The History of Traditional Indian Clothing

Indian clothing has been evolving for an extremely long time. In fact, the first evidence of spinning and dying cotton cloth dates back some 7,000 years to the ancient Indus Valley civilization. Over the years, its inhabitants left clues about Indian Customs, Culture, and Fashion through epic sagas such as the Mahabharata and grandiose rock sculptures including the world-famous Ellora caves. Indeed, clothing is as much a part of Indian history as food and religion (or even cricket!).

Since these early beginnings, the subcontinent has produced a plethora of finely woven garments, with distinct styles for both men and women found right throughout. Gender and geography aside, it is class and caste which has the most heavily defined Indian dress. The upper echelons of society continue to don golden ornaments and fine threads such as Munin, while those at the bottom are forced to be considerably more refined.

Over time, outside influences such as trading via the Silk Road, colonization by Britain, and homogenization from the West have diminished the prevalence of traditional dress in India. Nevertheless, ancient traditions remain strong throughout the country, and – even today – can still be seen adorning the bodies of its proud traditional inhabitants.

Indian Women clothing

Indian women dress in modest and colorful clothing, taking great care not to expose too much skin no matter how humid the climate may be.

1-  The Sari (Saree)

The most ubiquitous piece of feminine Indian attire is a classic and colorful sari. Indeed, a regional variation of the archetypal outfit can be found across all corners of the subcontinent. Although it may look similar to a dress, the sari is actually a long piece of cloth – ranging from 13 to 30 feet – which is wrapped snugly around the woman’s body. Most choose to start from the waist and finish around the shoulders to leave the midriff exposed, although each region has a slightly different wrapping style. Special occasions such as weddings warrant a more elaborate pink or red shade of the sari.

2-  Mundum Neriyathum

The ancient original form of the sari is the Mundum Neriyathum, a similar design that was only intended to cover the legs. Still in use today, the Mundum Neriyathum comes from the hot and humid state of Kerala where women went about their lives topless until the arrival of Muslims from the Middle East. These days, of course, a lightweight top is worn up above.

3-  Salwaar Kameez

The other famous piece of appeal for Indian women is the Salwaar Kameez. Although at first glance it may appear similar to the sari, the costume is remarkably different. Rather than a wraparound cloth, it’s a complete dress ensemble. The outfit includes the Salwaar, loose trousers that become tighter around the ankles, as well as the kameez, an intricately decorated tunic. To finish off the look, many women prefer to add a dupatta or odani, a unique type of veil which covers their head and shoulders.

The Salwaar Kameez originated in northwest India, particularly the provinces of Punjabi and Himachal Pradesh. These days, however, the in-vogue outfit can be found virtually anywhere in the country and has become increasingly popular with the movie stars of Bollywood.

Indian Men Clothing

Traditional men’s clothing in India is often adapted to suit the climate. Don’t be surprised to see males wearing what appear to be skirted.

1-  Dhoti

Few outfits of Indian clothing are as ubiquitous as the dhoti. Considered India’s national dress, its practicality has rapidly led it to become the unofficial uniform of the country’s countless outlying villages. City slickers sometimes take a liking to the whitewashed outfit as well, which consists of a long sleeve shirt on top and a sarong wrapped around the waist.

Above all else, the energy-efficient design is a hit in warmer regions because it provides substantial relief from the blazing midday sun. Other colors and combinations are typically worn on special events and occasions.

2-  Nehru jacket

As eclectic as Indian clothing is, these exotic styles rarely find their way into wardrobes overseas. One exception is the Nehru jacket, a slim fit blazer that somewhat resembles the executive suits of the West. After becoming a staple of Indian men’s formalwear in the ’40s, it eventually began piquing the interest of trendsetters overseas.

International adoption reached a fever pitch after the Beatles started wearing the garment upon returning from a creative and meditative holiday in Rishikesh at the height of their career. The Nehru has since been spotted on everyone from the Monkeys to villains in James Bond. Funnily enough, India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, never actually wore the jacket which would later bear his name. He was more fond of a slightly different style known as the sherwani.

