What do Indians wear?

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.

"Indian women sari"
Indian women wearing 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.

"Indian bride"
Indian bride wearing a saree

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.

"Indian Clothes"
This is me wearing the Salwar Kameez

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.

Traditional dhoti worn by Indian men. Source: Flickr nicocrisafulli’s photostream

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.

Buying Indian Clothes with Darrol Bryant

What to buy in India

How to wear a saree

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97 thoughts on “What do Indians wear?

  1. The Dhoti is one of the famous cloth of men in India, but mostly youngsters who goes to college and university etc, I mean students wears Pant shirt.

    I think there isn’t a lot different between clothes of the peoples of India and Afghanistan.

  2. I know that Indian traditional dresses are awesom and whenever we saw someone in that traditional dresses we love them……
    Well I like my wife in Saree but now a day it is really difficult to wear it daily because of busy working life.
    but yes we can see lots of traditional dresses in marriages.

  3. The kind of range that you can find in Indian traditional wear, is unlikely to be found anywhere else. I love wearing a saree as it bring out best the beauty of a woman. You have put it really well, Shalu. A great post.

  4. I really enjoyed seeing the diversity of clothing styles when I visited Rajasthan last year. I especially enjoyed the Indian people’s love of color in their clothing. I prefer bright colors and things that sparkle, just like Indian women. Great article, Shalu.

  5. Indian man wears dhoti and woman choice is saree and also give a cute looks as everyone wants after clothing.women are crazy about fashion and we see this option to choose saree is too good.
    One thing also as EHSAN says that every college student wear pant and shirts but it is not right at all the time bcause their is choice and everyman can take the fun of choices.

  6. Every culture has unique identity. In Indian subcontinent, the dresses are same for men & women as you described here. Among women popular dress is saree & among men popular dress is Dhoti or lungi. Well described

  7. In my opinion, the sari is a very unique garment in India that is beautiful and brings out the femininity of a woman, in a dignified way. I love the color and style of the Salwar Kameez that you wore and had shown in this post. Thanks for sharing!

  8. These are several types of outfits to be found in the world.However all of these are designed on the beautiful fabrics & looks so decent. I always prefer to wear these types of traditional on Indian Occasions.

  9. I was attending an organized fashion show here in North Carolina a few years ago and the host announced, “Sari is a rectangular piece of cloth popular in India that women of all ages across the Indian territory love to wear.” What a fascinating and yet simple definition – “A rectangular piece of cloth”.

    Did you notice that Sari and Dhoti both are just a rectangular piece of cloth? Probably the single common denominator between men and women clothing in traditional Indian dresses.

    Thank you for this very interesting article. You’ve covered a lot of details on Indian dressing.


  10. I am a completely kurti person i dnt remember when i have brought salwar kameej…Kurtis are my all time favorite i wear them on regular basis either with jeans, leggings or patiyalas…. even one legging can go with many Kurtis.

  11. Hi Shalu,

    Very interesting blog and you precisely described what do Indian women and men wear and i really love Indian traditional part, you have perfectly described it and i love to read your blog.

  12. This is a total breakdown of the Indian culture, very informative, though the clothing as you write are this day being wear during festive season and maybe something important as far as tradition demand it. It’s not anyone fault, it’s just the nature of the life we are all living forgetting our background culture. Nice work from you here.

  13. I think you forgot one category of men who wear traditional clothes — politicians!

    In fact, I love the BJP style in particular, like Vajpayee. The grey/black/blue vest over the sherwani or long kurta is a nice formal style that is not Western, but still has the air of formality without feeling like you are at a wedding, puja, or from the village.

  14. Even I like wearing saree but only for some occasions. Jeans have been favorite of all Indian girls these days 🙂

  15. You write: “Lungi-shirt which is popular in south India especially Tamil Nadu”
    I lived in Bangalore for a year. My landlord was Tamil. At night he wore a lungi (sometimes also spelled lunghi) with a shirt. For those who don’t know, a lungi is almost exactly like a woman’s skirt. I tried wearing a lungi a few times….at home, never on the street. Bangalore is a little bit north of Tamil Nadu and has a lot of Tamil residents. But I can’t say I recall seeing many men wearing lungi.
    This blog is very informative!!

  16. Nice share mam, These are several types of outfits to be found in the world.However all of these are designed on the beautiful fabrics & looks so decent. I always prefer to wear these types of traditional on Indian Occasions.

  17. Really nice post, we are big fans of Indian Sari in my country, so you gave me an idea for my next post : What do Moroccans wear ? lol

    Thanks again… 😉

  18. This is the perfect blog for anyone who really wants to find out
    about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue
    with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been written about for years.
    Great stuff, just excellent!

  19. Great to understand about Indian fashion. is the Dhoti worn with something else of is the Dhoti one piece worn by it’s self. In the picture it looks as if it is worn with a shirt. Wondering if two layers is too hot for the climate in India.
    Here in Vancouver we don’t see much traditional dress except for special occasions.

