The saree was never meant to be a winter garment, but many women insist on wearing it year-round. While grappling with making it cold weather-friendly takes a little effort, it is possible to do while still looking stylish. Here’s how.
Wear outerwear like coats and jackets with your saree in the winter. Make a casual saree look business-like by topping it with a blazer. Or wear close-fitting sweaters or long-sleeved shirts underneath. For flair, sport a cape like a superhero. For elegance, trim sarees with faux fur.
Make your wardrobe super hot by adapting it to the cold front. Often, it just takes a twist or two to warm up a saree (and spice it up too). Here are some creative ways to do so.
Advantages of Wearing a Saree Year-Round
Everyone who wears a saree has the potential to look drop-dead gorgeous. Why? Of all the clothing items on the entire planet, it is one of the most flaw-forgiving. Ask any designer worth his or her chutney.
The saree hides a multitude of sins, like:
- Protruding bellies (simply wear a longer choli or replace it with a kurta)
- Larger bosoms (minimize with dupattas)
- Smaller chests (add volume with inner garments)
- Chunky legs (that’s what the entire length of the saree is for, sister!)
The saree is also an outfit you can add to, alter, and even restyle without damaging the basic structure. As long as you keep the saree’s original framework in your quest for individuality, you can still preserve its cultural significance. This is wonderful news for those who want to modify the saree, not just in the name of fashion but also to address a practical need: keeping warm.
After all, as they say in Northern Westeros, “Winter is coming.”
How to Winterize the Saree
South Asia’s traditional outfit isn’t limited to draping the bodies of women (and those who identify as female) in that region alone. It has now reached a global scale. And it isn’t just a spring or summer garment anymore either.
Even the younger generation (hola, millennials and zoomers!) in India has rediscovered the saree’s versatility. They are now adding it to their regular wardrobe, thanks to recent revival by celebrities, pro athletes, and politicians.
However, aren’t you tired of wearing the saree the traditional way? There’s nothing wrong with making it your own. Feel free to make some adjustments to suit your taste and the current climate. Here are some tips and tricks celebrities and fashion designers swear by:
Adorn Your Saree With Coats
Gone are the days of pairing a saree with a granny sweater and ruining your sense of style in the process. Of course, that move is always safe and comfortable, but it won’t earn you points for impressing your fashionista frenemies. It is possible to merge your (western or non-South Asian) winter wear with your ethnic clothes. Here’s how:
There’s nothing like a flowing silk coat to add a regal, luxurious touch to a traditional saree. This look is appropriate for formal occasions and weddings. Finish the look with an elegant pashmina and a fur muff.
A lengthy overcoat makes a royal statement too. Make an unforgettable entrance (or mind-boggling exit) with a saree and overcoat with beautiful hues and designs. The beauty of this look is, no matter how many layers you pile up underneath, you’d still look svelte. This is because the length of the overcoat creates a height illusion. Cinch your waist with a belt and secure your pallu with a brooch.
As some tend to associate the trench coat only with Sherlock Homes or CSI crew, it seems ridiculous to pair it with the dignified saree. But believe it or not, you can manage a certain degree of chic with this combination. Either contrast the shade of your coat with that of your saree or use monochromatic tones. Too dressy? Dumb it down with a muffler to create a workwear composite.
Spruce Up Your Saree With Jackets
Jackets were initially paired with jeans and trousers and were supposed to be casual garments. As business-directed, dressier, and more formal variants emerged, they are now also worn with skirts and dresses. So why not sarees and ethnic outfits too? When all is said and done, jackets lend a helping hand in the heating department and give the wearer an uber-chic vibe.
There are myriad ways to accomplish this look. Class up an informal saree by swapping the customary choli with a Nehru jacket, for example. If you run out of ideas, simply cast your eyes toward Bollywood. Just remember that the jacket should always complement your saree and not detract from it.
The Velveteen Jacket
Amp up your saree with a long velvet jacket. But ensure your pallu is visible to avoid straying too far from the traditional look (if this is your goal). Sonam Kapoor blasted ice with a printed jacket and khadi saree by Abu-Sandeep.
The Contrasting Jacket
Gussy up your saree with a contrasting jacket in velvet or silk. Take it from Karisma Kapoor, a whiz at draping sarees elegantly. She rocked the black-and-white route with this getup by Abraham and Thakore. Kajol updated the saree-jacket combo with a belt over both elements.
The Ethnic Jacket
Prettify your saree with an ethnic jacket. Drape your saree as usual. In freezing temperatures, wear skin-tone thermals underneath. Button up the jacket before plating the pallu. Place the pallu diagonally across the bodice and flip the edge over your shoulder. Pin it to the jacket. To avoid overdoing the effect, skip the jewelry.
Blazers Lend a Professional or Business-Like Demeanor
The same item that gives a uniform air of authority can make a saree sizzle. Power women wear the blazer-saree merger in business, while glamor gals do it for mega socials and formal functions. Add a blazer after draping your saree and styling your pallu. Opt to have the pallu over or under the blazer. Kareena Kapoor wore a blazer over her tie-dye Bloni saree offstage.
