Diversity Among The Traditional Dresses of India (Infographic)



In many aspects, India is all about different cultures, such as climate, people, rituals and, of course, attire! People sew, embroider or embellish it in various designs so that it looks unique, charming and individual to itself, expressing the areas it belongs to. India’s costumes vary from one location to another and depend on many ethnic, geographical, climatic and cultural influences. Let’s take a look at some of the amazing traditional dresses of India.

Traditional Dresses of India

Indian clothing has been developing for an extraordinarily long time. In reality, the first proof of the spinning and dyeing cotton comes from the ancient civilisation of the Indus Valley, about 7,000 years ago. Over the years, the people have been sharing their insight into Indian traditions, culture and fashion through epic sagas like the Mahabharata and rock sculptures including the world-famous caves of Ellora. The subcontinent has since its origin created a host of exquisite woven clothing with different styles for both men and women. 

1. Sari/Saree

Traditional Dresses of India, Sari
Image – Inesh Thamotharampillai

The term “sari” in Sanskrit refers to a “strip of cloth.” It’s about 5 to 9 metres of material. It is historically worn by all Indian women—and is very important for the culture. Known as one of the most graceful dresses for women, it beautifully covers the whole body of the woman in the most dignified manner and allows customizations for the comfort of the wearer. No outfit is as capable and versatile as the saree. When draped in the saree and adorned with gorgeous jewellery along with a dazzling bindi, a woman in India appears perfectly gorgeous and elegant. 

The deities in Indian religions are embellished and decked up with sarees. Sarees are even noted as a sacrificial offering to many goddesses. Each sari contains a story about society and its people. Depending on climate, fabric, length and width, and what the wearer would like to accomplish that day, there are more than a hundred methods to drape a sari. To add to it, each state in the country has its own type of saree – ranging from the material it is made out of  (one which is abundantly available in said state) to specific saris for exquisite events. They are also generational, with older women handing down their precious sarees to their younger offspring when they become of age. Many Indian women have been regularly following western styles with the changing of times. However, sarees are still the way to go for cultural festivities and religious events.

Suggested readThe Best Party Wear Sarees for This Wedding Season

2. Ghagra Choli

Traditional Dresses of India, Ghagra-Choli

Ghagra choli is one of the best known classic Indian garments. It is often called chaniya choli or lehenga choli. It is most frequently found in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and the other countries of Haryana, Bihar, Punjab, Jammu, Uttrakhand, Nepal and Himachal. This is because it is worn in many styles in each of the regions. Ghagra choli was popularised by women of all sections of society much before the coming of the Mughals. For women of that time, it was a characteristic traditional garment. Today, while urban women of India wear mostly designer made ones, rural women continue to favour traditional patterns.

 Such favouritism for this wonderful outfit is very apparent. Due to its looseness and airiness, the ghagra choli allows smooth and pleasant movement even while dealing with any type of tiresome household chores. Similar thoughts are expressed by women who wear this attire for corporate affairs, weddings, festivals, etc. Ghagra attire also the traditional Garba dress of the Gujarati festival. The festivals of Garba and Navratri are where the women dress up and play dandiya and Garba in their rather heavy and exquisite ghagras. Therefore it is also linked to traditional beliefs. 

Ghagra has changed in numerous ways over time. The colours and designs are distinct and unique. Some of them come with extravagant prints, while others look simple. Some people use stones, mirrors, beads or sequins to make it glamourous. Moreover, the entire ensemble has some sort of refined charm and joyfulness because it twirls every time you move!

3. Salwar Kameez

Traditional Dresses of India, Salwar-Kameez
Image – Bulbul Ahmed

Salwar Kameez is a traditional garment hailing from the state of Punjab (also known as Shalwar). It includes a pair of pants known as the salwar and a tunic, kameez. Traditionally, the salwar pants are custom made to look long and loose with cuff like stitches around the ankles. The outfit is frequently combined with a long fabric shawl or shawl called a dupatta, which can be draped over the neck or the head. Decorative designs can also be attached around the neckline, sleeves, bows and slits.

The Salwar Kameez is supposed to be a blend of the tunic and loose pants from the Mughal era. The Anarkali suit was one of Salwar Kameez’s most popular styles during that period. It was one of the most extravagant styles of clothing on the market and was rich in embroidery, therefore always linked to wealth and power. 

This influence still exists and we can witness this in many styles and forms. The popularity of the garment is connected to social changes among Indian young women. Typically, when Indian girls got married, they switched to wearing a sari. However, as women started to marry later on, they were faced with a new dilemma about what attire to wear as single adults. One couldn’t wear their childhood dresses anymore, but they didn’t feel ready yet to wear the sari. They thus turned to the salwar kameez, which was regarded as appropriate attire to satisfy these requirements. It is the clothing that is worn both casually and formally by the majority of Indian ladies.

Suggested read – 20 Types of Salwar Suits You Need To Know About

4. Churidar Kurta

Traditional Dresses of India, Churidar-Kurta
Image – shreemadhufahion

Churidar is a tight-fitting pant worn both by men and women. These pyjamas or pants are longer than a leg length and normally are cut against the angle of 45 degrees, which makes them look stretchable. The long folds on the knees and appear like bangles and therefore it is called ‘Churidar,’ derived from the Indian term churi for the same. It is often worn by women with a Kurta or Kameez or Tunic, and men with a Kurta. This timeless garment has graced all types of native ethnic wear and fashion throughout the years. A wide variety of options can be chosen from designer to casual, from ethnic to Anarkali Churidar. These churidars are available in materials such as cotton, silk, silk, brocade and georgettes. They can be carried with a kurta, tunic or shirt of whatsoever kind. 

