Now, let’s start.
Wear your blouse and skip the petticoat &/or panties. You won’t need ‘em with all that cloth around you.
Take the non-pallu end of the madisar and make 8-10 3” wide pleats in your left hand. Shake the saree out as you go to ensure that the pleats go down to your ankles. Pleats can be more or fewer depending on body types, so I suggest you try 8 to start with.
Take the pleats in your left hand behind you to your left butt and turn slowly while guiding the saree with your right hand to make this circle:
left butt -> under left arm -> across midriff -> under right arm -> across back (over the pleats; pull the pleats out a bit over the new circle to keep them in place) -> under left arm -> navel.
Your grandmothers didn’t turn in circles but turning is easier to describe! (I stand and turn the saree around me.)
NOTE: In this step, if you look at your ankles, you should see the reverse side of the zari. Ensure this is so when you place the pleats at your left butt. If it doesn’t happen, you’ve pleated the wrong tip of the non-pallu end and need to fix it now. As you will discover, I do it a lot!
Tie a knot at the navel, with the long, long free end and a bit of the circle that you gently tweak loose.
Tuck a bit of the saree under your right heel and make sure you don’t let this go until your drape is completed. If you let it go then the drape reveals an unseemly degree of leg!
Now, cross a few inches of the saree to your right and tuck beside the knot.
Stick your left hand under all that material flowing towards your left, maybe 6-8” from the far border and make a wee ‘tip’.
Pick up that tip – no need to turn the saree – and tuck it to your left, beside the knot. The saree border, which has been horizontal all this time, is now mostly vertical and there is a U-shaped bunching below your tummy.
Now gather that material flowing down firmly in your right hand – keep those pesky left butt pleats out of the way with your left hand – and send all that material between your legs to your back.
I’m holding the left butt pleats with my left hand and the cloth I just sent between my legs is in my right hand. My right heel holds the saree down and the pleats at the left ankle hang free.
Tuck in as tightly as you can at your spine and use as much as you like, say 6-8” of cloth.
Now, at your back, using your right hand, pull a bit of the border to your right hip and make a small tuck. The border returns to horizontal.
Ease it back over your butt to finally bring it out front under your left arm. Cross it over your front (l -> r) to cover that U-shaped swathe you made when you sent the cloth between your legs.
In the photo I’m making small horizontal pleats to narrow the saree at my left so that it hangs above my left knee for easier movement.
The border will be the right way out now. (The photo above shows the wrong side because I had made a mistake in the drape. Went back and corrected it but forgot to photograph that particular stage!)
Now, send what remains of the saree under right arm -> across your back -> under left arm -> over your chest.
You need to have a little more material behind your shoulder than I do here. Also, note that the material needs to be higher over my left knee for free movement.
Bring the saree across your back (r -> l) -> under left arm and tuck at right hip keeping the border horizontal and displaying the pallu to best advantage. I ran a leetle short of cloth as you can see.
To end, curve the left butt pleats (remember those?) into the left 'leg' created by the drape, to cover most of the left ankle. Check to make sure that the portion of the saree that went between your legs is visible neither from the front nor the back -- showing it is considered indecent.
And that's it. Go show off to your grandmother. And if you need to use the bathroom you'll find that the cloth parts quite conveniently.
This post comes with apologies to SM for not being up last week – things were quite, quite mad here. In a nice way, I hasten to add.
EDITED TO ADD
Wanted to add - if you're over 5'6" tall or built on er, generous lines, you can get special 10 yard saris. Secondly, for taller/heavier women the amt you tuck in the back (6-8" recommended in this post) - makes a big difference. Experiment with as little as you can get away with. For taller women, since you're tucking in less material, you may want to tie a nada around your waist as an added assist for tucking stability.
Reva recommends the nada too. I haven't found it necessary myself but I haven't worn a madisar for more than a couple of hours ever.
Also, Boo suggests short tights (cycling shorts) underneath the madisar for, um, modesty, should certain people worry about being left drowning chaddi-less in a sea of saree.
Instructions for the old-fashioned Bengali drape are available here.