How to dress like an Indian lady


India: a country that tickles all the senses. From beautiful landscapes, bustling metropolises and iconical cultural sights to delightful food and colors. Indian women love colorful clothing; if you feel brave enough on your next visit to India, you may want to consider dressing in Indian style.

I have been visiting India every couple of years for the last decade. The first time was when I went to a conference in Hyderabad in 2007. It was a complete culture shock: the honking cars, the hordes of people everywhere, such a massive city! It took me a few days to get into the flow of things. The pivotal point for me came when a bunch of us conference attendees were waiting for a bus for about an hour and I realized I should just relax. If the bus comes now, fine, but if I have to wait here for a bit, it is also fine. Something clicked then and I connected with the Indian pace of life. 

Once I got into the flow of things, I got confident enough to try out wearing an Indian outfit, also known as ‘Indian dress’. Indian women also wear ‘Western dress’: either style is perfectly acceptable. On my second or third visit, an Indian friend took me shopping for a salwaar kameez: a suit. It consists of trousers with very long legs and a very wide waist with cords (one size fits all), a sleeveless top (sort of like a dress), a kaftan and a scarf. You can wear it with sandals. It covers almost the whole body, so it is culturally appropriate in that you don’t show a lot of bare skin, it is cool even in hot weather, and it is SO comfortable! It feels like wearing a pyjama. The only thing that’s a bit inconvenient in my opinion is the scarf that occasionally slips. You could pin it to your top. You can have a salwaar kameez custom-made or buy it ready to wear.

Salwar Kameez
Salwar Kameez

In recent years I have started wearing saris to parties too. At first I thought it might be uncomfortable to move around in, but it is not at all. A sari (or saree) is a more formal outfit. The sari itself is basically a very long piece of fabric, often with strategically placed details like embellishments. With the sari, you should get a petticoat (underskirt) and a top (like a crop top) in matching colors. Luckily I had friends around who could help me get the correct items, and more importantly: who could help me put on the sari! It requires significant skill. The petticoat needs to be tightened as far as you can bear without losing the ability to breathe, and the sari needs to be draped and pinned just so. To me, it feels like a special privilege to be able to wear a sari, and I love it.

Thanks to my Indian friends for supporting my sartorial experiments!


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