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.

Dhoti

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.

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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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49 Responses to “What do Indians wear?”

  1. Dan Bonser says:

    Nice article breaking down this cultural style! Always like walking away from a blog learning something new!
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  2. Ehsan Ullah says:

    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.
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  3. Michael Belk says:

    Shalu, I figured men might have a harder time finding clothes, it is probably because we do not shop much. We are usually happy with a pair of pants and a shirt, but I can understand if you want the full experience you have to dress more Indian-like.
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  4. Bikram says:

    I use to love wearing the dhoti as it is called but in punjab we tie it the other way round and it looks much impressive , especially when it has starch on it and with a White kurta on top …

    Bikram’s
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  5. pradeep says:

    I always like to wear traditional dress on festivals.
    Its feel like some thing special and my favorite traditional dress is dhoti kurta.

  6. Medha says:

    Indian attire is truly unique in itself very elegant and colorful. Loved your photo Shalin… you look very pretty in Salwar Kameez.
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  7. Hi Shalu,

    nice explaining of traditional Indian clothing. I alwasy liked the bright colors of saris, so full of life.
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  8. 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.
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  9. Nice, I’ve learned something here which is more about the India’s beautiful culture.
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  10. Richa says:

    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.

  11. MarieMcC says:

    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.
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  12. Shalu Sharma says:

    Hello Marie, I am glad you liked this post.
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  13. Bhushan says:

    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.
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  14. Al says:

    Interesting to learn about Indian fashion :)

  15. Nice informative article,thanks for the good share.
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  16. Ahsan says:

    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
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  17. Felicia says:

    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!

  18. ANISHA says:

    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.

  19. Kumar Gauraw says:

    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.

    Regards,
    Kumar
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  20. Martin says:

    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.

  21. 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.

  22. Chetan says:

    Hi Shalu,

    Most of the males in India now wear shirts and trousers.

    Thank you all for the advise.
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  23. Anthony says:

    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.
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  24. Yaz says:

    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.
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  25. I like Sarhee in Indian dresses. Many people like Sarhee in indian dresses. Anyways, very nice post, thanks for sharing.

  26. Ruby says:

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

  27. Very interesting article. Traditional dresses it’s very cool. Thanks for your advice. I really enjoyed.

  28. Sidney says:

    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!!
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  29. Ramit Kapoor says:

    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.
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  30. Thanks for this article.Thanks for your advice. I really thank once again for such good creative writing ..keep it up..
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  31. hiren says:

    Hi
    nice article in current time Indian male most wear jins and t shirt. nice article thanks for sharing.

  32. Nice Mam You have good info about all india culture and heritage well done doing good work.

  33. Ahlam says:

    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… ;)
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  34. 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!
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  35. chandshekher says:

    thanks for sharing dress………….
    Though sari is popularly believed to be the traditional dress for Indian women
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  36. Max P says:

    Great article! Sarees come in different shades and vibrant colours. They can be used both for casual occasions and well as glitzy bollywood sarees

  37. Daniel says:

    Very interesting article. It is so great to now all this different stuff about other cultures. Thank you

  38. Don says:

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

  40. mookesh says:

    its gud information about mens and womens wearing.its really informative for me.
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  41. Dora says:

    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 :)

  42. Blanchi says:

    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.

  43. Vijay G says:

    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.”

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