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India – known for its hand-woven textiles,
richly embroidered fabrics, authentic drapes in exclusive
designs have been prized by western civilization for
centuries. Indian men and women have always loved to dress
up in their traditional costumes, attires and accessories
during festivals and other occasions which are an integral
part of Indian life. Recently, Indian costumes have been
successful in attracting the attention of and capturing the
global market.

Indian clothing has been influenced by diverse cultural
influences since time immemorial. The sari itself,
historians say dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization
which flourished in 2800-1800 BC, in the north-western part
of India. In fact studies show that the men’s dhoti is a
prototype of the sari and both the sexes wore the former
till the 14th century. The choli or the woman’s blouse is
believed to have come into existence with the various
European colonial powers that once occupied a major portion
of the Indian subcontinent. The British did influence
women’s clothing to a great extent. Indian high society
ladies started wearing long-sleeved blouses with frills,
very similar to the Victorian upper garment, during the late
19th and early 20th centuries.

Historians say that the achkan, a long-sleeved coat worn
mainly by Muslim men even today, originated in Central Asia,
more specifically, it was the court costume for Persian and
Turkish nobles. The achkan can reach down to the knees or
even lower, and is buttoned in the front.

The Sari
The sari is the traditional garment of an Indian woman. It
is an unstitched piece of cloth, which varies from five to
nine yards in length and can be worn in different styles. A
sari is worn over a petticoat and a short-sleeved
midriff-baring blouse. The most popular style of wearing a
sari is by tucking one end into the petticoat at the waist
while a major portion of it is pleated neatly and tucked in
the front. The rest of the sari, which is known as the pallu
or pallav is taken over the left shoulder. The pallu is the
most fascinating and striking feature of a sari, it is often
heavily embellished with woven motifs or embroidery.

However, this authentic Indian garment has lost some of its
popularity as daily wear in the recent past. The western
outfits have made an inroad into the Indian woman’s wardrobe
due to a shift towards rapid globalization and emerging
corporate culture. Today, women prefer to wear clothes that
offer ease of movement in addition to style. Also, with the
boom in the retail industry Indians have a wider variety of
options to pick and choose from and women are being
increasingly seen in designer outfits western style outfits.

The Saris of India
This elegant drape of India comes in varied textures and
styles. For most formal occasions one finds women both the
middle-class and the elite looking their best – in a
graceful sari! The materials may vary from crisp cottons,
rich silks to synthetics and chiffons, but the final overall
look is simply elegant and matchless. Did you know that
every region of India has a distinct sari of its own, very
much influenced by their particular social milieu and

Some well-known regional styles of wearing a sari:
Bengali: In the traditional Bengali style, the sari is
draped around the body without pleats and the pallu is left
loose by hanging over the left shoulder often with a bunch
of keys attached to it. The earlier generations of Bengali
women preferred the style because of its sheer simplicity
and utmost comfort.

Gujarati: The Gujarati woman sports a distinctive
style, as she wears a sari with a neatly pleated pallu
brought in front over the right shoulder with one end tucked
around the waist to the left.

Maharashtrian: A nine-yard sari called the nawwadi is
the traditional style very similar to the men’s dhoti. The
pleats of the sari are placed between the legs and tucked in
the centre back. Fisherwomen in the coastal regions of
Maharashtra still wear a nawwadi and well, it is worn
without a petticoat!

Madrasi: This style is very similar to the
Maharashtrian nawwadi or the nine-yard sari. The pallu is
quite long and wrapped around the waist and tucked in.

Some important varieties of Indian saris:
Banarasi: These saris are made of finely woven silk
and have intricate designs done in golden thread (zari).
Benarasi saris are relatively heavy and worn by Indian women
on important occasions. The trousseau of any Indian bride is
deemed incomplete without the customary red Benarasi sari.
In fact in most states the Benarasi is the sari that the
bride wears for the wedding ceremony

Baluchari: The Baluchari sari of Vishnupur in West
Bengal is made of silk and woven on special looms. The
borders and pallu of the sari are very striking because of
its use of intricate thread work to depict stories from the
Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Chanderi: Chanderi, a small town located in Madhya
Pradesh has long been famous for its hand woven sarees. Silk
or cotton is used to make a chanderi which is combined to
create beautiful saris with artistic borders that are
practically weightless. They generally have a rich gold
border and the exclusive ones have gold checks with butis
(round shaped motifs) all over.

