Indian Traditional Winter Wears – A look at 5 Fashion Style Statements


Image – via Flickr

The winters are around the corner. The chill, the huddles and the feeling of cold nostalgia will probably hit all of us in the coming few months. And of course, the woolen wears will finally be out of their storage boxes, along with the warm accessories. Blankets will be dusted, mattresses laid out, and our entire wardrobe might just have to be overhauled. Well, it’s that time of the year, where winter fashion will finally see the light of the day. 

Winter clothing and fashion are always overlaid with a lot of practicality. Staying and keeping yourself warm is of paramount importance that usually supersedes our sense of dressing. One would imagine being covered up in layers of clothing to counter the chill. Sweaters and jackets may seem the only resort and face of winter fashion. However, this is grossly untrue if you open your eyes to the myriad of ways in which winter fashion is a coming together of style, grace and comfort. 

Traditional Winter Clothing in India

Indian Winter Cloths
Image – Wikimedia

Today, winter wear is mostly about fashion. However, India is a land of drastic climates and varying temperatures. Some places can get extremely cold during winters and others where the chill is only slight to moderate. Most parts of the country experience a good spell of the winter season with temperatures dropping to single digits. Up in the mountains, the hill stations are carpeted in snow and the interiors of the country are hit with a dry and cold spell for a couple of months. On the other hand, in some parts down south, the winters are not very chilly. In fact, in places like Chennai, there is no need for sweaters or pullovers if you live in the interior parts of the city. 

Keeping all of this in mind, it is not surprising that traditional winter clothing has made its distinct place. And because of the climatic variations, the clothing styles and fashions also vary across the country. The traditional dresses of various states bear testimony to their inherent weather and terrain conditions.

A State Wise Look

Indian-Traditional-Winter-Wears A State Wise Look
Image – CIAT via Flickr

Traditional ethnic clothing of different states is an area of study by itself. However, in this context, it is interesting to take a quick look at some of the traditional wear of some states that experience low temperatures. Jammu and Kashmir, for example, requires winter clothing for a large part of the year. Kashmiri’s usually wear a Pheran, a long and loose gown that drops below the knees. The men also wear a head or skullcap along with churidars or pyjamas. The women Pherans are beautifully embroidered and they too love their headgear. 

Himachal Pradesh is another state that has a chilly disposition. Woolen clothes in forms of kurtas along with the cap called pagri are typical attires of the men. Women also wear pretty kurtas along with the rahide or headscarf that have a golden border or fringe to protect against the cold. 

Northeast India also experiences chilly winters. The temperatures drop in states at higher altitudes and closer to the ranges. Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh for example experience very cold winters when compared to the other sister states. In Sikkim, the men wear the Kho or Bakhu which is a dress worn with a leather belt and boots. The women wear a full-sleeved silk blouse which is known as Honju. Other warm ethnic clothing includes the long ankle length sari called Dumvum and another called the Nyamrek. In Arunachal Pradesh too, the women wear full-sleeved jackets over their sleeveless dress called a chemise. A skullcap decorated in yak hair accompanies the traditional attire. 

The women of Manipur wear a woven dupatta known as Innaphi that is wrapped around their upper bodies. Men pair up the dhoti with a jacket as part of their traditional clothing.

Fabric and Embroidery

Image – Riccardo Maria Mantero via Flickr

The fabric of the wear or clothing is of the utmost importance when one designs for a particular season. If cotton clothes are synonymous with summer wear, woolen clothing is a must for the winters. However, besides woolen garments, there is a whole range of other fabrics and textiles that can up the game in both style and comfort. Silk, velvet and furs are well-worn during the winters. Velvet or silk sarees are the best ways to wear ethnic traditional clothing that also helps you keep warm. Similarly, one can opt for silk Kurtis or embroidered Salwar suits that not only look  ethereal but also provide the body with enough warmth. 

Traditional Winter Fashion wears

So, on one hand, we have traditional winter clothing and on the other the more ubiquitous and universal jackets, sweaters, and pullovers. How can one bring them both together to find the right balance of traditional winter fashion wear? Let’s take a look at the best ways to up your winter style game. 

Style it with a shawl 

Traditional Indian Winter Wears

Shawls are one of the most traditional winter wear. They look gorgeous and can be wrapped around regardless of the attire. A shawl looks splendid with ethnic clothing, such as a saree, salwar suit, or even lehenga. On the other hand, it looks chic with other outfits too, including jeans, leggings, Kurtis, etc. It looks good both on men and women and will undoubtedly keep you warm. The Kashmiri shawls, pashmina, and shahtoosh are some types of exemplary woven shawls that look wonderful, be it for their texture, embroideries, or fabrics.

Jackets and capes

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Contrary to conventional belief, jackets are not only about black or brown leather. Traditional jackets, such as a Koti or Nehru jacket can be paired with any ethnic clothing. The Koti, for instance, can be tailored in silk and come in beautiful embroidery and colors. Similarly, the Nehru jacket can also add an extra charm and warmth to the classical Kurta Churidar combination. Heavily embroidered jackets look regal with Anarkalis and sarees too. Some of the other traditional ethnic overcoats and jackets include the Banarasi Trench Coat, Brocade overcoat, Silk Cape, Gamthi jacket, and more. 

Winter Fabrics


If it is too much to manage a shawl or jacket, choosing the right winter fabric can do the trick. Silk and velvet outfits look stunning and are perfect for winter. These fabrics can be used to make sarees, lehenga cholis, dresses, salwar suits etc. In fact, some of the most well-known and expensive hand-woven ethnic wears are also made from silk. These include the Banarasi silk saree, Kanchipuram silk saree and more.

Long Sleeves and sweater tops

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Where sleeveless clothing is most comfortable during summers, full sleeves jump in trend during winters. Wearing full-sleeved velvet or silk garments will keep you warm and add a welcome twist to your fashion sense. Long sleeve blouses can be paired with Lehengas, Sarees, Kurtis and Salwar Kameez. On the other hand, if it’s too cold, why not just make a cropped sweater as your saree blouse!

Fusion wear

Courtesy – Debasri Deb

Pairing together ethnic attires with western wears is a wonderful mix of the traditional with the modern. A trench coat on the saree, a leather jacket on the lehenga choli or a cropped jacket on a Kurti – all look extremely fashionable and take the comfort level up several notches. With many celebrities donning fusion looks, it’s no wonder then that east meets west equals a style and snug statement. 

Practical Clothing Tactics

Courtesy – Pintrest

Some people are not really much into fashion or keeping up the latest trends. For them, winters are actually a great time for many reasons. The most important being that it hardly matters what one really wears. Just throw a sweatshirt, jacket, or cardigan on the top and you are done. There is no need to really make sure that you are a synchronized, color-coded walking Christmas Tree. As long as you are warm and cozy, that is about it. In fact, winter clothing is very convenient for non-fashionistas because most of them probably have sweaters and jackets that are only black, brown, or blue. And these monochrome colors just about fit and go with anything. Add to that, socks and shoes or boots to do away with any matching footwear altogether. Besides, who wears accessories with a cardigan anyway! And so winter clothing turns out to be an extremely comfortable solution for those who do not care much for fashion. 

However, I do understand that this happens to be a tiny minuscule population. Winter fashion wears are, in fact, quite popular, and in demand. Most people like to dress up, pair up accessories and look presentable. 

So what are you waiting for? Think of all the ways in which you can up your fashion game this winter. But you can do quite easily choosing to wear traditional attires too!

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