3-  Achkan and Sherwani

Despite their striking regal nature, these two staples of Indian formalwear are mostly indistinguishable to the outsider. Both elegant ensembles entail a suit-like jacket worn over either tight-fitting trousers or a wraparound dhoti. The primary difference between these and the Nehru jacket is that the former are much longer, hanging down below the knees rather than the upper thighs.

4-  Lungi

First-time visitors to India might be surprised to see so many men wearing a white wraparound cloth, which is not unlike the sarong. There is a good reason for it, though. Before the arrival of the monsoon season, most of India becomes oppressively hot. Many men prefer the Lungi over trousers for the extra aeration the garment provides. This added comfort has become so highly sought-after that the article has been adopted in neighboring Asian countries as well.

Accessories and headgear

Perhaps the most striking aspect of traditional Indian clothing is the many exotic headdresses and accessories which adorn both men and women alike. In many regions, the men don large turbans that vary in color and style according to religious and cultural preferences.

The women, on the other hand, are better known for their infatuation with jewelry. Noses, ears, mouths and belly buttons are all frequently pierced and embroiled with an array of glistening gems and golden chains. But who could forget the bangle? A benchmark piece of Indian jewelry that some women wear a dozen or more.

You won’t spend a fortune in putting together an exciting Indian wardrobe, and you’ll receive plenty of smiles and goodwill from the friendly locals you’ll meet along the way.

                                    Jammu & Kashmir

Costumes of Jammu and Kashmir are well known for their embroidery and intricate designs, which reflects the richness of the culture and landscape of the region. The form of clothing is designed to counter the cold climate of the region. Most of the garments are made of wool, silk designed with intricate embroideries and cotton.

The traditionally Poots & Pheran is the most popular form of dress among both men and women With Mughal type Turbans, headgear, Taranga Belt of Pashmina and colored scarf.

Costumes of Kashmiri Women

The Pheran is the prominent attire for Kashmiri women. The Pheran worn by women usually has Zari, embroidery on the hem line, around pockets and mostly on the collar area. Ladies prefer suit and Burgha in summer and Pheran are preferred in autumn.

For Hindu Women

Pheran

The Hindus women of Kashmir wear their Pherans long, stretching up to their feet with narrow sleeves cloths which is turned on the bottom side. Often, the Pherans are wrapped tightly on waist by a piece of creased cloth called Lungi. The Hindu women, started wearing the saree now But as per the culture of the Kashmir region, they have to wear taranga on their marriage day.

Headdress – Taranga

The headdress of a Kashmiri woman is a brightly colored scarf or Taranga, that is stitched to a suspended cap and it narrows down at the back, towards the heels. The Taranga is an integral part of the wedding attire among Hindus.

Jewelry

Earrings, anklets and bangles are widely used apart from the use of ornamentation in clothing. Dejharoos or golden pendants (the Kashmiri panditani’s mangal-sutra) are worn by the Hindu women. These Dejharoos comprise two decorative gold pendants which are suspended through gold chains or silk threads. It is symbolic of a woman’s married status among the Kashmiri Pandits.

For Muslim Women

Pheran

The Pherans worn by the Muslim women are traditionally characterized by their broad sleeves and reach up to the knees. Elaborate Zari embroideries or floral patterns around the neck and the pockets are a prominent feature of a Muslim woman`s Pheran. With Brocade patterns adorn their long sleeves. The Pherans are wrapped tightly by a piece of creased cloth called Lungi or Pashmina shawl.

Headgears

They wear a head gear that looks very distinctive from the taranga. The head gear is in red color, they tie it round their forehead like a turban and they also use trinkets and silver pins to tie it tightly. The traditional headgears are made of fine wool and are thick keeping the people warm in the extremities of winter climate in Kashmir.

