The most common style is for the saree to be wrapped around the waist, with the loose end of the drape worn over the shoulder, baring the stomach. However, the saree can be draped in several different styles, though some styles do require a saree of a particular length or form:
• Nivi – styles originally worn in Tamil Nadu; besides the modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked into the waist at the back. This allows free movement while covering the legs.
• Bengali and Oriya style.
• Gujarati – this style differs from the nivi only in the manner that the loose end is handled: in this style, the loose end is draped over the right shoulder rather than the left, and is also draped back-to-front rather than the other way around.
• Maharashtrian/ Kache – This drape (front and back) is very similar to that of the male Maharashtrian dhoti. The center of the saree (held lengthwise) is placed at the center back, the ends are brought forward and tied securely and then the two ends are wrapped around the legs. When worn as a saree, an extra-long cloth is used and the ends are then passed up over the shoulders and the upper body. They are primarily worn by Brahmin women of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
• Dravidian – sari drapes worn in Tamil Nadu; many feature a pinkosu, or pleated rosette, at the waist.
• Madisaara style – This drape is typical of Brahmin ladies from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The nivi style is today's most popular sari style.
The nivi drape starts with one end of the sari tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. The cloth is wrapped around the lower body once, then hand-gathered into even pleats just below the navel. The pleats are also tucked into the waistband of the petticoat.
After one more turn around the waist, the loose end is draped over the shoulder. The loose end is called the pallu or pallav. It is draped diagonally in front of the torso. It is worn across the right hip to over the left shoulder, partly baring the midriff. The navel can be revealed or concealed by the wearer by adjusting the pallu, depending on the social setting in which the sari is being worn. The long end of the pallu hanging from the back of the shoulder is often intricately decorated. The pallav may be left hanging freely, tucked in at the waist, used to cover the head, or just used to cover the neck, by draping it across the right shoulder as well. Some nivi styles are worn with the pallu draped from the back towards the front.