Look Sharp With Leather and Denim Jackets
Denim and leather are two materials that, by themselves, would have been previously totally out of place in the saree world. In modern times, however, these jackets give sarees an edge yet keep things casual and fun. Great for munchies and outings with the gang.
Secure the Pallu With a Jacket
How do you drape the pallu when a jacket is thrown in the mix? Wear a jacket over the saree, then button it up. Gauahar Khan did it with her Rabani and Rakha set, as did Kajol with her Abraham and Thakore jacket and saree, but topped both off with a belt. Some prefer the pallu peaking out and swung over the shoulder, though. They simply secure it to the jacket to prevent it from sliding off.
Tips on Wearing Jackets With Sarees
- Create silhouettes by pairing anarkalis with shorter jackets.
- Floor-length kaftans lend star quality to lehenga cholis.
- Create a saree and long jacket combination with the pallu sticking out.
- Chill out in lehengas topped with denim or leather jackets.
- Do the same with kurtas and salwar kameezes.
- Team up sarees with plush velvet jackets.
- Make plain sarees shaadi-ready by wearing open-fronted tunics over them.
- Use shrugs with formal sarees. For the beginners, a shrug is a form-fitting cardigan or jacket with a short front and back used for covering only the shoulders and arms. It is typically used for formal wear, like gowns.
Fitted Sweaters Are Understated Yet Sassy
Form-fitting sweaters are practical yet sophisticated enough for any gathering, except ultra-formal ones. Wear pullovers, turtlenecks, fitted sweaters, and sweatshirts underneath your saree. Leave the blouses, tubes, and cholis at home.
Steve Jobs wasn’t the only dude to rock a turtleneck. Dudettes can, too. Match a plain one with a tone-on-tone, floral, or printed saree to make it chilly weather-appropriate. Polish off the look with oxidized jewelry or gold or silver filigree.
The cardigan is a front-fastening knitted sweater named after the seventh Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenel. His troops wore the garment during the Crimean War. Wear a piece of history by pairing this item with your saree. Use a snug-fitting version to avoid bulking up the package. As with blazers, style your pallu over or under sarees.
Exchange sweaters for blouses. Stores like Zara and H&M sell snug-fitting cropped sweaters that can be paired with sarees. The safest kinds to buy are black, cream, and neutral shades because they go with most sarees.
Glamorize Your Saree With a Cover-Up
The typical fabrics that make up sarees are silk, georgette, chiffon, and netting. Not quite the textiles appropriate for blustery winter weather. This is where cover-ups come in. Experiment with various colors, kinds, patterns, and fabrics.
Shawls, Stoles, or Dupattas Aren’t Just Decorative Pieces
Drape a silk dupatta or a Kashmiri pashmina as a second pallu over your saree. Dupattas and shawls are classic choices for beautifying sarees in any climate but are particularly useful in winter. They look light but are also rather warm. Match your cover-up with your saree’s color.
Be a Caped (Fashion) Crusader
Enhance your saree by swirling a cape with it. Capes aren’t just for fighting crime or hoodwinking hungry wolves. Typically paired with dresses and gowns, the cape is the go-to accessory for adding a va-va-voom factor to dull outfits. Choose from thick woolens to long-trained models. Whatever your choice, tailor it to your saree’s fabric.
Certain Blouses Provide Warmth Too
There are oodles of ways to style sarees with blouses to stay warm in winter. Choices include kurtis, long-sleeved blouses, tunics, and turtlenecks. Match the blouse’s design, fabric, and color to your body type.
- Go regal with a high-neck number. This style is meant for mild winters because blouse material isn’t usually thick enough to beat the cold. The trick is to wear a looser high-neck to allow you to wear thermals underneath.
- Switch the choli to a long-sleeved printed blouse. The standard tops that come with sarees are tubes, cholis with cap sleeves, or halters. Veer away from tradition! To do this, experiment with Shakespearean flute frocks, blouses, silk, or full-sleeved bell blouses.
- Weatherize sarees with Kurtis and tunics. Since kurtis are more close-fitting than kurtas, they make exceptional internal garments. Double up on them in colder weather. Celebrities use them with sarees and lehengas, and you can, too. If you prefer a looser top, trade the kurti for a short kurta.
Substitute the Blouse With a Close-Fitting, Long-Sleeved Shirt
For a more casual winter look, ditch the blouse for a full-sleeved shirt with a snug fit. Add bulk to a skinny frame by wearing thermals beneath it and the draped and pleated saree. Create wide pleats for the pallu. Accentuate the look with an eye-catching belt or a traditional kamarband.
(Attention, westerners: this is not to be confused with the masculine cummerbund).