  20. Hi… Nice article. Was actually checking for the salwar kameez… I really like it. But I didn’t know the name. I think I’m gonna make me some salwar kameez 🙂

  21. Not all Indians are vegetarian, so you really don\’t have to restrict yourself or think we\’ll be offended when you eat meat. Come to South India you\’ll hear the yells of fish and how much they are as men walk back and forth balancing the catch of the day on their heads, or you\’ll smell late in the afternoon cookings of fried fish, lamb, beef, fish curry etc. But I understand the notion of Indians being vegetarian since Hindus play a large part in the population and religion and they themselves are vegetarians. Overall though I loved the video but please don\’t umbrella the term of Indians and vegetarian.

  22. the ghaghra (skirt) is worn much, much more widely than is advertised by the upper castes and Vaishnavs. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh – all except some castes. Almost all tribals in India wear a skirt. Many communities in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana (North India) wear the ghaghra. Most nomads and gypsies– ghaghra skirt.

    The sari is popular in communities that oppress women. South India, southernized states like Maharashtra, Orissa, Bengal. (The sari was imposed to make women asexual and tough to molest.)

    The rural Shakta worshippers in even sari-states may wear a ghaghra even in South India. It is usual for a ghaghra wearer to Don a sari when going to the Vaishnav, upper caste, or muslim areas to lower the chance of being gaped at, molested, or worse. One can’t wear a ghaghra in Delhi or Punjab!

    As Naipaul said “an Indian can’t see India.”

  23. Wonderful article. Very useful for foreigners traveling to India. This is a great insight into Indian culture especially dressing which will give them an experience of Indian culture and also keep them safe to a great extent.

    Well written!

  24. Lovely stuff to wear. Many foreigners are willing to wear our traditional wear – saree while attanding Indian wedding. they are crazy about this unique colourful outfits.

  25. Lovely stuff to wear. Many foreigners are willing to wear our traditional wear – saree while attanding Indian wedding. they are crazy about this unique colourful outfits.

  26. Great Post. you look very beautiful in marriage.I am so happy to see foreigners also wear traditional sarees.They look very beautiful.Thanks for your information.

  27. very great post it gives you very interesting i,formations about Indians tradition cloths and i really like it. Indians women looks very nice with this type of clothing way and it a way to express their beauty . thank you

  28. very great post it gives you very interesting informations about Indians tradition cloths and i really like it. Indians women looks very nice with this type of clothing way and it is a way to express their beauty . thank you

  29. The rural Shakta worshippers in even sari-states may wear a ghaghra even in South India. It is usual for a ghaghra wearer to Don a sari when going to the Vaishnav, upper caste, or muslim areas to lower the chance of being gaped at, molested, or worse. One can’t wear a ghaghra in Delhi or Punjab!

  30. Good article for Indian women saree. This article is not only for Indian women, it’s for all over world women, Great post.

  31. Excellent Job! I really impress your side and i like Indian clothes,Learning a lot from your nice post would mean a lot for me.Your way to enlighten everything on this blog is actually pleasant, everyone manage to efficiently be familiar with it..??

  32. Beautiful post about Indian dresses which depicts Indian culture perfectly.

    As you mentioned about the different places and popular dresses of those places. this is what the most important thing because it depicts about particular region, like Salwar-Kamiz is the sign of Punjab.

    Following are the top ten reasons for you to try Anarkarli suits, if you don’t own one already:

    1) Anarkarli suits are pretty comfortable, which means that you don’t need to be worried about any kind of ‘wardrobe malfunction!’

    2) Even Hollywood celebrities are seen in Indian suits these days because of the growing popularity of Indian dresses

    3) There are thousands of different patterns and designs in which these dresses are available out there

    4) No matter what skin texture and color you belong to, you surely have that beautiful Anarkali dress waiting for you somewhere!

    5) It doesn’t matter if you are skinny, slim, fat, curvy or even overweight; there’s this perfect dress designed and created for you, waiting to be picked by you

    6) Some of the dresses are stitched in amazing color-shades like turquoise, burgundy, mauve, mustard color, etc., which are pretty fashionable and unique in their own special ways

    7) Not all the Anarkali dresses out there are expensive or make you pay more than you can afford; there are many fashion designers out there that allow you to buy their designs and dresses at affordable prices.

    8) Most of the Indian women prefer Anarkali address over the ‘side-cut or apple-cut’ suits because no matter how you sit or stand, you are always comfortable in the same

    9) If you prefer covering yourself up all the time, an Indian dress is all that you need

    10) No matter what the occasion is, this dress makes you look simple, elegant and gorgeous – all at the same time. You never look too simple or over-dressed if you are in such an outfit.

    Thanks for the share 🙂

  33. The travel guide that you have put up is highly informative and has very nicely painted the beauty of Indian sarees, salwar suits, lehengas and other traditional dresses.

