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Traditional Dresses In India: Men And Women Ethnic Wear That Defines Indian Culture


In the world of latest and stylish western fashion, India has been successful in preserving its culture through traditional garments. No matter how trendy you might look but the strictly traditional outfits will always hold a special position. Sarees, salwar suits, lehenga-choli, anarkali etc., are the major traditional dresses for women in India and sherwani, kurta-pyjama, dhoti-kurta, lungi etc., are for men. The traditional dresses are not the casual wear and so, they are mostly worn on special occasions like wedding, festivals, religious functions, stage performances, and others. These dresses not only enhance one's look but also define the culture.

So, let us take a look at the traditional dresses worn by men and women in India.

Traditional Dresses Of Men In India

Sherwani and kurta-pyajama are the main traditional dresses of men in India. However, dhoti-kurta, lungi, angarkha, kurta-jacket are the other traditional wear, worn by Indian men during festivals and wedding functions. Check them here.

1. Sherwani

Sherwani is the main traditional dress for Indian groom. A sherwani is a knee-length coat, which features button-down detailing and Nehru collar. It's usually full-sleeved and is worn with churidar or dhoti pants. Though sherwani comes in various colours but cream, golden, and ivory colours are ideal for groom. They are embroidered with golden or silver thread. Most of the grooms wear an embroidered shawl too.

Source- Manyavar

2. Kurta-Pyjama

Kurta-pyajma is a traditional fashion staple for men, especially for festivals, haldi ceremonies, or any other special occasions. A kurta is an upper garment, which may be knee-length or below knee-length. It can be plain or embroidered, full-sleeved or half-sleeved. A kurta is worn with pyjama that may be churidar or loose like trousers.

Source- Suniel Shetty

3. Dhoti-Kurta

Dhoti is the national traditional dress of men in India. It's from four to six feet long and white in colour. It's a bottom-wear, which is wrapped around the waist, sometimes with the help of a belt. A dhoti is usually worn with a white kurta. It's sometimes also paired with a classic white shirt by the men in India.

4. Lungi

A dhoti is also called as lungi in Karnataka. It's a traditional garment, popular in South India. A lungi is a piece of garment, which is worn in two different ways. Either it's wrapped over the waist till ankle-length or is tied till the knee. Lungi comes in two types - one is open while the other is stitched. An open lungi is a plain piece, which is wrapped by the men on their own whereas a stitched lungi is easier to wear as it doesn't require technique.

Source- Manyavar

5. Kurta-Jacket

A kurta-jacket is the modern take on kurta-pyjama. Actually, it is kurta-pyjama only but to enhance the look, a third piece of garment called jacket is added. The jacket is worn over the full-sleeved kurta. A jacket is generally sleeveless, embroidered or printed, and is up to waist-length. It also features button-down detailing and sometimes pocket-square.

Source- Kartik Aaryan

6. Angarkha

Angrakha is another traditional upper garment of men, which features overlap-detailing and is tied to the left or right shoulder. It is generally full-sleeved and features slits or asymmetrical hem. The angarkha looks super stylish and is ideally paired with dhoti pants by the men of modern generation. However, it suits perfectly well with plain pants or churidars too.

Traditional Dresses Of Women In India

Saree is the main traditional dress worn by women all over India. Lehenga-choli, salwar-kameez, phiran, anarkali are the other traditional dresses. Sharara, gharara, crop top-skirt, and churidar are the newly-introduced ethnic outfits, which have slowly and steadily made their place in the list of traditional wear. Check them here.

7. Saree

As mentioned, saree comes at the top of the list, when we talk about traditional dresses in India. A saree is a one-piece fabric, which ranges from four to nine meters in length. It is wrapped around the waist over a petticoat by making pleats at the bottom and then the pallu is draped over the shoulder. There are various styles of draping a pallu. However, the casual draping and the nivi style are the most common drapes. A saree is paired with a blouse that is upper wear. Usually, women used to wear simple round-collar blouse but now, they prefer halter-neck or backless blouses, to give their look a contemporary touch.

