Indian clothing is very colorful. Each state has its own special costumes, but there are
several styles common throughout the country. Women traditionally wear the sari with a stitched blouse,
a long skirt called a ghaghra, or loose pants and a tunic known as a salwar khameez. But women today, especially
in cities, may also wear western styles such as skirts or dresses, blouses, and pants. Men have their traditional
costumes as well, but most now wear a light shirt and pants just as in western countries.
The sari is one of the most common and oldest forms of dress for women in India. Many regional
costumes are variations on this basic style. The fabric is either silk or cotton. Saris can be a solid color or
patterned; some are embroidered or hand dyed. Others are covered in tiny mirrors or metalic decoration.
A sari is made of 6 metres of cloth that is wrapped to form a skirt and then draped over the shoulder. It is worn with a stitched, fitted blouse called a choli. To wear a sari, a woman begins to tuck one end of the fabric into a matching petticoat and wraps it all the way around her waist. She then pleats the fabric and tucks them all together into the front of the petticoat. The remaining fabric is draped over her blouse and shoulder, falling behind her. This end, called the pallav, is often decorated with detailed patterns or embroidery.
Ghaghra cholis are another type of dress for women. A long pleated skirt (the ghaghra) is worn with a
long or short stitched and fitted blouse (the choli). They are most often worn in western states, but can be
seen all over the country. Both the ghaghra and the chli are beaded or covered with tiny mirrors. Sometimes they
are dyed in detailed patterns.
Many young women today wear modern variations of the traditional ghaghra choli for special occasions. They may now have as many as four pieces: the skirt, the choli, a long scarf draped over the shoulders or head, and a long sleeveless "jacket" framing the outfit. Sometimes the choli is decoratively laced in the front or back.
Indian women are often seen wearing salwar khameez. This outfit is made of a long tunic called a khameez
and loose pants called salwar. Salwar khameez originated in northern India, but soon spread across the country.
Like other forms of clothing in India, the salwar khameez can be richly decorated or simple for everyday use.
They are made of silk or cotton, and usually worn with a scarf called an odhni.
The salwar khameez has gone through many variations depending on the changing fashions. Sometimes the pyjamas are loose and baggy, only gathered at the ankles. Other styles are closely fitted and almost like leggings. The tunic can also vary: long and flared or short and straight. Women today often wear some version of the salwar khameeze when relaxing at home, since the costume is very comfortable and practical for daily use.
Men today usually wear a cotton tailored shirt and western style pants. Depending on their job, they may
wear suits to work as well. But men's traditional clothing is as interesting and detailed as women. It is
still regularly worn in smaller towns and rural areas.
The dhoti is a piece of cloth wrapped around the legs and tucked into the waist to form pants. It is usually white and worn during religious ceremonies. Another choice is the kurta and chudidaar. Similar to the women's salwar khameez, it is made of stiched pants in silk or cotton that are gathered at the ankle (chudidaar or payjama) and a long, straight tunic (jhabha or kurta).
To top of page
To top of page