Give Your Saree a Buzz With a Pantsuit
The best foundation for this pair-up is the palazzo saree. Trade the inner skirt or petticoat for pants or leggings. This not only allows you to survive frozen tundra but also gives your look Grecian mystique indoors. Finish the look with tasteful pumps.
Romanticize Your Saree With an Anarkali Kurta
This may seem like an odd fusion, but you can actually match sarees with anarkali kurtas. Just keep the kurta to a solid neutral. After draping and pleating your saree, slip the kurta over the layers, then flip the pallu over your shoulder. This is a guaranteed head-turner. Finish the outfit with oxidized jewelry to level it up. If you’re brave (or cold) enough, wrap a scarf around your head, but do it delicately.
Open-Fronted Anarkalis Add Vibrance to Winter Sarees
Can’t decide between a saree and an anarkali suit? Wear both! Slip open-fronted anarkalis over sarees for a distinctive look. Dip into a broader color palette, and pair anarkali tops with contrasting sarees. Complete the outfits with oxidized jewelry to level them up. If you’re brave (or cold) enough, wrap a scarf around your head, but do it delicately.
Pull Your Weight in Fabric
Classic cold-weather saree fabrics include velvet, brocade, and Banarasi silk. The heaviness of these textiles ensure warmth in low temperatures. Plus, they are available in luxurious colors and elaborate detailing.
Pair a chiffon saree with a velvet top. Accessorize with long layered silver necklaces, stud earrings, and a simple ring. (If you’re not a fan of flashy necklaces, use drop earrings instead and keep the neck bare.) Complete the look with color-blocked, closed pointy heels.
Faux Fur Makes an Elegant Statement
If you’re looking for a drastic change, pair your saree with faux fur accessories, such as a shrug or stole. Wear these plain or with intricate detailing for a more ethnic touch.
In the ’50s and ’60s, the muff was all the rage. It was a fashion accessory introduced in the 16th century but made famous by celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. It was a sheath made of fur or other warm fabric that was open at both ends and used as a hand warmer.
It would make a great addition to any winter saree outfit, particularly during ceremonies, formals, and red carpet affairs. Why not make the saree revival more compelling by bringing back this curious but valuable item?
Experiment With Draping Styles
Don’t limit your saree to a single type of draping. Try various draping styles, such as Dravidian, Coorgi, Nivi, Gond, Maharashtrian, Bengali, Mumtaz, Mundum Neriyathum (Kerala), Gujarati, or tribal. These styles are region and culture-specific. Match winter wear and accessories with your chosen draping type.
Score in Winter Weddings With Scorching Accessories
Jazz up winter weddings by styling your sarees with items like sequined jackets or flowing capes. The latter seems more of a style gimmick than a method of keeping warm, but it works. Capes pair exceedingly well with sarees. They create the ultimate blend of elegance and dignity for cocktail shindigs and weddings.
Use Accessories and Accent Clothing
Embracing the six-yard wonder with flair doesn’t need monumental effort. Some street smarts coupled with Bollywood and the catwalks can rescue anyone from the saree-in-winter blahs.
How To Add Accents, Accessories, and Trinkets Without Klutzing It Up
- When it comes to formal events, the hairstyle plays a critical role. If you’re wearing a majestic frock, wear an updo, braid your hair, or twist it in a chignon to dictate focus on the outfit’s piece de resistance.
- Add pillboxes, Russian faux fur shapka ushankas (without the ear flaps), berets, caps, turbans, and beanies.
- Shield ears and neck from biting cold by wrapping the pallu around your neck.
- Peplum-style tops make sarees even prettier. (A peplum is a short pleated, gathered, or flared slip of fabric connected to the waist of a blouse, jacket, or dress to produce a loose frill.)
- Sandwich a vest between the pallu and an inner skin-tight, long-sleeved shirt.
- Use colorful fabrics like crêpe de Chine for shawls and wraps to complement sarees.
- Embellish stoles, shawls, and capes with embroidery, gems, beads, pearls, sequins, and lace.
- Add layers for warmth, but these don’t have to be boring. Use dupatta and pallu extensions like ruffles, tassels, frills, fringes, and ruching.
- Draw attention to a tiny waist with a statement belt.
- Wear sweaters with harem and patiala pants.
- Try kimonos with different saree styles.
- Look taller and slimmer by wearing heels with a saree. Drape it while wearing heels to ensure the skirt is at the correct length.
- Embolden desi fusion by pairing sarees with closed shoes like metallics, sneakers, and boots. They keep your feet toasty and look cool at the same time.
The saree stereotype of being a warm-weather garment is long-gone. But transforming it into a bonafide all-season garment doesn’t have to be so challenging. We proved this by presenting practical, stylish ideas.
Accessorize sarees as you see fit. There are no saree police in the modern fashion world. Ultimately, who are we to judge those who use unorthodox items to zap life into the saree? In ancient times, it was scandalous to pair it with a bomber, let alone army boots.
Prettify your sarees with our suggestions, but don’t get hampered with rules. Enjoy frolicking in winter wonderland without freezing.