Indian Dressing Customs

Indian Dressing Customs and Clothing Customs: What to Wear in India

Indian dressing customsBy: Shyamli Thakur

India is a land steeped in rich history. The country has been an epitome of hospitality. It has also been a melting pot of several cultures since the dawn of civilization.

For this sole reason, ‘the land of unity in diversity’ takes immense pride in its potpourri of traditional attire. Indian dressing customs and clothing customs varies from one state to another.

While globalization has inculcated westernization in India, the countrymen do exceptionally well to preserve the importance of traditional clothing.

So, when in India, all you’ve got to take care of is to dress modestly.  Follow the basic aspects of Indian culture.

This vastly improves your impression on the local people and cuts short any negative attention!

This applies, if you are visiting India on a family holiday, business trip, or a luxury getaway.

It’s always wise to acquaint yourself with the following Indian dressing and clothing customs:


Dress Decent: Modesty is the Best Virtue

While there is no doubting the fact that major cities in India are approaching modern wears, surprisingly, it’s not the case throughout the country.

You may attract unnecessary attention if you expose your skin by wearing mini-skirts, sleeveless tops or for that matter yoga pants paired with crop-tops.

Pro Tip: Follow the ‘Shoulder-Knee Rule’ so you don’t offend the natives. You can look your best in any outfit that covers your knees, shoulders, cleavage, and waist.

Choose the color as per the event

In India, each color is said to have its own importance and you ought to pick the dress depending on the kind of event you’d be attending. Red, for instance, is considered auspicious and is mainly put on during happy and festive occasions.

White, on the other hand, is worn at funerals as you mourn for the departed soul. On a day-to-day basis, you can wear subtle colored fabrics or experiment with a burst of colors that complement you.

However, avoid unduly garish apparels so you don’t get ridiculed.
When in doubt, look at the natives.

Did you know that there are about 29 states in India and each of those states have a different level of acceptance to various dresses. Therefore, it’s pretty common to face a dilemma on what to wear.

The simplest solution to all your ‘what-should-I-wear’ problems is to look at how the locals carry themselves. This way you get the idea on what to put on in a variety of ways when in different regions.

The perk of observing the natives is that you learn to show respect towards the social norms. So, all you have to remember is ‘when in India, dress like Indians’. And you will never face any problem while picking your outfit.

Impress the locals in the traditional wears

Some orthodox Indians firmly believe that age-old clothing traditions connect them to their roots. Instead of wearing what they would frown upon, you can pull off an elegant attire to show your appreciations for the culture.

In fact, you will be surprised by the friendly reception you receive from the natives when you show up wearing beautiful traditional outfit.

‘Simple and sophisticated’ outfits will earn you more compliments than ever in just one day.

After all, Leonardo da Vinci proclaimed, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.

Scarves are your best friends

Indian Clothing Customs scarves

It is highly recommended that you carry some scarves or pashminas if your next stop is India. From using it to cover your hair at religious sites to limiting the exposure if you’ve deep-necked t-shirts and covering your arms to avoid sunburn. This multi-purpose fabric is guaranteed to be your savior any day.

What’s even better? The scarves come in a variety of designs and fabrics that will steal your heart right away.

These can also be paired with any of your attire in an elegant manner to crank it up a notch. So with scarves, you look like a diva sans any or little exposure.

Footwear to complete your look

There is no second thought that stilettoes are god’s gift to women. However, it might not be the best idea to make use of this gift in India because of the poor road network in most parts of India.

What’s the remedy, you may wonder?

The answer: the flat sandals like gladiators, slip-on and ballerina flats are not just comfortable but also pretty fashionable, especially for summer months. If these don’t suit your style you can choose to try footwear with comfortable platform.

Something’s still missing!

Indian Jewelry

Did you know that royal Indian Jewelry is the x-factor that makes your attire stand out?

Donning the exquisite traditional attire wouldn’t be complete without gold jewelry with gemstones embedded on them.

You will be spoilt for choices because every piece of jewelry is an art. Which is why you’d want to be a proud owner of them all.

And if you aren’t sure about the perfect accessories, ask the locals. They’d be more than willing to provide you their assistance.

Ethnic women wear

There are lots of gorgeous Indian attires for women to choose from every time you travel to a new place in the country.

Sari, for instance, is internationally reckoned Indian wear that is 5-9 yards long unstitched fabric elegantly draped around a woman’s body.

It is paired with a fashionable blouse.

Second to sari is a ‘lehenga’ which is a long, cut and flared skirt paired with the fitted blouse.

Traditional men wear

Indian male in dhoti dressAlthough it is common to see men in casual shirt and pant, the traditional outfit remains ‘dhoti’.

The dhoti is 5-6 yards long unstitched fabric paired with a knee-length shirt.

Also, on special occasions, men prefer ‘Sherwani’ which is a fancy embroidered knee-length shirt coupled with a customized pair of trousers.

And to complete your Indian look to perfection, slip on the authentic Indian footwear.


By: Shyamli Thakur – also by Shyamli Thakur: Superstitions in India