When stepping off a plane in India, one of the first things that become apparent is that the Indian women love colour. Everywhere you look, you will see a rainbow of women adorned in the brightest colours imaginable. When these beautiful colours are combined with a variety of different materials, the clothing becomes an art form unto itself; making Indian women envied the world over. But the elaborate costumes have not always been this way but rather have evolved along with the culture and religious practices of the people.
Clothing in India varies from region to region depending on the ethnicity, geography, climate and cultural traditions of the area. Historically, men and women's clothing have evolved from simple Langotas and loincloths to elaborate costumes not only used in daily wear but also on festive occasions and rituals dance performances. While it is common to see western style clothing on the streets of major cities, India's abundance of weavers with access to many different fibres, colours and material of clothing means that traditional clothing is far more plentiful.
Two of the most well known outfits in India are the saree and Salwar Kameez. The sari is undoubtedly the most famous outfit of India and is a long, unstitched piece of cloth, around 5 and a half meters long that is draped in a set pattern that is usually in a style of a skirt with the excess material then being draped diagonally across the body and over the shoulder. The mid-riff is usually exposed however, the way of draping a saree differs from place to place. In the north, the sari is worn in the more traditional, loose fitting manner compared to the south particularly in Mumbai where the Bollywood film industry has heavily influenced and contemporised the style of clothing. Here, the sari is wrapped tightly around a women's chest (still with the excess draped over the shoulder) giving the appearance more of a one piece dress. The sari is usually worn with a short blouse that covers the upper part of the body and underneath it is the petticoat, which helps to tuck in the pleats of the saree to hold it in place.
The Salway Kameez, while not as famous as the saree, has steadily become the most popular form of dress in India, particularly amongst younger women. It is traditional for women in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and consists of loose trousers (the salwar) narrow at the ankles, topped by a tunic top (the kameez) and women generally wear shawl with salwar kameez to cover their head and shoulders. It was introduced by the Muslims and originates from the Islamic era or Old Iranian culture. The salwar kameez is most common in the north-western part of India and is often worn by actresses in Bollywood films.
If you would like to experience India's fashion first hand and maybe even bring some home with you, our India Online travel specialists can help you build your own independent India travel adventure. Experience the diversity India has to offer with its combination of majestic forts, spiritual temples, golden beaches and vast deserts.
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