The Vibrant Traditional Dresses of Manipur Reflecting Manipuri Culture!



The state of Manipur or as it is infamously known as the jeweled land. One of the seven sisters of the northeast, the state is renowned for its scenic beauty, captivating hills, gardens, forts, vegetation, rivers, and lakes. It truly has a plethora to offer among which prominent are the traditional dresses and costumes of the state. The dresses are unique as well as extraordinary and their vibrant colors only add to their beauty. These outfits are debonair, elegant as well as an homage to the state’s rich culture. The attire is easy to don because these outfits are largely focused on simplicity and functionality with such incredible style at the same time.

Traditional Dress of Manipuri Women


Women look beautiful donning the native shawl of the region that is Inaphi. This is wrapped around your chest. The craftsmanship and skill with which this shawl is made are truly remarkable. It is primarily made from cotton and what makes this beautiful piece of cloth stand out is that instead of bold colors and designs, it consists of soft pastel colors and simple designs truly signifying the austere style of the state of Manipur. Furthermore, this shawl is semi-transparent. In the contemporary world, however, the style to a certain extent has changed. The modernized version that is referred to as Rani Phi is made from silk and even the designs have evolved.

Another popular piece of clothing for women in Manipur is Phanek. This dress is similar to a wrap-around dress or even a sarong, except it’s not semi-transparent but the manner of wearing remains the same. What’s special about these is that they are hand-woven on looms. The material used is either cotton or silk. Synthetic fibers are also used occasionally. As aforementioned, the traditional dresses of Manipur pay close attention to elegance in simplicity and therefore the designs are usually blocked colors or stripes instead of dark colors or intricate floral patterns, for that matter. It can be considered somewhat similar to a saree, especially if it is worn with an upper blouse. It is extremely comfortable and stylish which makes it the perfect outfit.

Image – Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr

There exists a deviation of the lovely dress that is Phanek which is usually reserved for more festive occasions such as celebrations, festivals, weddings, and many more. This dress is referred to as Mayek Naibi. It has horizontal line designs with additional embroidery as well as certain ornamentations which makes it all the more charming and alluring to look at. This ethnic dress simply screams class and sophistication.

Other noteworthy traditional dresses for the women of Manipur include the breathtakingly beautiful Lai Phi as well as Chin Phi. They are both again worn on festive occasions. La Phi, at its very core, is a white piece of cloth that is beautifully ornamented with the most graceful yellow border. Chin Phi, on the other hand, is a blouse that is paired with an embroidered Phanek and the combination is nothing less than a match made in heaven itself.

Traditional Dress of Manipuri Men


The men of the state, in true Manipuri fashion, customarily dress in a dhoti which is a cloth, ordinarily white that they wrap around their thighs, thereby covering their lower bodies. This traditional garment is paired off with a pagri or a turban and occasionally a jacket. A special dhoti referred to as Khamen Chapta is additionally donned on auspicious occasions such as weddings and festivals, to name a few. It is a must donned in the event of a ritual. However, this is said only to be worn by royal descendants because it is considered that in ancient times, these dhotis were gifted by the King only to those who were deemed worthy and the selective few geniuses and poets wore it apart from the kings and the royalty themselves.

Bridal Wear of Manipur

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The bridal wear in Manipur can be perfectly summed up within two words: stunning. In everyday wear, Manipur shines with its minimalistic approach but when it comes to the weddings of the state, it is going big or go home which is perfectly symbolized by the bride’s traditional attire. The costume is referred to as Potloi and this has been the primary bridal wear since the 1700s and only something one of a kind survives the test of time and Potloi is certainly unique, to say the least. These intricate costumes consist of a blouse, an inner cloth that is switched to the dress, a skirt that resembles the figure of a cylinder, and a belt to tie together the entire look. The main highlight of this outfit is the skirt which comes in vibrant colors such as red, yellow, pink as well as green. The motifs on the same are truly beautiful and shine, adding to the bride’s glow. It is further bejeweled with studded gems and ornaments and sequins. This is paired with the traditional shawl of Manipur or Inaphi and a headband quite appropriate for the bride on her special day.

The dresses of Manipur have it all: they’re simple, minimalistic, comfortable, elegant, and charming. Over time, although, the more preferred daily wear of Manipur remains jeans, tops, trousers, and other such western articles of clothing but still when it comes to celebrations such as weddings and festivals, the populace looks amazing donning with pride their traditional attire. The dresses have also been provided their Manipuri spin by the people such as Phanek being worn in the way of a wrap-around skirt with a top and jacket creating the perfect fusion. This is truly remarkable as to find the perfect balance between the three worlds: your past, present, and future is something that we all strive towards and the traditional attire of Manipur is a shining beacon of hope that it’s possible. Let us know in the comments section below the dress of Manipur that you would love to wear!

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