Dhakai: The dhakai jamdani sari originated in the
region now known as Bangladesh and is made with superior
quality cotton. It was originally woven as the legendary
dhakai muslin and woven with beautiful, eye-catching

Kantha: Literally speaking, kantha is a style of
embroidery that uses the simple running stitch which is
nothing but passing the needle in and out of the fabric to
produce beautiful floral or abstract patterns. Did you know
that it all started as a form of recycling of old cloth to
produce the traditional quilts and bedspreads made from old
saris and large pieces of used cloth. This type of
embroidery was an art practiced by Bengali women in their
spare time. In the small town of Bolpur in West Bengal,
famous for producing saris with kantha embroidery, each sari
is a labour of love, taking a long time to complete, as much
depends on the skill and precision of the artisans.

Dhonekhali, and Begumpuri are other popular styles of saris
made on handlooms in Bengal. Dhonekhali is known for its
stripes and checks. Bengal being a coastal state, the fish
is a much loved and commonplace motif. Consequently
Dhonekhali sarees often depict rows of fish running across
in horizontal stripes throughout the piece of textile. Over
the years, the distinctive patterns have merged as weavers
started experimenting with various combinations of design
and yarn, so much so, it is now difficult to distinguish
between the various styles, unless one is an expert on

Kanjeevaram: These are considered to be the most
spectacular and exclusive silk saris of India. The little
town of Kancheepuram near Chennai has been making these
saris for over 400 years. Woven in brilliant colours and the
designs Kanjeevarams are influenced by the paintings in the
Pallava temples and palaces. The most striking
characteristic of a Kanjeevaram is its zari ( thread made of
fine gold or silver) work done on pallus and borders of the
sari. Not surprisingly, the more the zari work the more
expensive will be your Kanjeevaram! In recent times,
Kanjeevarams are being experimented with patterns from the
Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bhagwad Gita.

Mysore Silk: Mysore silk saris of Karnataka are
famous for their traditional designs and colours. The zari
work on the pallus and borders add to the sophistication and
elegance of these saris. Mysore silk saris are considered to
be very durable and can be washed and worn as often as

Maheshwari: Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, this sari
has a natural sophistication that is difficult to match. The
speciality of these saris is its unique striped and
chequered patterns on silk and cotton fabrics. The pallu of
a Maheshwari sari bears five stripes, three coloured and two

Narayanpet: Narayanpet, a small town in Andhra Pradesh is a
significant sari manufacturing centre. These saris come in
both silk and cotton and are well known for their gorgeous
zari borders with rudraksh (a special type of fruit) motifs.
The pallu in these saris are very attractive with
alternating coloured bands.

Pochampally: Located in Andhra Pradesh, Pochampally
is famous for its rich saris in both cotton and silk
incorporating traditional ikat weaves. Ikat is the name
given to a weaving technique which makes use of the tie-dye
process. In this method, the yarn is first dyed and then
sent for weaving.

Paithani: In Maharashtra, a woman’s wardrobe is
deemed incomplete without the inclusion of the Paithani of
Paithan, a small town near Aurangabad. The hand-woven silk
sari comes with an ornamented pallu with zari work and is
considered to be a collector’s item. The style of the sari
is characterized by the pallus with peacock designs and
exclusive motifs such as flowers, fruits and birds.

Taant: The word literally means ‘made on the loom’,
Taant is the traditional sari of Bengali women in India.
Popularly known as Bengal cotton, taant is hand-woven in
various districts of West Bengal. These saris come in a
variety of colours with simple yet beautiful designs.

Shantipuri: Shantipur, a small town situated in the
Nadia district of West Bengal is famed for its fine cotton
saris. These saris are woven on the looms by the taantis
(weavers) of the town and come in soft colours. Once upon a
time, the Shantipuri dhuti (the rectangular piece of
unstitched garment for men) were preferred by all Bengali
bridegrooms and their relatives.

Tangail: Tangail is a district in what is today known
as Bangladesh. The traditional tangail saris have borders
with the lotus or a lamp pattern. These are now being made
in the Phulia district of West Bengal.

Venkatgiri: Venkatgiri is a small town in the Nellore
district of Andhra Pradesh. Known for its fine cotton saris
which go by the same name, it is a perfect wear for the
Indian summer. The main characteristic of these saris are
their beautiful jewel-like colours.

