Different Types of Indian Women’s Clothing

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)

Me in a beautiful sari that belonged to a friend's mom.
Me in a beautiful sari that belonged to a friend’s mom.

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.

firstsari10

Salwar Kameez

triveni saree7
Trendy Embroidered Pure Cotton Salwar Kameez from Triveni

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)

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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)

Kurti from Triveni Sarees
Vine & Paisely Motif Kurti from Triveni

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 AMAZING
Jason and Diane and I are going crazy over it
the details are stunning
there are “diamonds” all over one
and the other is stunning
I’ve not seen anything like this even in that big mall we went to in India
I’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?

 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above with no charge in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are mine.

35 thoughts on “Different Types of Indian Women’s Clothing

  1. Such vibrant colors. I have never worn any but perhaps the Kurti is my fave as I actually own some dresses that look quite similar.

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  2. nice cloth. sueslaght if you fine the women’s cloth than i suggest you to some web. plz check it
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  3. Love the colours! And how comfortable they look!

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  4. They are so beautiful. The colours and patterns are gorgeous.

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  5. You look awesome in all of these styles! I miss Indian clothing, there’s nothing that can brighten up your day quite as much as a colourful shalwar kameez…

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    1. Thank you 🙂 Those beautiful colors really do brighten up India.

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  6. I feel that a Sari compliments any body type and looks lovely. But comfort wise I prefer the “Punjabi Suit”. I am also a bad Indian who has limited Sari draping skills 🙂 Recently I had to cart some heavy outfits from Bombay back to the US for an Indian wedding and hit upon a GREAT compromise.. the “Anarkali” 🙂 Here is my fiance and me with my two cousins. The girls are wearing western, my fiance a Kurta Pajama and me Anarkali: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152548992640266&set=a.10150439903845266.412619.641725265&type=3&theater

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    1. I agree, the punjabi suit is way more comfortable than a sari 🙂 You all look great in that photo!

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  7. I love them all. Though on a daily basis, I prefer kurti over denims!

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    1. I like that outfit too. It’s comfortable, and traditional and modern at the same time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sure is! ?

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      2. I luv India sari too

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  8. Stunning collection and nice pic also. I love them all….

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  9. I’ve just discovered this post as i am heading to India (North mostly along with Mumbai) for the first time in November/December. I am Australian and really love immersing myself into a new culture straight as i arrive. I am hoping to find some cheap(ish) modern Indian wear for young women as soon as I arrive in Delhi. Are there any big stores that would be best or is there a particular bazzar i should go to? Thanks in advance for your help.

    Abby

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    1. Hi Abby,
      I have not spent any time in Delhi (apart from the airport), so I’m not sure if I can be of much help. In my experience though it’s better to shop at the markets than at big stores. Also, in India, tailors are amazing and very common. When you are longer there you can start to shop just for fabrics and take some clothes that fit you to the tailor and make your own clothes that way.
      Have an amazing time!

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  10. Nice blog, you are looking stunning in every picture, mostly in saree and salwar kameez. Look at this dazzling anarkali dress: http://www.lashkaraa.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/thumbnail/960x/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/img_8031.jpg

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  11. did you ask them to stitch your garments? I am interested in purchasing but it gives two options: semi-stitched and stitched. I don’t know what they mean… please email me or message me on pinterest. thanks!

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    1. Hi Saehee, I ordered mine stitched. I submitted my measurements to them after I placed the order. I believe if you select “unstitched” they you sent the fabrics for you to take to a tailor. I am not sure what semi-stitched means. I also found these guidelines for when choosing stitched: http://www.triveniethnics.com/stiching-guidline
      I hope this helps.

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      1. I from Canada I’m a big girl I can’t fine my size .when I get it made for me it does not fit right on me; I am not sure hoping to find a style like Indian clothing. But I will have wear with what I have thank you ps I might have to think about getting a few made I know I can sale them

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  12. I have worn a sari with a choli I made myself. Looked great but with my lack of experience wearing it, I found it restrictive. I wear Punjabi suits frequently and find them very comfortable to wear in Australia through our hot summers and when you have ‘female issues’ there is no pressure on your body which was beneficial. I have recently bought two other pieces-one short kurti in bright orange and black that I wear over jeans and a full salwa kameez with the full skirt and pipe leg pants. Love it. People look at me strange as I am very Aussie in appearance so the visual of such traditional outfits on an Aussie is not very common. But that’s me!

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  13. When it comes to Indian Ethnic Wear for women, the Indian sari always tops the chart. No matter how you look, sari will always add to your beauty. It is the most favorite outfits for Indian women which has gained popularity around the world. The style of draping the sari can also be seen in variety. Nowadays women love to experiment with different styles of Indian sari to grace themselves for any occasion or festivity. Rest of the seasons is moderate enough to allow you freely make your choice.
    Let’s help you with dressing up according to season…. https://www.amafhh.in

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  14. All women and girls love to experiment with their attires and accessories. The most commonly used attire includes Indian sarees and Indian Salwar Kameez.

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  15. I live in the Southern US and have become fascinated with the Indian clothing of women. I really want to order a suit, but am unsure of how to measure. I’m 5’10” tall, weigh about 140 lbs, bust is 34″ and waist is 29″ (four children) lol. Are measurements similar to US sizes?

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  16. When you choose an Indian Ethnic Clothing Wholesaler which you have acquired from web, you still have to be careful of the quality of the clothing, their services and the prices of the products that they are offering. Visit: http://www.jugniji.com

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  17. When you talk about Indian dresses for women, the first thing that strikes you is the variety. From sarees, lehengas to gown, there are ample number of options as pointed out in this blog. Personally, my favourite is the saree, which has been the go-to attire for women over the years for every occasion.

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  18. You look very pretty in all of them Mani! =) For the photo of the salwar I have a question, I have heard people here in Mumbai call those leggings with pleats on the ankles Churidaar and Salwar the other wide baggy pants. What do you think?

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  19. HELP!!!! Getting married in January (2017), and looking for a fancy Kurta… my problem:
    1. I’m from Seattle.
    2. Measurements… Can’t find my size (I’m bigger in my chest area – like 3x).

    Would not want to order online, as can’t try in advance.

    Any place u know in my area? Already went to all the shops in Redmond and Bellevue.

    Here is my email address – if u have a good idea 🙂

    Thnx! Renata
    rlkagel@gmail.com

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  20. very nice and beautiful dresses thanks for sharing this beautiful dresses and picture

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  21. Thanks For Sharing!

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  22. Nice…Thanks for sharing

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  23. Such awesome descriptive blog and colorful images are colorful.

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  24. This is beautiful .. Saree is a great outfit for any special occasion.Sarees are favoured outfit for any occasion or event, Nowaydays, we see designers getting creative with the saree designs.Saree is one of the few garments that can add charm to your personality.A blouse can make or break your look .A stylish black blouse when paired with simple saree can add a charm to your look

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  25. umm cool article i guess i just used info to complete an assingment and it was helpful i guess?

    Like

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