While the Churidars may be stretchy and fitted closely, they are one of the most comfortable garments in the world. The extra material above one churidar makes it possible for the person wearing it to bend their legs and sit comfortably. Churidar is excellent for day-to-day and workplace wear with a long or short Kurta. Men often wear churidars with Kurtas or Sherwanis on formal occasions, but for women, it can be worn frequently. Nothing’s better in summer than a simple and light cotton churidar. Initially, they were only available in a few colours, but now printed churidars with particular ornaments have become a hot trend in several markets.

Suggested read – Everything You Need to Know About Indian Kurtis

5. Pattu Pavadai/Langa Davani

Traditional Dresses of India, Langa Davani
Image – Pintrest

The traditional dress in the South, Langa Davani or Pattu Pavadai is the main attire for young girls. The dress is usually worn by all girls who have reached their early adolescence until they marry, indicating their childhood. It is a three-piece, made of a top and a skirt and a voni, oni or davani, generally 2 to 2.5 metres in length. The voni is diagonally wrapped over a blouse or choli.

The Pattu Pavadai has undoubtedly dazzling and dynamic colours to wear during the traditional festivasl in the states of South India. Its contrasting border and fabric are notable in this outfit. Pattu pavadai is influenced by the different geometry and other designs of the temples surrounding native regions. The Pattu pavadai uses fabrics such as Kanchipuram pure silk, Dharmavaram pattu, Pochampally pattu, Ikat Silk, Banarasi Silk, Coimbatore Soft silk, Chettinadu cotton, Handloom cotton, Kasavu pavadai  etc. Young girls customarily wear these through celebrations like Pongal, Deepavali, Onam, Chithirai Thiruvizha, Dasara, Navarathri,Pooram, or Mahamaham. This traditional garment has several names in the states of South India – Langa Davani in Karnataka, Pattu Pavadai in Tamil Nadu and Langavoni in Andhra Pradesh.

6. Dhoti/Lungi

Traditional Dresses of India, Dhoti/Lungi
Photo by Anoop

Indian men and boys, from early times to this day wear both: the dhoti and the lung. Both are garments made of unsewn cloth wrapped around the waist covering the legs.

A dhoti is a huge cloth enveloped at the waist, which is then tucked between the knees and secured towards the back of the waist. A dhoti looks like a trouser but is made up of unsewn fabric. Although usually made from one piece of fabric, a kamarband or piece of cloth attached around the waist can help tighten the dhoti like a belt. The lungi, likewise leaves the fabrrc down from the waist but instead looks like a long skirt. The lungi is created by wrapping the cloth round the waist and tying it into a knot, called duba. Both can be worn by themselves with an uncovered upper body or with a variety of shawls, shirts or jackets.

Silk, cotton and sometimes wool is used to form both garments. While the dhoti is most generally constructed of thin white cotton, whereas tones used in the lungi are often vibrant or colourfully embellished. Lungis are either fine-coloured or bordered by stripes or squares in a contrasting colour. The popular colours include white, dark red, blue, brown and black in daily lungis, but the tones of yellow, pink, turquoise, dark blue, green and purple are more vibrant for celebratory events.

7. Sherwani 

Traditional Dresses of India, Sherwani
Image – Abhishek Shekhawat

Sherwani is a long robe-like garment that men wear, comparable to Achkan or Doublet over a Kurta and Churidar or a Pajama or a Shalwar. A royal dress inspired by Mughal and antique nobility’ the Sherwani is a kind of dress with the same regal impact to this day.

Originally, it began as a creative mix between the Shalwar Kameez and British frock coat. Initially, only the royals and noble monarchs wore sherwanis, which demonstrated richness and success. About the end of the 18th century, people regardless of their social standing caught on.

A Sherwani looks pretty much like an Achkan. It features a few buttons in the front and is fitted closely. The outfit is incomplete without a pair of Juttis giving a more refined and sophisticated feel to the whole ensemble. It comes in many fabrics and decorations, primarily are made of Silk.  Other than that, sherwanis have also been fashioned in cotton, brocade and jacquard. The colours span from dazzling corals and reds to enigmatic and enticing dark greens and black. A Sherwan is the first choice of an Indian groom because it has a royal, majestic atmosphere that any young man on his wedding day would like to feel. It must not be confined alone to weddings, however, and can make a great statement in any formal event that requires one to be perfectly dressed.

8. Kurta Pajama 

Traditional Dresses of India, Kurta-Pajama
Image – Dollar Gill

Kurta is a comfy and long robe, usually complemented by a set of Pajamas.  A common informal dressing method in India, this attire is available in various cuts and colours and is entirely customizable to the wearers fit, occasion etc. 

A knee-length collarless shirt, the kurta or the top is decorated in white or pastel colours. Kurta has been gaining popularity among Indian Men Indian and have found a spot in their daily as well as festive wardrobe. Silk Kurta, which was previously only meant for kings and princes, is now being adopted by the men of the country in an attempt to look royal and elegant. At present, fashion is led by stylish silk khadi kurtas. At present, stylish silk khadi kurtas lead the trend. Men can wear designer kurtas with a pair of jeans for a more casual, stylish and comfortable look.  An embroidered kurta, pajama and a vest is worn as a three-piece men’s suit. A stole can also be to the three-piece traditional Indian men’s clothing.

Over the ages, the prevalence of traditional dress in India has been reduced by influences of the trade on the Silk Road, including British colonisation and western standardisation. However, historic customs remain strong throughout the land and proud inhabitants, who wear these traditional garments can still be seen even now. The younger generation is also slowly and steadily appreciating the classic and timeless nature of these attires and incorporating them into their daily modern wardrobes.

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