The red headgears known as the Kasaba and abaya. It is worn by the Muslim women as a part of their regular attire, and the Abaya is also commonly worn by them.

The Muslim girls who are unmarried, wear the skullcaps which are decorated by the embroidery made by gold thread and ornament it by using trinkets, pendants and amulets.

Jewelry

The Muslim women are quite fond of wearing a bunch of earrings. Silver jewelry is popular among the Muslim women and they adorn themselves with neckpieces, bracelets and heavily jeweled chains.

Costumes of Kashmiri Men

Kashmiri – Men Pheran

The typical dress of a Kashmiris man both Hindu and Muslim is Pheran, a long loose gown hanging down below the knees. The men wear a skullcap, a close-fitting shalwar (Muslims) or churidar pajama (Pandits). The traditional Hindu male garment pheran is always plain and has narrow sleeves and a left side breast- open collar with a kind of lapel or lace emerging from it.

The Pheran is a loosely fitted woolen garment which makes use of the Kangri. The Kangri is an earthen vessel which is filled with flaming coal. The Pathani Suit, also referred to as Khan-dress, is popular among the Muslim men, especially in Srinagar.

Turbans for Muslim Male

Turbans are common among Muslim men. Skull caps are prevalent, especially among the peasants and the Karakuli. Fur skull caps with the Pashmina shawls worn by men often symbolize royal lineage. The Muslim men wear lace-free shoes known as Gurgabis.

Headgear of Hindu Male

The turban is the traditional headgear of the Kashmiri Pandit males, though its use is very restricted now. This turban is not much different from the turban the Muslims wear except that the Pandits do not wear any scalp cap inside. The priest class among the Pandits would wear their turbans in almost the Namdhari Sikh style.

Gujjars

The people who live on the hilly region of Kashmir are known as Gujjars. The women of Gujjar community wear the Kashmir dress which is similar with the dresses of women who live in the Turkish village. The Gujjar women are dressed in loose sleeved tunics (a full skirt) but they like loose sleeves with baggy salwars. They also wear a thick curtain over their face, which is long till their shoulders. The hair of the Gujjar woman, are knotted with more than one plaits, which they like to hang on the front side.

Dogras

Located in Kashmir state’s mountain valley, on the southern side which is extended till the Punjab’s plains. These people are the existence of the Aryans which normally wear the woolen of gray color and pajamas which are loose in fitting. They also wear the Kamarband or waist belt. Dogras women wear a loose tunic, dupatta, churidars salwar and also a cap, which makes their personality charming. Similar Dogara Men wear fitted pajamas and kurtas of considerable length. The use of kamarbands and turban are prominent among the Dogra elders.

Punjab- Traditional Dresses of Punjab

Punjab contains one of the oldest and the richest cultures in the world which is exhibited in every possible way. It is enveloped with bright colors and high- spirited people that can be best expressed through their traditional garbs.

Here is a list of the traditional dresses of Punjab and the significance in their culture.

1. Phulkari – Floral Heritage of Punjab

Phulkari, which means ‘flower craft’ has been nestled in the culture of Punjab that goes back to the 15th century. Its bright colors are embroidered in a manner that speaks volumes about the women and their clothing desires. It famously appeared in the tear-jerking love story of Heer-Ranjha by Waris Shah and the creative art of embroidery has not changed its technique since the introduction. Women of all ages and classes don this cloth that reflects their life through the various colors entrenched on it. It can be woven on shawls, Kurtas, Dupattas, and Lehengas with eye-catching blends of intricate patterns and is worn on all occasions by the women of traditional Punjab.

2. Jutti – The Flamboyant Footwear of the Punjabis

The Jutti or the Punjabi Jutti has been a part of the royalty of the Kings for 400 years and is traditionally embroidered on leather in real gold or silver threads. One of the unique features of this handcrafted footwear is that it has no left or the right side distinction and can be worn on any foot of choice. Being worn by the men and women of Punjab, it is the most comfortable and stylish flat-soled footwear worn mostly at weddings and festivals. It brims with shimmer and extensive embroidery that contains the heritage of Punjab.

