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What are the Different Types of Indian Apparel?

Indian apparel is a vibrant tapestry of colors, patterns, and textures, reflecting a rich cultural heritage. From the elegant saree to the versatile salwar kameez, each piece tells a story of tradition and modernity. Intrigued? Discover how the regal sherwani and the festive lehenga choli contribute to India's sartorial splendor. Ready to explore the depths of India's fashion legacy?
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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common traditional garments worn by women in India?

The kurta, a type of long shirt, is a common article of clothing in India.
The kurta, a type of long shirt, is a common article of clothing in India.

Indian women commonly wear a variety of traditional garments that reflect the country's rich cultural heritage. The saree, a long piece of cloth draped elegantly around the body, is perhaps the most iconic. Salwar kameez, consisting of a tunic top and pants, offers comfort and versatility, while the lehenga choli, a long skirt with a cropped top and scarf, is often worn for special occasions. Each of these garments can be found in countless fabrics, patterns, and styles, representing the diverse regions of India.

How do Indian men traditionally dress?

Traditional Indian attire for men varies across regions but typically includes garments like the dhoti, a long piece of cloth wrapped around the waist and legs, often paired with a kurta, a loose-fitting shirt that reaches the knees. In Northern India, men might wear a sherwani, a long coat-like garment worn for formal occasions, or a bandhgala, a tailored suit that exudes elegance. These outfits are crafted from various materials and can range from simple cottons to rich silks, often adorned with intricate embroidery or patterns.

Are there any specific Indian garments for particular regions or states?

Yes, Indian apparel is highly region-specific, reflecting the diverse cultures and climates of the country. For instance, in Punjab, the Phulkari embroidery is renowned, often seen on dupattas and shawls. Kerala is known for its white and gold Kasavu sarees, while the state of Gujarat is famous for its colorful Ghagra cholis and mirror work. Rajasthan is celebrated for its Bandhani tie-dye technique, and Kashmir for its luxurious Pashmina shawls. Each state has its unique textile traditions and styles, contributing to India's rich tapestry of apparel.

What are some of the fabrics commonly used in Indian clothing?

Indian clothing is made from a wide array of fabrics, each chosen for its texture, drape, and climate suitability. Cotton is widely used for its breathability, especially in the hot Indian climate. Silk, known for its luxurious sheen and texture, is often reserved for festive and bridal wear. Wool and Pashmina are preferred in colder regions like Kashmir. Artisans also work with blends and innovative textiles, but traditional fabrics like Khadi, a hand-spun and hand-woven cloth, remain symbols of India's rich textile history.

How has Indian apparel influenced global fashion?

Indian apparel has had a significant impact on global fashion, with its rich colors, intricate embroidery, and unique silhouettes inspiring designers worldwide. Elements like the mandarin collar, inspired by the Nehru jacket, have been incorporated into modern menswear. The use of block prints, paisley patterns, and mirror work has permeated Western fashion, adorning everything from dresses to accessories. Indian designers have also gained international acclaim, bringing traditional Indian aesthetics to the global stage and influencing the broader fashion industry with their innovative designs and use of heritage craftsmanship.

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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.