Start by putting on the blouse and petticoat underskirt that match your sari. Tie the petticoat fairly tightly around your waist to keep the sari from slipping. (A fabric drawstring is more reliable than an elastic one.) Usually one end of the sari is more elaborately decorated: This section, called the pallav or pallu, is worn over your shoulder. You'll arrange this part last.
Begin with the opposite end, the plain part of the sari. Tuck the top edge into the petticoat's waistband near your belly button. Wrap the sari to your left once around yourself; tuck in enough fabric so the sari is ball-gown length and covers the petticoat. The fall piece, the extra strip of fabric stitched along one edge, should hang at the bottom near your feet, facing in.
Next, fold the sari back and forth into five to seven equal pleats about five inches wide. You'll need both hands: Hold the top edge of the pleats in your right hand as you use your left hand to add more fabric to the next fold. Try to make sure the folds in the pleats fall straight. The number of pleats you make affects how much material remains to cover the rest of you.
Tuck the pleats into the petticoat so the folds of the pleats open to the left. The tricky part is keeping them in a neat stack as you tuck them in. You can use a large safety pin to hold them together. You may need to hold up the rest of the sari as you work on the pleats to keep the weight of the fabric from pulling apart the folds. Be prepared to redo pleats for size and neatness.
Once the pleats are tucked in, continue to wind the remaining sari fabric to your left--without tucking. Bring it around your back, then to the front again. Drape the fabric over your left shoulder. The sari should slant upward across the front of your blouse.
The pallav section of the sari should hang behind you to about knee level. You can leave the sari loose over your left arm or you can fold it into four to five pleats over your shoulder. Once again, neatness counts! For extra security, use a safety pin to carefully attach the sari to your blouse. Pin from the inside of the blouse so the pin is not noticeable.
Your sari outfit is not quite complete without the fun matching finery: jewelry, sandals, and a bindi on your forehead. (Dressing in a sari is definitely an excuse for a pedicure.)
The best bonus of wearing a sari is that it will endear you to any Indians you meet. And you will be dressed appropriately for any occasion in India.