As the old adage goes “Clothes make the man” and a woman too! Clothes serve not just as protection from the elements but also give an identity to the person who wears it. With the growth of civilizations clothes have come to become symbols of the culture and heritage of the country. For a country as diverse as India it is natural that the clothes worn are also equally diverse. As in most cultures, clothing is different for men and women in India as well. Now let’s take a look as the various traditional Indian costumes of India –
The modern Indian man is mostly dressed in trousers, shirts and T-shirts and shorts on a daily basis, but he does like to dress up for special occasion and festivals. The traditional Indian costumes are region specific but are worn across the country these days.
The most common traditional outfit worn by men in India for most special occasion, like festivals, wedding, or another traditional occasion is the kurta pajama. The kurta is ideally a shirt that is very long and falls below the knees. It can sometimes fall just at the knee or slightly above it. It is paired with an equally loose pants called the ‘pajama.’The Kurta is sometimes worn with a tighter pants called Chudidhar which are mostly worn at a wedding. Hands down the kurta pajama is the most comfortable and sort after traditional wear for men in India.
Perhaps the most traditional costume for Indian man is the Dhoti. The Dhoti is mostly worn in rural India, but is worn as traditional outfit in urban India. The Dhoti is mostly paired with a Kurta or a shirt. For special occasion the Dhoti is made in silk or raw silk but it is mostly made in cotton. The Dhoti is mostly tied by hand and takes a quite a bit of skill, however now a days it comes ready to wear for easy and comfort. Again the Dhoti is a favorite traditional outfit for wedding especially for the grooms and Father of the Bride.
The Lungi is a quintessential Indian costume. It is probably a very casual outfit but never the less makes it very popular in both urban and rural India. The Lungi is just a long piece of cloth that is sewed and made into a tube. The Lungi is preferred choice of those in the Southern Indian states as they have hotter climate throughout the year. Though the lungi is mostly made from cotton and in various colors and prints which is worn as a casual outfit, it sometimes is worn on special occasion in rich fabrics like white silk with a zari border. The lungi is simply double folded and tucked at the waist.
One of the most elaborate the traditional Indian outfit is the Sherwani.Once attire of the kings the Sherwani is now reserved for weddings and wedding related ceremonies. It is the outfit for the groom. The Sherwanis is a long coat like garment mainly made of rich fabrics like, Silk, Velvet and Raw Silk. The Wedding Sherwani is embellished with embroidery in zari or gold thread. It is often dressed up with sequins and rhinestones to create a rich look for the groom. The Sherwani is also worn in plainer fabrics for a less elaborate look and is worn by guests at a wedding.The Sherwani is worn with a chudidhar, salwar or a pajama and sometimes paired with a Dhoti for a contemporary look. The dupatta or stole acts as an accessory for the Sherwani for total traditional look.
The women in India have a wide variety of clothing to choose from be it a casual occasion or a formal one. Most modern Indian women wear anything from trousers, suits, to more Indian traditional outfits like Salwar Kameez, Kurtis and of course the Saree. However most women across the country are comfortable wearing traditional Indian outfits for all occasion. Let’s take a look at the traditional outfits for women in India –
If there is ever a popular Indian costume that is probably worn by every Indian woman at some point in her life, it is definitely the Saree. The nine yards fabric is the most iconic costume and an epitome of the Indian woman. It is worn at all occasion, however the occasion dictates the kind of fabric that the saree is worn in. The saree has many variation across the various regions of the country. The saree is made in many fabrics, from in natural fabrics like cotton and silks to more synthetic fabrics like nylon, net, viscos and chiffons. For most special occasion like weddings and festivals silk sarees are worn while everyday use sarees are made of cotton or synthetic fabric are worn. The saree is worn with an inner petticoat skirt and a short blouse. The saree is wrapped at the waist, pleated and tucked in and then finally draped over one shoulderand is call the pallu. Sarees are often embellished with gold thread or zair through or on the border and can have a variety of hand work on it like embroidery, appliques, or sequins.
After the saree the next favorite traditional outfit for an Indian woman is the “Salwar Kameez”. The Salwar Kameez consist of three pieces of garments – Kameez which is a long shirt type garment which is worn with the Salwar which is a loose pant like garment, and a stole or scarf called the Dupatta that is worn over the shoulders. Over the years the Salwar has evolved in to many variations that are not just restricted to regions but also in terms of fashion and style. The variations can be of the length of the kameez also known as a kurta, the style of the pants which can be the salwar or the chudidhar which is a tighter pant that gathers up at the ankle, or a patiyala pajam which is a baggy kind of pant. The Kameez is now a days worn with a legging and is fast becoming a common office wear. As per the latest trends the Salwar Kameez worn at special occasion are called the Anarkali, which is a long top with a lot of sequins works, embroidery or lace work.
A Lehnga Choli is also called the Half Saree. The Lehnga Choli is a variation of the saree and mostly worn by young girls and unmarried women. The Lehnga Choli is again a three piece garment that consists of a floor length skirt which is the Lehnga, a short blouse which is called the Choli, and a dupatta or stole that is draped over both the shoulders, over one shoulder or over the head. Most Brides wear the dupatta over their head and even cover their face completely or partly. The Lehnga is usually made out any kind of fabric be it silk, cotton or fancy fabrics like georgette, chiffon and crepes. The blouse is made out of the same fabric or is a different fabric and can be in the same or a contrasting colour. The Lehngais again a favorite garment for weddings and special occasions. The Ghagrah is again embellished with a lot of handwork, laces, and stone work.
Another favorite traditional garment for Indian women to wear during special occasions is the –Sharara. Originally the Sharara was a garment worn by Muslim Nobel women right from the Mughal era. The Sharara is also a three piece garment with a shirt that has varying length from up to the waist to the knees, and sometimes up to the shins as well. The lower garment of the Sharara is loose trouser like a plazoo pants that falls straight or it can be a Ghagrah that is tight around the thighs and flares out from the knee and below. The Ghagrah has a band above the knee to give a tighter fitting to the pant. Most women prefer wearing the Sharara for pre-wedding and wedding festivities. They can be very elaborate with heavy sequin work, embroidery, or applique work. The dupatta is also a part of this garment and is usually worn over the shoulders, one shoulder, or over the head. Since the Sharara is a wedding attire it is made from rich fabrics like chiffons, crepes, georgette or can be made out of net, silk and viscose fabric.
The Lacha is another traditional outfit what is worn at many weddings and festivals by young and older women alike. The Lacha is a variation from the Legnha Choli. Unlike the Lehnga where the Choli or blouse is short and only up to the chest, the Lacha is a longer blouse that extends up to the waist and sometimes up to the hips and usual has a two side slits. The Lacha is worn with the long lehnga skirt, with or without a dupatta.
We have looked at the most popular traditional outfits that grace most special occasions in India. However with India’s diversity most states have their own costumes representing the culture, heritage and style of that region.