3. Patiala Salwar – Furled up Beauty – Traditional Dress of PunjabThis baggy and pleated trouser has its roots in the city of Punjab called Patiala and was initially donned by men but later became a part of women’s attire as well. It is usually combined with a Kurti and a chunni for women with a draping pattern at the back.Involving various modern designs, it still keeps in touch with the tradition it was introduced with. It is one of the easiest and comfortable dresses worn by the Punjabi women united with grace and style.

 4.The Jama – The Flared Up Piece of ClothThe Jama is a long piece was worn by the men in the Punjab region during the Mughal period. Tight from the torso flaring up like a skirt at the ankle or the knees, it is worn with a turban on the head reflecting royalty and the majestic nature of the kings. It was originally a dress for the men but was also worn by women with tight-fitting pyjama. Characterized by the long sleeves and tied under the armpits, it allows freedom of movement, making it another comfortable traditional attire of Punjab.

5.  Punjabi Ghagra – Adding Richness to the Femininity of PunjabOne of the few traditional dresses that has been modernized is the Punjabi ghagra which is a part of a four-piece outfit originated in Punjab but is now worn in Haryana and parts of Himachal Pradesh. This attire is mostly donned during ‘Giddha’ a famous folk dance of Punjab performed by women to twirl around in mesmeric colors while singing folk songs reminiscent of its culture.

6. Parandi – The braided accessoryBedecked with jewelry and colorful threads, Parandi or Paranda is a hair accessory used by the women of Punjab. In addition to that, it also symbolizes love when a bride receives it from her husband as a form of affection. In older times, women wore Parandis to enhance their traditional beauty and make their hair look longer in the simplest way possible by intricately weaving threads together and tying it to their long and lush hair. Parandis come in different sizes and colors and can be adorned with ornaments like necklaces, tikka, bangles and golden shimmer added to the tip of it. It exhibits exuberance of the women of Punjab and is extensively used by women all across India.

7. Kurta PyjamaThe most popular traditional wear of Punjabi men includes Kurta and Pyjama. Kurta is a long shirt with slashes on both the side and long sleeves. Pajamas are loose baggy pants tied with a drawstring. However, the kurta can be worn with lungi, dhoti or jeans.

                              Haryana

Traditional Dresses Of Haryana

Haryana is one of the most economically developed regions in South Asia and one of the wealthiest states in India. But the people of Haryana are simple, humble and down to earth. Majority of Haryanvis are occupied in the agricultural sector and are vegetarians. They lead simple lives. The same could be said about their attires. Their clothing is practical and straightforward. Men wear dhoti kurtas and women wear kurta lehenga. Communities wear their attires in a different manner. While men are usually found wearing white, women of different castes were vivid, colorful attires.

Men’s Wear Dhoti

The Haryanvi men wear ‘dhoti’ for trousers. Dhoti is a long piece of rectangular cloth, which is wrapped around the waist and legs and tucked in from the center of the waistline. The loose ends are tucked in from the behind for a better fit. The men of Haryana wear white coloured dhoti and kurta as wearing white a s status symbol for them.

Different castes (Rajput, Brahman, Bania, Ahir and Jat) wear dhotis in a different manner.

Kurta or shirt

The men wear a kurta or a shirt over their torsos. The kurta or shirts are usually white in color.

 Pagri

Pagris is a turban or a headgear for the men. It is a rolled piece of long cloth wrapped around the head. Although now fully stitched pagris are available which are required to be worn as simple as a hat.

However, in recent times, only the older men are found wearing pagris.

Shoes

The traditional footwear of Haryana is jutti. Juttis are an Indian style footwear and are similar to mojaris. Juttis are closed shoes only till front half of the feet and thus are easy to wear. Juttis are made out of leather with various designs on them in North India. Even jutti made out of jute is famous.

Blanket