India is a diverse country with different cultures and religions. The customs followed by Indian people vary across length and breadth of the country. Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity, are some of the major religions people believe and follow. Not only the religion affects the way people think, live and dress but also the region or the state they belong to has great influence.
What do Indian women wear?
Traditionally the dress for Indian women devoid of caste, creed and culture is sari. Sari (saree) is a four to nine yard unstitched garment draped in different styles and worn on an upper stitched garment called choli/blouse. Here’s how to wear the sari.
Though sari is popularly believed to be the traditional dress for Indian women, there are other dresses that are either region specific or culture specific which are also considered to be part of Indian traditional dresses. In Punjab the traditional dress is Salwar Kameez and in Rajasthan it is Gagra Choli or also known as Lehenga. In Kerala an older version of sari called Mundum Neriyathum is the traditional dress, where Mundu forms the lower garment and Neriyathu is the upper garment.
In other parts of the country the most popular traditional dress is sari which is draped in a variety of styles. For example, in Maharashtra the kachha style and in Gujarat front pallu style.
However, with time the sense of dressing is evolved. Due to factors like globalisation and westernisation, today’s women take a modern approach when it comes to dress. Except for the older generation who are conservative and orthodox, the sari has been popularly replaced by Churidhar-Kurta and the Salwar Kameez. Women of almost all the ages starting from 18 years old to 90 years old prefer dressing in Salwaar Kameez for their day to day life. The traditional garment Kurthi is worn as a top on jeans which gives a casual western look while still has the conservative elegance of Indian wear kurtha.
There is yet another class of Indian women who have taken a leap towards modernisation. These are again a section of females aged between 18 and 90 who are more influenced by the lifestyle and habitats rather than religion or culture of the regions. They believe in contemporary fashion and are more westernised. Pants, skirts, minis, you name it and they wear it!
Hijab – Muslim women wear it as part of their tradition. It is a long and loose dress usually black in colour, gown like outer garment which is either worn on sari or Salwaar Kameez. It is paired with a black head dress which has a black transparent face cover attached to it.
Can an American girl wear a sari?
What do Indian men wear?
Men, you can hardly find Indian men wearing traditional dress in the country today. Only during special occasions like weddings or festivals you will be able to find male section of the Indian society in traditional Indian dresses. But yes, in rural parts of India and countable number of senior citizens can be seen in traditional dress as part of their daily life.
The traditional dress for Indian men essentially is Dhoti paired with Kurta and Gandhi Ttopi or Oagri. Dhoti is a six feet unstitched garment worn in a particular style which gives the pant effect rather than a skirt effect! It is paired with a stitched upper garment called Kurta which is normally longer than a shirt with two slits on each side. A traditional Indian man’s dress is incomplete without a head dress. A Nehru topi/cap or a petah/pagri/turban accompanies depending on the culture and/or religion.
Sherwani is another type of dress with a long below the knee jacket styled coat or Kurta. It is usually worn with tight fitting pyjama like pants called churidars and sometimes a scarf is added to the attire.
Again there are variations in this traditional dress depending on region and religion. Kurta-Pijama, Lungi-shirt which is popular in south India especially Tamil Nadu and Gujarati dress which has a typical style of pants and a frock style Kurta.
But from the time after the British rule men in India have adopted to the pant-shirt culture. Today you can see them in jeans, funky half pants, shirts and t-shirts, suits and such western outfits.
Additionally the colour, texture and material are diverse as well. Depending on ethnicity and cultural preferences dresses and colour choices vary from occasion to occasion. For example, red is considered as auspicious by Hindus for many sacred occasions and festivals for women, including for a bride to be married. White is worn by Hindus for mourning whereas Christians wear white to weddings.
People in India were once found wearing cotton clothes. Only the upper or the class of people who belonged to royal family wore silk or muslin clothing. With times the materials used for clothing have acquired high fashion standards. India is changing and you surely need not worry much about what to wear in India next time you plan to visit here.