In America, we often think of a sarong as a sort of wrap or a swimwear cover up, a garment that can be worn on hot summer days when we are going to the beach or the pool. Sarongs are extremely versatile, and the uses for a sarong in your wardrobe and home are only limited by your own imagination.

Sarongs Explained

A sarong is a large sheet of fabric that can be worn and used in a number of ways. While most people use sarongs as types of wraps, dresses or skirts, they can also be worn as a top or head wrap. The sarong is a clothing staple in:

  • Africa
  • India
  • Pacific Islands
  • Southeast Asia.

Sarongs go by a different name or spelling in almost every country:

  • In East Africa, the sarong is called a kanga.
  • In Hawaii, the sarong is called a pareo.
  • In South Africa, it is called a kikoi.

How Sarongs are Made

A sarong is usually made out of rayon, silk or another light fabric. It can be a solid color or come with a lively print, including Hawaiian flowers or tie-dye. Some sarongs feature decorative fringing on each side. Decorative sarongs may be painted, stamped or may even have shells or beads on the fringe.

How to Wear Sarongs

You can wear a sarong a number of different ways, depending on your needs and your style. Your sarong may or may not come equipped with a pin or tie. Alternately, you can use a belt to fasten or secure your sarong. Using a belt tends to dress up the look of sarongs, adding an extra stylish flare to your outfit.

Although many people associate sarongs with women, men can also wear them. In fact, in Sri Lanka, only men wear sarongs.

How to Tie Sarongs

Here are a few of the most popular ways to wear sarongs:

  • as a dress: Tie the sarong around your neck for a halter dress or across your chest for a strapless look.
  • as a fashion accessory: Casually tie a folded sarong around your hips to accessorize your waist. Another option is to fold the sarong into a triangle and wear it as a shawl across your shoulders. A colorful sarong can also make a great head wrap.
  • as a skirt: Fold the sarong so that it will be the right length above or below your knees. Hold the sarong at arms’ length behind you, fold the fabric in your left hand towards your right hip, then fold the fabric in your right and towards your left hip. To make the sarong look like a kilt, you can fold the extra fabric in a zigzag direction across your waist. Use safety pins or a belt to hold it in place. To adjust the length of your sarong, simply fold the sarong so that the width is the proper length across your knees.
  • as a strapless top: Fold the sarong so that it is the length of your upper body. Have somebody help you tie it from the back. To avoid an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, use a couple of safety pins to fasten it.