  34. Hello Mam

    I read your blog which describes the Indian Culture, Saree is one of the best outfit or dress for women among the all dresses, the way of draping sarees its different as we talk about girls they like to take pallu from back to front instead of taking front to back as previous generation. I really appreciate you by the way you present our Indian outfits to aware people because most of the girls are gettign attracted towards western dresses. Thanks for sharing this information with us and keep updating and aware about Indian culture and dresses.

  35. Really nice explanation about Indian traditional dresses I read your blog and get knowledge about Panjab, Rajasthan and other stats traditional dresses. This blog is very useful and informative.

  36. Indian women do look amazing in anything that they wear and especially when you take in to account the concept of wearing saree. Indian women do look the best in it.

  37. Definitely these ensembles are a must have in every Indian woman’s wardrobe. No wonder these women look so beautiful in them. Have ever explored CraftFurnish.com? They have quite an awesome collection of Indian ethnic wear in beautiful colours and designs.

  38. Now a days most of the creative fashion designers are in a lookout for ethnic designs that take us close to our cultural roots. This remind us of the glorious past.

  39. The Dhoti is one of the well known fabric of men in India, yet for the most part adolescents who attends a university and college and so on, I mean understudies wears Pant shirt.

  40. Wonderful article. Thanks for giving useful tips for hot summer season. I love your collection maxi dresses, skirts.See.
    Yes, so generous of them to do this for us. It will be an experience I’ll never forget!
    canNOT wait either! I hope I don’t miss THIS photo! I probably will ask for a copy! Have fun and try something new. Wish I could be there to witness it all in person…Oh well…the photos will have to suffice!!!!!

  41. Hey Shalu, Glad to see you interest in Indian culture and activity.

    This post on dressing of Indian women is really awesome. I love Indian traditional dress wearing style. It shows attachment with our culture of India. There are many outfits for Indian people which varies time to time. Such they wear Salware Kameez and sometimes saris too.

    Great informative post for everyone who have a interest to know about the Indians wear style. Whenever there is a spiritual function is organised in my house of neighborhood, I love to wear Dhoti. Now a day many other countries are following Indian dress. They love to wear sarees and kurta pazama.

    Thanks for introducing features of Indian attire. Have a good day.
    ~ Ravi.

  42. shalu hi ,, I also liked your article .. For the summer season does need clothes that are a little thin so we wear is not hot , and convenient for our daily activities

  43. What do women wear for shoes in the winter in the far north (north of 29 degrees latitude)? They can’t be wearing sandals! I know I will not wear them during the winter. Please advise on the traditional footwear for women in the winter. I don’t sneakers.

  44. its best article and my favorite also india is best culture keep country.so saree ,salwar,lehenga choli is most common outfits for indian women`s .so many websites available also for foreigner buyer indian womens clothing..

  45. Its really awesome article………..
    I like this so much and seriously indian culture is best…….. Thank u so much for this article

  46. Two of my favourite fashion styles is indian womens fashion and bohemian fashion. I love the culture and vibrant colors of indian apparel. Mix the two together and you’ve got a wonderful style. Ive seen a couple of beautiful dresses at bohosync.com and they’re reasonably priced too. I just think you need more jewellery to complete the outfit.

  47. hi admin
    very nice post
    Definitely these ensembles are a must have in every Indian woman’s wardrobe. No wonder these women look so beautiful in them. Have ever explored CraftFurnish.com? They have quite an awesome collection of Indian ethnic wear in beautiful colours and designs.

  48. Hi, its amazing informational post,
    Indian’s love to wear traditional dresses, but from last few years fusion of western and Indian style can be spotted in a market. But still when festivals come we all back to traditional attire.

  49. Very informative content, thanks for sharing shalu ji!
    Ethenic indian wear is my favourite for family functions and gatherings but nowadays our life style has changed and we are also wearing western outfits

  50. I am a wedding organizer too and i see many people wearing traditional indian dresses.
    All those British womens were looking out of this world when we saw them wearing saree.
    Once again, Great post shalu 🙂

  51. I have always been fascinated by India and its culture and it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit it. Your article was very informative and as always, it’s great to learn things about a country from a native’s perspective. Seeing that it’s been some time since you wrote this article, have things changed? Do women still prefer the Sari or are they more inclined to wear western or designer clothes? Also, I always wondered, when it comes to traditional clothes such as the Sari, are there some makers or manufacturers that are considered top notch and their clothes more expensive?

  52. Brilliant article. Extremely valuable for nonnatives going to India. This is an incredible understanding of Indian culture particularly dressing which will give them an affair of Indian culture and furthermore guard them all things considered.

  53. This is a very well-written and well-researched article about different varieties of clothes that Indians wear. The video shared is really fantastic. Personally, I feel that Sarees can make any women in the world look more beautiful. Thanks for this informative article!

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