Source- Neha Sharma

8. Salwar Suit

Salwar suits are the traditional wear of women in Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh but are also worn by women all over India. It is one of the simplest and comfortable ethnic ensembles and so the light suits are worn even on casual days. A salwar suit consists of a salwar, kurta or kurti, and a dupatta. Salwar is the lower garment, which is wide and loose. Kurta or kurti is the topwear, which has side slits. It can be long or short, full-sleeved, half-sleeved or sleeveless, round-collar or V-shaped neckline. A dupatta is the most important part of the suit, as it enhances the look. Indian women drape the dupatta to cover their head and shoulder.

9. Lehenga-Choli

A ghagra-choli or a lehenga-choli is the traditional dress of women in Rajasthan and Gujarat. However, now they are worn all over Indian by women especially at weddings. A lehenga-choli as the name suggests consists of a lehenga and a choli accompanied with a dupatta. A lehenga is basically a long flared voluminous skirt that features thick border at the bottom. A choli is a blouse that is tightly fitted at the waist. A dupatta is a sheer piece, which usually has laced border. The lehenga-choli comes in various fabric and designs. It can be embroidered or embellished, or plain. The dupatta is usually worn over shoulders but now it's also worn in saree style by tucking one end at the waist. The lehenga-choli comes in various colour but a fully embroidered red lehenga choli is the main attire of an Indian bride.

10. Phiran

Phiran is the traditional wear of women in Jammu & Kashmir. However, many Bollywood celebs have been spotted sporting it in the most gracefulway. A pheran is like a kurta, which is a loose upper garment but it has no slits. It's made of wool and cotton and has loose sleeves. A traditional pheran is usually of full-length but the modern variation is made of knee-length. A pheran is paired with either salwar or churidar bottoms.

11. Churidar Suits

Churidar is a modern variation on the salwar. A salwar is loose and wide, while the churidar is a fitted bottom wear that creates pleats at the hem. Salwar is only of full-length, however churidar con extend till below knee-length. Churidar can be paired with long or short kurta or even can be worn under a full-length ensemble like anarkali.

Source- Radhika Mehra

12. Anarkali Suit

An anarkali is a long frock-style upper garment worn by women in India on festive and wedding occasions. An anarkali features fitted bodice, followed by flared detailing. An anarkali comes in various lengths like floor-length or below-knee-length. It can be sleeveless, half-sleeved or can extend till wrist. An anarkali comes in various designs and styles. The heavily embroidered anarkali is worn by the women at special occasions like festivals. However, a light-weight anarkali can be worn as a daily-wear too. An anarkali gets complete, when paired with churidar bottoms.

13. Crop Top-Skirt

As the name suggest, this outfit consists of a crop top and skirt. A crop top-skirt is the modern variation of lehenga-choli. The main difference in both the ensembles is that lehenga-choli is incomplete without a dupatta while crop-top skirt doesn't require a third-piece. Also, lehenga-choli comes with embroidered patterns and is considered as an ethnic wear. However, crop top-skirt can be ethnic and western-wear both, as it may have a western touch too.

Source- Sonam Kapoor Ahuja

14. Gharara

A gharara is another modern variation of salwar. It is a Lucknowi garment, worn with kurta or kurti. A gharara is wide-legged pants, which flare dramatically from the knees. A gharara also features a zari or zardosi work on the knee area. Like salwars, ghararas too are paired with kurta or kurti but it's usually knee-length and not much long, so that the flared detailing of gharara is clearly visible. A gharara paired with kurti is also accompanied with a sheer or net dupatta.

Source- Hitendra Kapopara

15. Sharara

Sharara is another bottom garment, worn by Indian women with kurti or kurta. A sharara is a type of lehenga, split into two, which then looks like loose trousers. A sharara featured an embroidered border to give it a finishing look. It is paired with short kurti or kameez. Like gharara, sharara is also accompanied with a dupatta.

So, what do you think about these traditional dresses of India? Which one is your favourite traditional dress? Let us know that in the comment section.