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What are the Different Types of Indian Apparel?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Clothing in India is colorful and diverse, and it varies according to region and religion. The basic Indian apparel for women consists of a sari, a long piece of unstitched fabric that is wrapped around the waist and then draped over the shoulder. A typical sari can be up to nine yards (about eight meters) in length and may be made from a variety of materials, from plain cotton to silk embroidered with metallic gold.

Saris are worn with a tight-fitting blouse called a choli, another staple of Indian apparel. Cholis are cropped and have a low neck, revealing the midriff and upper chest. Because the traditional choli is worn without a bra, many come with padding or a soft, sewn-in brassiere for support.

Silk cocoons. Fabric made of silk is often used to make Indian apparel.
Silk cocoons. Fabric made of silk is often used to make Indian apparel.

The second most common type of Indian apparel for women is the salwar-kameez, a set of baggy, wide-legged trousers and a long shirt or tunic. The traditional salwar-kameez is cut straight, with a simple cut on the side seams to allow movement. Modern clothing is much less modest than traditional clothing, and kameez are now being made with plunging necklines and deeper side cuts, and even in semi-transparent fabrics. The dupatta, a large scarf that is used as a shawl, is also a typical piece of women's apparel. Dupattas are worn over the salwar-kameez or used to cover the head for religious reasons.

Many Indian women wear saris.
Many Indian women wear saris.

The typical Indian apparel for men consists of a dhoti, which is a variation of the sari. Dhotis are wrapped between the legs, tucked in the waist, and worn with a long shirt, called a kurta, on top. The combination is usually known as dhoti kurta and is worn in all formal occasions and settings. In large cities, many professionals wear trousers and shirts when working in office settings.

Many Indian teenagers have moved away from traditional Indian clothing and now wear jeans or dresses. Children in general, but especially boys, usually wear Western clothing.

Jewelry is a big part of Indian apparel. Forehead ornaments, earrings, nose rings, and ankle bracelets are common for all women, while married women also wear toe rings.

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Discussion Comments


Can you tell me how different types of salwar are made?


Bridal lehenga and wedding saris are mostly popular worldwide.


I need some advice -- I've been invited to a traditional Indian wedding, but I have absolutely no idea what the traditional Indian wedding apparel is.

Everything I see from a google search just shows what the bride and groom are supposed to wear, but what about the guests?

Is there a traditional dress code for guests to a traditional Indian wedding? I would assume there would have to be, just like at Western weddings.

Can anybody enlighten me? I am desperate to show up looking like I actually know what I'm doing, but I honestly have no idea about the Indian apparel, market-wise or etiquette-wise, or in any aspect, to be perfectly honest.

Can anybody help me out?


Nice article, but not quite what I'm looking for. Do you have anything on American Indian apparel?


I think Indian apparel is so gorgeous -- it's so much brighter and more colorful than so many Western fashions.

I am truly jealous to the women and men who get to wear these gorgeous clothing on a daily basis. My favorite of all time is East Indian apparel, but I really do love all of it.

I work for a textile manufacturers, so I know about all the different fabrics that go into making these clothes, and can see everybody kind of eyeing the beautiful cloth that goes to make Indian apparel. It's definitely much more eye-catching than some of the stuff we send to our Western garment importers!

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    • Silk cocoons. Fabric made of silk is often used to make Indian apparel.
      By: phiseksit
      Silk cocoons. Fabric made of silk is often used to make Indian apparel.
    • Many Indian women wear saris.
      By: davidevison
      Many Indian women wear saris.
    • The kurta, a type of long shirt, is a common article of clothing in India.
      By: s4sanchita
      The kurta, a type of long shirt, is a common article of clothing in India.