The flattering and fluid drape of the Indian saree has charmed millions across the world. Attire that’s modest yet sensuous at once, saree is a silhouette that can be carried gracefully anytime and anywhere. From formal office meetings to the red carpet, this sometimes elaborate, at times simple outfit works beautifully as elegant comfort wear as well as a glamorous style statement.
This six yards of fabric doesn’t have its own shape or cut – as it’s unstitched – and thus, it takes the shape of the wearer’s body structure. This is a unique aspect, which differentiates saree from every other garment. However, this puts a lot of emphasis on how a saree is tied/ worn, and the saree’s fabric and texture – as it’s important for achieving a good drape.
Sarees are available myriad fabrics and textures
These days, when you go shopping for a saree, you’ll be amazed at the variety available in the market as well as online on the internet! Nowadays, to keep up with the changing trends and lifestyles, saris are manufactured in every possible color shade, texture, styling and fabric. As the world of fashion grows in terms of creativity, women get access to innovative drapes meeting their individual taste in fashion and style.
However, different fabrics have different textures and fall, and therefore not all fabrics go well with this outstandingly feminine attire. Every fabric has a different density and weaving style, which imparts a unique set of characteristics to the fabric in terms of fall, fold/ pleats and flowing smoothness. Well, too much variety can surely leave you baffled! Choosing the right type of saree fabric is extremely important, especially when it comes to high end designer sarees, for you don’t go buying them so often – and they are worn on special occasions. Now, let’s see what makes a good saree fabric.
Characteristics of a good saree fabric
- The saree, being an elaborate garment, has to be draped in a certain way. Although there are multiple ways of draping a saree, there’s one thing is usually common – the fabric has to be pleated at one or the other places. Pleats fall well with flowing fabrics like georgette and soft silks, while heavy, stiff like taffeta or organza or the extremely thin like chiffons or smooth ones like satin are difficult to fold – as they don’t hold well. It is the pleats that impart a graceful and feminine look to sarees, and hence it is important that the chosen saree material or fabric yields well to pleating.
- The material should neither be too thick nor too thin. Very thick fabrics like dupion silk, suede and wool can make you sweaty and tired while draping and also while carrying the saree around. These fabrics are also difficult to wrap around – and may make one feel bulky and awkward. On the other hand, extremely thin fabrics or translucent ones like net and pure, gauzy chiffons can make you feel uncomfortable as they tend to cling to body curves. Same goes for new-age fabrics like lycra and shimmer, which tend to not pleat so well – and also because they are clingy. For sarees that are see-through, like the net sarees – you must choose your blouses and petticoat very carefully.
- Fabrics like organza and tissue tend to balloon up on wearing. A saree should ideally fit the body, while highlighting the figure of a woman. Cotton and crepe fabrics tend to caress the curves well, thereby making for great fabrics for drapes. Also, for tissue, taffeta, heavy silks sarees and art silk sarees, you have be to be very careful, when draping – as a wrong draping here again can make you look bad, inelegant or even bulky.
Best Saree Materials and Fabrics
Georgette is a lightweight, fluid fabric, which can be made from silk as well as synthetic yarns (faux-georgette). It is quite easy to pleat most georgette sarees – as this material yields very well to pleating and looks quite flattering too. The georgette material can also be easily dyed, printed and embellished in multiple ways – thus, you would find heavy designer wedding sarees in georgette base and will also find casual, every-day and office-wear sarees in the same fluid fabric. The material is also used to create digital print, lace borders as well as stylish party-wear sarees with thread work and appliqués.
This is perhaps the most comfortable fabric among all. Pure, soft Cotton can be folded neatly to make crisp pleats of a saree, giving an ideal fall for formal wear and business meetings. Pure Kota sarees in cotton and cotton-silk can keep you cool in the heat, and are, therefore, suitable for daily wear as well as summer weddings.
It is important to note that all cotton sarees, however, may not be very easy to drape – as many tend to be heavily starched and can be quite stiff or voluminous. Cotton Organdie – popularly known as Arkandi – is one such fabric – and so are many other heavily starched materials. For such sarees, you have to either be careful in draping/ pleating, or may use sari, only after washing it once in plain water. Ones who want a slender, slim look may avoid these sarees altogether. Thin cottons like muslins are also difficult to wear, though they are excellent for hot summer months.
Cotton-Silk and other Blended Materials:
These days, cotton blended with silk also has become a popular fabric, since it gives you best of the both worlds – as it has the lustre and grace of silk, along with the soothing effect of cotton. Cotton silk sarees look comfortably stylish for social events – and are the most popular ones, especially among those who wish to flaunt a chic ethnic appeal.
Blending cotton with expensive silks also make sarees more affordable – and hence its increasing use in the handloom sector. Likewise, many other fabrics are blended with their natural, more comfortable and affordable counterparts – resulting in saree materials that are not only easy to wear but also are easy to wash, maintain and keep. For example, a pure south silk saree may need dry cleaning and extremely guarded storage – but one, which has been mixed with some polyester yarns or cotton – gets easier to wash and store.
Many of the blended fabrics and heavier cotton weaves like damask, terry cotton, poplin etc. are great for all-day wear, as they don’t wrinkle or lose shape on wearing.
One of the most expensive and most sought-after fabrics, silk is an exquisite material for making all kinds of sarees. Highly recommended for weddings, rituals, special occasions and parties, good quality silk sarees are irreplaceable, in terms of ease of draping, pleating and comfort.
Pure silk has a graceful fall and an unmatched luxurious appeal. A lot of varieties of silk saris like Banarasi silk, Kanchipuram Silk, Chanderi, Sambalpuri and Maheshwari saris are handloom made – and each has its unique characteristics. While these are globally recognized as precious souvenirs from India, they are also great because original ones impart an unmatched drape.
While silk can be a suitable fabric for saris, certain variants of silk like starched tussar, dupion, organza, taffeta and raw silk require expert handling and pleating. They are not easy to drape or carry.
Artificial or art silk sarees are made from synthetic yarns – which means many of them can have a plastic feel, especially the low-cost ones (as they are made of entirely polyester yarn). This makes them difficult to pleat or drape – and also uncomfortable to wear. Be careful, while choosing these, thus.
Accommodating other fabrics:
The above mentioned fabrics are indeed the best for sarees, but there are other fabrics too that are aesthetically appealing and can make an interesting ensemble for a saree-lover. These days, half and half sarees have become a raging trend since these drapes can smartly accommodate other beautiful materials. The pleats of such saris are usually made with a flowing fabric like georgette or crepe silk whereas the pallu, which has to just be placed over the shoulder, is made using other fabrics like velvet, satin, heavy jacquard, gauzy nets and gossamer etc. It’s like having the best of both in one garment, and also a quite interesting variant!
A saree can be worn as a trendy outfit to any place. However, wearing an ensemble which is in harmony with the occasion is always a good idea. Choosing a saree having the right fabric as per the occasion will ensure that your do not end up looking incongruous – and are also comfortable, though the event or day. Also, the best fabric is the one which is easy to wear, carry and maintain and most importantly, the one that makes you feel confident in your skin – and about your look!
We hope we’ve guided you well for choosing the best fabric next time when you go shopping for sarees!