Other costumes for women:
Salwar Kameez: It is the outfit commonly worn by
Indian women and is second in line after the sari. The
outfit is probably born out of Islamic influence especially
that of Arabic and Persian cultures. Women all over the
country prefer this dress mainly because of the comfort and
ease of movement that it offers, besides near zero

A salwar is a pair of loose pyjamas held together with a
drawstring around the waist. It also comes in another
version – very tight and narrow at the bottom with numerous
extra folds gathered at the ankles. This is popularly known
as a churidar. In Punjab, the women wear a patiala salwar
which falls around the legs in innumerable pleats resembling
a dhoti. A kameez is a long shirt, either loose or
tight-fitting and comes in a straight or A-line shape. It is
slit along the sides to allow freedom of movement. A salwar
kameez is incomplete without a dupatta, which is a long
piece of cloth to cover the bosom, but mostly used like a

Ghaghra / Lehenga Choli: A ghagra or a lehenga is a
long gathered gypsy skirt with dazzling embroidery or mirror
work and comes in vibrant colours. It is worn with a choli,
which is a short closely fitted woman’s blouse that shows
off the midriff, or a kurti (shorter version of a kurta).
Some cholis can be fastened at the back by means of narrow
strips of cloth or chords. An odhni or a dupatta (scarf)
with intricate designs complements the outfit. Women in
Rajasthan and Gujarat don this beautiful and highly sensuous
outfit. Dressier versions are teamed with chunky silver
jewellery during festivals and other important occasions.

Some Interesting Regional Costumes:
Mekhla Chadar: The mekhla chadar is the traditional
attire of the women of Assam, a state in the North-East
India. It is a two-piece ensemble and resembles the sari –
the lower part, called a mekhla is neatly pleated and tucked
into the petticoat in the front. The upper piece, called a
chadar is also tucked at the waist and taken over the left
shoulder as a pallu. A typical mekhla chadar is made of
white or golden Assamese silk with prominent thread work
done in red along the lower border.

Traditional sari from Kerala: During the festival of Onam,
women wear a two-piece garment very similar to a sari, with
a blouse. It is worn in the same fashion as a sari but
without pleats in the front. This drape usually comes in
shades of white or sandalwood with a bright gold border.

Phiran: The people in the state of Jammu and Kashmir
wear a traditional beautiful long sleeved tunic known as
phiran. Phirans are made of woollen fabric to keep the
wearer warm during the severe winters of the valley. A
woman’s phiran is stylish with colourful embroidery at the
cuffs, neck and edges. Interestingly, a phiran is unisex in
nature and worn by all sections of the Kashmiri society. The
men’s phiran is more sombre, in grey or brown fabric with
little or no embroidery.

Tribal Costumes:
The North-East happens to be one of the most diverse and
culturally vibrant regions of India. It comprises the seven
beautiful states more popularly called the “Seven Sisters”,
inhabited by as many as 166 different tribes pursuing their
unique lifestyles.

Arunachal Pradesh: Men in Arunachal Pradesh believe
in simple dressing styles. Their wardrobe mainly consists of
lungis woven in red and black yarn, a jacket and a turban.
Arunachali women wear a piece of cloth that covers the body
from the shoulders till the knees. They complement the wrap
with a full-sleeved coat and an attractive sash, locally
called muhkak, tied around their waist.

Meghalaya: The Khasi and Garo tribes of Meghalaya are
the most prominent tribes of the state. A Khasi man can be
identified by his unstitched lower garment or a dhoti,
jacket and a turban. Khasi women wear a two-piece cloth
pinned on each shoulder and a shawl, which are called
jainsem and tapmoh respectively. Garo women on the other
hand wear a blouse and tie a long unstitched piece of cloth
called dakmanda around their waist. It is hand-woven, having
a 6-10 inch border with floral motifs. A Jaintia woman
dresses up in a similar manner in a blouse and a striped
sarong called thoh khyrwang.

Mizoram: Traditional costumes in Mizoram are
exclusively hand-made by the women of the household. Mizo
men wear a piece of cloth, almost 7 feet long, which is
wrapped around the body. In winter, men wear a long white
coat that is fastened at the throat and reaches up to the
thighs. These coats have beautiful patterns near the sleeves
with bands of red and white. Men also don a special kind of
headgear – wrapping a piece of cloth around the head so that
the ends fall over each ear. Mizo women wear a single piece
of cloth wrapped around the waist and reaching up to the
knees. A short white jacket with hand-woven patterns on top
completes the look of the costume.

Manipur: Manipuri women traditionally wear a blouse
and a three-piece hand-woven phanek, which very closely
resembles a wrap-around skirt. Men usually wear a single
piece of cloth almost like a lungi. A turban is a must for
the Manipuri man

Nagaland: The Nagas are classified into sixteen
tribes speaking different dialects, customs and traditional
costumes. Among the men, the costume mainly consists of a
short wrap-around skirt and a feathered headdress. Naga
women have different styles of wearing a skirt, called
mekhla, which vary with the respective tribes. For example,
the women of the Ao tribe wear a piece of cloth wrapped
around their waists like a skirt with a hand-woven top or
blouse. In some cases, just a single piece of cloth is used
to wrap the body starting from the bosom and reaching up to
the knees. The pattern mainly consists of red and black
stripes with small yellow motifs on the black stripes.

