Feel regal in an Osariya

This traditional wrap-around is an icon of style and beauty. Learn how to wear it to awe audiences from the East to the West.
A Heritage of Handloom
A Heritage of Handloom
Feel regal in an Osariya
By Time Out editors |

Osariya, a history 
A garment of many colours and textures, the Kandyan sari or Osariya (Sinhala) is the national attire of Sri Lankan women. It is a blend of tradition and style; a simple cloth of six yards with a width of three feet with origins traced to the Kandyan Kingdom, yet its roots are in South India. 

It's unique
Unlike in the Indian-style drape, the Osariya does not have pleats at the waist. The cloth is wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder. The frill around the waist is a unique feature – its size varies according to the region. The sari blouse is often with puffed sleeves. The osariya consists of the sari, a blouse, an underskirt, and traditional jewellery. 

Necklaces include the agasti chain made from agate, circular silver beads called kasa gedi, pattan gedi and coral chains add glamour. Kudu karabu or dimithi drop earrings – dangling pearls, a bracelet or bangle and a waist chain known as havadi are also worn. Today, you would find modern interpretations of these accessories.

The osariya is quite flamboyant in Batik. Checkout the smooth fusion of earthy and warm tones. Batik saris in pure silk is the statement of fashion.

You can call it typically Sri Lankan. The handloom sari creates a strong stature and commands respect. Symmetrical patterns, mingle with vibrant colours.

Hand-painted Kandyan sari is a labour of love. Meticulously painted, the colours are vivid on satin and silk. Designs vary from traditional to motifs along borders or in uniformity along the body, embellished with crystals, pearls and sequins.

Dubbed the common cotton sari, the choice for comfort. It is an Osariya for daily wear with prints, floral designs and delicate work on it. This defines femininity.  

Look at how to drap your osariya: 



Put on the sari jacket. Ensure the underskirt is tightened around the waist. 


Step 2

Take the opposite end of the head-piece (pallu). Make pleats of about four inches. Place the pleats over the left shoulder, allowing them to reach the ankle. Secure the pleats first on the blouse with a pin. Adjust the pleats covering the upper body as desired. 


Step 3

Tie a cord around the waist, which would further secure the pleats. Make sure the cord is firm. 


Step 4

Take the sari from the right side, gently easing the sari through the cord to fall outward to form a frill around the waist. 


Step 5

Once the frill is formed, the rest of the cloth is taken around the waist, methodically tucking into the cord. Secure with pins. Make sure the sari reaches the ankle after it is tucked into the cord. 


Step 6

The drape ends in front with the head-piece or pallu facing forward and ending at the right foot. This too must be secured with a pin at the waist. 

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