Day 5: The Real India

Indian Clothing

What would you be wearing today if you lived in India?

Our choice of clothing is affected by many things - weather, culture, and our own personal style. It is the same in India!

Most areas of India are very hot, so people wear loose-fitting clothing made of thin material that helps them stay cooler. In the Himalayan mountain regions in northern and northeastern India, where the weather is much cooler, people wear warmer clothing made of heavier material.

India's people enjoy wearing bright, bold colors, and women's clothing especially brings a vivid rainbow of color into every corner of the nation.

Western style clothing such as jeans and t-shirts is becoming more common in India, especially in urban areas, but the traditional Indian clothing is still worn in every community.

Let's look at some of the most common clothing you would see people wearing in India:

Sari - You probably recognize this dress worn by the majority of India's women. A sari is basically a rectangular piece of cloth that is 4 to 9 yards long. The customary style is to wrap the sari around the waist, and then drape one end over the shoulder; a cropped blouse called a choli is worn underneath. People in India can often tell where you are from based on how you wrap your sari, because each region has its own special style. The word sari comes from a Sanskrit word that means "cloth." Saris are mentioned around 600 BC in the ancient Indian texts called the Vedas.

Kurta - This is what you saw Chris wear in today's episode. A kurta is a long loose shirt, which falls below or just above the knees. At one time this style was primarily worn by men, but today, it has become a unisex dress that both men and women can wear. Often in urban areas, women will wear a shorter version, called a kurti, with jeans.

Salwar kameez - This outfit is also called a Punjabi dress or suit, because it first became popular in the northern state of Punjab. This outfit includes a kameez, or long tunic, that usually falls past the knees, which is worn with a salwar, or loose-fitting pants. Both men and women wear this style, though women often also wear a dupatta, a long shawl that is draped over the shoulders or across the head.

Dhoti (Doe-tee) - This is a long piece of cloth, generally white, that is worn by men as informal trousers. They wrap the dhoti (DOE-tee) around their legs and waist to make loose-fitting pants. This may be worn with or without a kurta.

Lungi - Most commonly worn by men or boys, the lungi is a length of cloth that is wrapped around the lower half of the body and tied in a knot at the waist. Usually made of cotton, this style is more comfortable for India's hottest regions.

Pavada - Many little girls in south India wear a pavada, which is basically a long skirt worn with a blouse.

Lehenga - These colorful swirling skirts are often worn by women in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The skirt is worn with a short bodice called a choli and women often choose to cover their heads with brightly colored veils called odhani.

Turban - In some areas of India, especially in the north, you would see men wearing turbans. Typically worn by Sikh men, the hair turban is a headdress that basically consists of a long piece of unstitched cloth, which is wrapped around the head. Sikh men do not cut their hair for religious reasons, and their long hair is wound up in the turban.

Accessories - Most women and girls in India love to wear jewelry. Bangles, or bracelets, in all colors and sizes are commonly worn. The bindi is a small dot of color that is placed on the forehead for decoration. Girls and women decorate their skin with henna ink designs. Brightly colored earrings and nose rings are also popular in many areas. Each region of India has different styles and traditions.

Click on the photos below to see more everyday clothing styles in India