For most people, the most easily identifiable Bengali saree would be the typical white saree with a large red border. Made of light materials like cotton or silk, they come with a large and prominent red border, which is best displayed with the unique drape from this region. In this drape, the saree is wrapped around the waist, parallel pleated and tucked in the front. The loose end (pallu) is then neatly pleated and thrown over one shoulder and brought back under the arm on the other side and then draped over the other shoulder, typically with a heavy saree brooch or ornament hanging at the end to keep it in place. The best part about wearing a Bengali saree this way is that it does not need to look ‘perfect’ as a little bit of imperfection in the pleats, draping etc. suits the look. The outfit is completed either with a long sleeved blouse or one with puff sleeves, as well as gold bangles, necklaces and earrings. A large red bindi and bold black eye makeup is an essential aspect of the look. The hair can either be left loose in structured waves or curls or, more traditionally, tied back in a bun. This type of look is most often seen at festivals and religious ceremonies.
However, Bengali women of today have more varied preferences, in terms of the drapes, styling and the garments themselves. Bengali saree designs tend to be quite artistic and beautiful, whether it is a classic Tant saree or a fine-looking Jamdani. For instance, Baluchari sarees are known for their stunning pallus decorated with detailed motifs and depictions of mythological figures and rural life. Many of these traditional Bengali saree designs have been adapted into contemporary style artsy sarees, popular amongst the literati and artists. Comfortable, cool and stylish, they can be draped in the commonly seen free flowing style to show off the pallu and don’t necessarily require heavy gold accessories. In fact, funky oxidized or wooden jewelry works better with these modern garments.