Dupattas are a highly underrated part of ethnic fashion. They are a part of many different types of ethnic outfits, for men as well as women, and in many cases can be crucial to how the outfit looks. A dupatta is essentially a long piece of fabric that can look like a scarf, stole, shawl or veil depending on the material and designs. It is most commonly worn with salwar kameez and lehenga cholis, though it can be added to indo western outfits like kurta jeans and tunics as well. The dupatta can be draped in a variety of ways, depending on the type of garment, the fabric of the dupatta and the preferences of the wearer.
Dupatta draping styles for lehengas and salwar suits are usually quite distinct, as both these outfits are very different in terms of structure and design. Lehenga cholis consist of a long skirt and a well-fitted blouse called the choli. Lehenga dupatta draping styles tend to utilize the fact that the dupatta here is longer, and can be tucked into the waist at the skirt, as well as pinned up at the shoulders. Only the latter form of anchoring is available with the salwar kameez dupattas, which are often shorter in length. That said, there are some common drapes that can be utilized for both.
The most commonly seen style is the v-shape dupatta draping. The dupatta is draped over one shoulder, then folded across the chest and draped over the other, with an equal length falling behind on either side. When pleated, pinned up and structured, it looks very neat. A more feminine, flowing style is the u-shape variation inspired by the Punjabi dupatta draping styles. In the traditional Punjabi drape, they tend to leave the dupatta free flowing except at the shoulder, where it is pinned into place. This gives a free and flowing look that is actually very easy to manage and stays in place. Other salwar suit dupatta draping styles include the shoulder-hand combination drapes in which the dupatta is draped over one shoulder from the back on one side, and on the other side goes over the arm. With salwar suits, dupattas can also be worn like shawls (from back to front on both sides), like stoles (on each arm, from the back) or like scarves (hanging from or around the neck).
Dupatta draping in lehenga outfits can utilize all of the above styles. In both cases, which style is chosen depends on a number of factors. A back to front dupatta draping style might be ideal for outfits which have a bold and detailed neckline, while a pinned up v-shape drape would be the preferred choice for ceremonies when a lot of work needs to be done and the outfit has to be easy to wear. In some cases, the dupatta becomes the centerpiece of the outfit. Thus many lehenga choli dupatta draping styles closely resemble the drape of a saree, displaying the dupatta across the torso. The dupatta is often pleated and tucked into the skirt, and then bought into the front from the back to go over the shoulder. Regional saree drapes like the Gujarati drape, the Bengali drape and the Banarasi drape can also be imitated by cleverly draping the dupatta.
Bridal dupatta draping styles are typically quite different, in order to make the bride stand out. In Indian weddings, the bride’s head has to be covered by the dupatta, but even this stipulation does not limit the varieties of drapes in any way. The simplest bridal dupatta draping is the one where the scarf is pinned to one shoulder, drawn across the front and then used to cover the head before being left free. The half saree drape described above can also be altered to go over the head. A unique vintage bridal style is the one where the dupatta is draped over the head at the centre, with equal lengths falling on each side, and then attached to the both the wrists.
Coordinating Accessories and Drapes
Draping the dupatta is not just about getting the fall and length right. It is also necessary to do it in a way that highlights the outfit and the accessories and does not clutter the over-all look. As such, the jewelry, the choli/kameez and the drape should work together rather than fight for attention. For instance, a light net or tissue dupatta draped over the shoulders is the best choice to pair with a heavily embroidered choli and Kundan neckpiece.
Dupatta draping styles for brides, in particular, have to be carefully structured around the jewelry. A drape that attaches to the wrists from the back will highlight necklaces,bangles and kaleera. Whether it is a bridal salwar kameez or a bridal chaniya choli, draping styles should focus on highlighting the outfit and the bride.