Tripura: The tribals of Tripura make their own
clothes at home. Men wear a narrow piece of cloth as a lower
garment without a shirt. The headgear comprises a turban –
just a long cloth tied around the head. Women wear two
separate pieces of cloth that are draped around the body as
an upper and lower garment respectively. The most striking
feature of the entire garment is the upper half, which is
embroidered with beautiful designs.

Some other tribal outfits of India
The Bhils residing in southwestern Rajasthan are one of the
oldest tribes in India. The dry and arid weather of the
region have very much influenced the clothing habits of this
region. Men are usually comfortable in a loincloth and
embroidered waistcoats coupled with turbans and traditional
Rajasthani shoes, curled up at the toes. Bhil women wear a
single stretch of cloth that is tucked around the waist
while the rest is used to cover the head. Wearing a blouse
among bhils is a status symbol and only married women are
expected to wear one. A variety of jewellery ranging from
beaded chokers, colourful bangles, nose-rings and an
ornament suspended from the hair to the forehead, is an
essential part of a Bhil women’s dress.

The Warlis of the Western Ghats, more popularly known as
ghatis are scattered over the coast of Maharashtra, Surat in
Gujarat and Daman. The tribe believes in minimal clothing
and men can be found in short dhotis and embroidered
waistcoats. Warli women wear saris that are short in length,
with a half-sleeved embroidered choli that is tied in a knot
in the front.

The Todas of the Nilgiris in South India are a small
population now faced with the threat of extinction. The men
of this community wear a long, loose-flowing garment
covering the entire body from shoulder to toe. This is
usually in white with red and blue borders. The women also
wear the same hand-woven garment except in the style of a
sari. Their jewellery is restricted to silver, beads and

The Santhals of West Bengal, Bihar and parts of Orissa are
basically cultivators by occupation. Santhal outfits are
again minimal where men wear a lungi whereas women wear a
short sari without a blouse, but worn to fit their bodies
snugly, without getting undone even in the most trying of

Men’s costumes:
In India, men’s everyday clothing is by and large restricted
to western wear such as trousers, shirts and formal suits.
But when it comes to festivities, it is the ethnic pajama
kurta or dhoti kurta which hold sway. Some traditional
costumes of Indian men are:

Dhoti: This remains the most traditional garment of
the Indian male. It is a 6 yard-long rectangular piece of
unstitched white cloth, which is wrapped around the waist
and between the legs. The dhoti is ideal for the torrid
summer of India. Its usage can be traced back to ancient
times. Though western outfits have replaced the dhoti over
the years, yet it remains the chosen one for Indian
festivals and weddings. It may be found in cream or off
white shades, both in cotton and silk fabrics. But today one
can find designer dhotis in different colours and designs.

A dhoti can be worn in a variety of ways and have different
names according to the style. For example, it is called a
dhuti in Bengali, veshti in Tamil and pancha in Telugu. A
dhoti is usually complemented with a kurta on top but in
southern parts of India, it is worn mostly with a shirt. An
angavastram or an unstitched piece of cloth is placed over
the left shoulder in this case. A South Indian dhoti is worn
like a lungi and often has a broad zari border. A common
sight in South India is that of men folding the dhoti up to
the knees for the purpose of comfort, during work.

In Bengal, a dhuti is worn pleated, almost touching the
ankles and tucked at the centre back. The style is such that
the other end is well folded and can be held in the right
hand. The garment is quite synonymous with the babus of
Calcutta who worked as government servants during the
British Raj. Those days the dhoti was worn with a long
shirt. It also became the symbol of the Bengali gentleman
and the elite who wore a plain dhoti kurta and discussed
politics and literature over endless cups of tea at cafes
and restaurants! Even today, Bengali men flaunt their
exclusive designer dhutis with brilliant kantha stitched
kurtas, during festivals and other occasions. Kurtas with
batik prints and Lucknawi embroidery are becoming popular

In some parts of Maharashtra, men still wear the traditional
dhoti, which is worn shorter than the way Bengalis wear it.
A white kurta and a Nehru cap completes the look of the
typical Maharashtrian man.

Lungi: This is a piece of cloth sewn in a circle and
worn around the waist like a sarong. Besides India, lungis
are popular in several communities across Asia, such as
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The most common patterns
of lungis are plain, checks or stripes. It is considered to
be a very comfortable garment among males in regions where
conditions make it impossible and uncomfortable for the men
to wear trousers all the time.

In Punjab, a lungi is also called a tehmat, which is made of
extravagant silks in an endless variety of hues and shades.
It is draped in a manner where the pleats fall in the front.
Punjabi men wear this with a long kurta and an embroidered
jacket and of course, a colourful pagdi (turban).

source : https://kembeo.com
Category : Fashion

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