold, green, blue, and purple. Common designs include floral, geometric, paisley, peacock, elephant, and lotus. Checks, stripes, dots, and borders are among the most common patterns.

Modern Sri Lankan Saree Designs

This traditional attire has recently gained popularity, particularly in modern adaptations. Modern Sri Lankan saree designs frequently include innovative elements that combine traditional motifs and contemporary patterns. This fusion results in a distinct aesthetic that is both historically significant and contemporary. There are numerous colour options to suit various preferences, ranging from bright hues to pastel shades. The patterns are frequently inspired by nature, cultural symbols, or geometric shapes, which enhances their visual appeal. Modern Sri Lankan sarees are made from a variety of fabrics, including silk, cotton, chiffon, and organza.

Difference between Indian Saree and Sri Lankan Saree

There are two major distinctions between the osari and the Indian saree: the "neriya" and the "pota". The neriya is found on the Kandyan osari, not the Indian saree. It's best described as a short piece of fabric that wraps around your midriff. It is meant to be pleated, but there are no set pleats. Some Kandyan osaris are "made up," which means the neriya is sewn separately and pre-pleated.

The original Kandyan saree, the neriya is part of the unstitched saree material, which is 6-7 metres long. To adjust the pleats on the "made-up osari," pull the cord inside the top of the neriya, just like a curtain cord. Folding your own pleats is time-consuming and requires precision (otherwise, the osari is going to look unneat)

 The Kandyan and Indian sarees wrap around the waist at least twice. The pota, or pallu, is draped very differently. In the Indian saree, the stomach is mostly covered by the saree, and the pallu is frequently draped across one's entire arm. It can be worn in several ways. In Indian sarees, the pallu is a seamless extension of the saree.

However, in the osari the “pota” part of the saree starts from below the neriya (meaning the beginning is covered by the neriya which goes on top. It also covers the midriff partially, but this section of the saree is pleated with up to three or four pleats. The next section of the saree is pinned up to one shoulder with a pin or brooch. The remainder of the pleated pota is placed behind one shoulder. This is accomplished by attaching the saree pota to one shoulder using a pin or brooch. As a result, unlike the Indian saree, the osari's pota falls safely behind your arm rather than covering the entire arm.

Handloom sarees in Sri Lanka

Handloom sarees are an important part of Sri Lanka's cultural and textile heritage, and they are well-known for a variety of reasons. Handloom sarees in Sri Lanka are deeply ingrained in the country's culture and traditions. The art of handloom weaving has been passed down through generations, and each saree reflects this rich cultural heritage. The traditional designs, patterns, and weaving techniques used in these sarees reflect Sri Lanka's rich cultural tapestry. Each handloom saree is meticulously made by skilled artisans.

Weaving a handloom saree is entirely manual, using traditional looms. This craftsmanship ensures that each saree is distinct, with subtle variations that add to its allure and appeal. Handloom sarees are well-known in Sri Lanka not only for their beauty and craftsmanship but also for their cultural significance, quality, and representation of the country's diverse textile heritage. They are an ideal combination of tradition, art, and sustainable fashion. Handloom saris were decorated primarily with various woven structures and decorative motifs.

Bridal Sarees Sri Lankan Style

For a wedding, Sri Lankan bridal sarees provide a stunning array of options. From rich silks to intricately embroidered handlooms, Sri Lankan bridal sarees combine opulence and tradition. Bridal saree trends in Sri Lanka are a beautiful blend of traditional and contemporary aesthetics. These trends vividly reflect the country's rich cultural heritage while also catering to modern fashion sensibilities.

Here's an overview of the current bridal saree trends in Sri Lanka. The Kandyan saree, or Osariya, is still a popular choice for Sri Lankan brides, particularly in the Sinhalese community. It stands out for its unique draping style and regal appearance. Modern variations frequently incorporate contemporary designs and embellishments while maintaining the traditional silhouette. While red and gold have traditionally been the most popular colours for Sri Lankan bridal sarees, there is a growing trend of embracing a more diverse colour palette. This includes vibrant colours like royal blue, emerald green, and even softer pastel shades, giving brides more personalised options.

Modern Sri Lankan bridal sarees frequently include intricate embroidery, beadwork, and stone embellishments. These details give the saree a luxurious and sophisticated look, making it stand out. Silk remains a popular fabric for bridal sarees due to its rich texture and sheen. However, other luxurious fabrics such as satin, velvet, and organza are increasingly being used, providing brides with more options based on their style and comfort.

Blouses worn with bridal sarees are becoming more contemporary. Off-shoulder cuts, deep back necklines, and embellished sleeves add a contemporary twist to traditional attire. Handloom sarees are becoming increasingly popular among brides seeking a more traditional and authentic look. These sarees are valued for their craftsmanship and the distinct stories they tell through their weaving. Bridal sarees are increasingly being customised and personalised. Brides are increasingly working with designers to create bespoke sarees that reflect both their personal style and the theme of their wedding. Some brides choose fusion styles, which combine traditional Sri Lankan elements with designs from other South Asian bridal wear. This results in a unique and eclectic appearance.


The Sri Lankan saree style embodies both elegance and tradition. Whether it's the modern Sri Lankan saree designs, the timeless beauty of handloom sarees in Sri Lanka, or the intricate Sri Lankan saree draping techniques, each has its own distinct charm. Embrace this beautiful tradition and incorporate it into your wardrobe to stand out at any gathering.