One of the first things you will notice when traveling to India is the spectacular patterns and colors of Indian women’s clothing. Women’s types of clothing in this country vary widely depending on climate, local culture, and religion, as well as urban or rural settings.
In urban settings, western clothing is becoming more common, as well as the combination of western and eastern clothing. For example a kurti (or kurta) with jeans is a common sight in Mumbai and Pune. In rural areas, women wear more traditional clothing.
India has a great diversity of fabrics, weaves, and colors that make every piece of clothing unique.
“Colour codes are followed in clothing based on the religion and ritual concerned. For instance, Hindu ladies wear white clothes to indicate mourning, while Parsis and Christians wear white to weddings.” source
Four Types of Indian Women’s Clothing:
Sari (or saree)
The saree (sari) is a long unstitched cloth, usually patterned, which drapes around and over the body. It is worn with a tailored blouse and sometimes over a petticoat. This garment ranges from 4 to 9 meters in length and we can see it in women widely across India in urban and rural areas. I would consider this to be the staple of Indian women clothing.
The draping style varies depending on the area of the country. The most common style is wrapping the fabric around the waist with one end then draped over the shoulder. Sari blouses are often “backless” with a halter style string drape.
The Salwar Kameez is mostly worn in Northern parts of India like Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It consists of the salwar (loose trousers that are narrow at the ankles), and the kameez (a long shirt or tunic). In Southern India, this style is called the “Punjabi suit” or simply “shalwar“. This dress is worn a lot by teenage girls and many Bollywood actresses.
A salwar kameez is often paired with a dupatta. A dupatta is a scarf that is traditionally used to cover the head and the shoulders. Or it is more commonly drawn over the shoulders and drawn back over the bosom, but nowadays it is widely used as a fashion accessory. The material depends on the one used for the suit and varies between cotton, georgette, silk, chiffon, and others.
Lehenga Choli (or Ghagra Choli)
The Lehenga Choli (or Ghagra Choli) is the traditional dress in Northern India like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.
The lehenga is a long skirt which is embroidered and pleated. A choli is a midriff-bearing blouse worn also with a sari; it is tailored to tightly fit the body with short sleeves and a low neck. Finally, women wear a dupatta to finish the look. It is tucked into the skirt then wrapped at the waist and then draped over the shoulder similar to a sari.
There are different styles of lehenga cholis ranging from cotton types for daily wear, embellished ones for festivals, or fully embroidered ones for marriage ceremonies.
Kurti (or kurta)
A kurti is simply a long shirt or blouse that falls below the waist and sometimes below the knees. This one is good for casual daily use or even as office-wear. Many times it is also accompanied by a dupatta (which we learned is the “Indian scarf”).
A kurti is often paired with salwar pants (wide at the thighs and narrower at the ankles), churidar pants which are usually narrow throughout the leg, leggings, or even jeans.
Some kurtis have two sewn openings on the sides where the fabric falls in the thighs.
All of the pieces of clothing above except for the saree are from Triveni. I chose two of their items, the salwar kameez and the kurti. They looked amazing on the website, but when they arrived at my door, they did not disappoint. In fact, I was out of town when they arrived and I gave permission to my husband to open the package (I love mail and opening it). This is what he texted me:
Wow babe I opened your package.It’s AMAZINGJason and Diane and I are going crazy over itthe details are stunningthere are “diamonds” all over oneand the other is stunningI’ve not seen anything like this even in that big mall we went to in IndiaI’d pay $400 for the set.
I think that says it all.
The grand total for both items including shipping was only $52.32 USD. The items are constantly going on sale, in fact the price on the two items I ordered has reduced. They ship internationally and even accept Paypal! Which makes my life easier.
My favorite was the kurti, probably because it is more wearable than the salwar, but both are very beautiful. It is all in the details.
As an Indian woman, which is your favorite to wear? As a non-Indian woman, have you ever worn any of these types of clothing? Which one was your favorite from the pictures?