I hope you enjoy viewing the wide variety of traditional
Indian dress styles featured on this page. In addition to
the pictures, I will explain the component garments such as the
lehenga, choli, dupatta and the different types of sari (saree).
Twenty fashion designers across India
participated in Vibrant Fashion Week 2010.
Vibrant Fashion Week 2010, Season 1 event was held at the
Courtyard Marriott, Ahmedabad on 21-23rd Feb 2010. The
event was organised to show off the latest Indian fashion talent and
to develop the fashion industry within Gujarat State.
India's top models paraded for 3 days with
various designers Collections. Zarin Khan (of Veer movie fame)
walked for Archana Kochhar and Alisea Raut. The Brand Ambassador
for Chirag Joshi showed their collections for spring summer
2010. The catwalk event was organized by Akshar Events &
Entertainments and you can find the list of fashion designers at
the vibrant link above.
Raahul Dhyani of Akshar Events & Entertainments
wrote to tell me about the Vibrant Fashion Week and he sent me
some stunning PR photographs of the colourful catwalk shows. I
am showing the photos over several pages on fashion-era.com.
But first, a look at the different types of Indian dress.
Indian Clothes Fashion
These links take you immediately to the other
five pages of Indian fashion images.
Many Asian women shun western clothes and prefer
to wear traditional forms of dress. Proud of their
heritage many young people with an Indian ancestry love dressing
up and flaunting traditional Asian clothing especially at
family, wedding and festival occasions. In a nation with a
rich cultural history, traditional costume still plays a big
part in everyday Indian way of life.
Any bride who will be the star of an Indian wedding should
remind herself she also needs to be comfortable for the long
event. But once a bride has settled on her chosen style then she
can select the appropriate fabric for the garment type and
Right - Ornate lehenga choli and knee length
Indian Bridal Clothing
Modern Indian brides can choose from three types of
clothing for their big day.
While the style of Asian apparel is recognised
everywhere in the world, many of us don't know the
names of those individual garments. Since there are many living languages
and dialects spoken throughout India, Asian clothing pieces are
frequently called a different name in a different region, but
essentially the garments are similar. What I want to do is
simplify the female costume to a few of the essential styles a
westerner may already have seen, but is unsure of its name. Other items an
Indian woman may wear include the dupatta,
the Odahni and the Kurti. What essentially makes the look
totally bridal is the traditional jewellery and decorative mehendi henna work. Some brides will of course select western bridal
gowns if that is their preference.
The Sari/Saree - Traditional Draped Wrap Dressing of India
The Indian female garment most of us are
able to recognise is the sari also spelt Saree, Shari and Sharee. Saree
is also how it sounds when spoken. The Sanskrit word chira means 'a
wearable length of cloth' and sari comes from a corruption
of this. In Prakrit after the decline of Sanskrit the same sari
garment was called Sadi. From all of these spellings I'm
favouring sari as that's how I have always known word for this
Left - Designer sari shown at Indian Vibrant
Fashion Week 2010.
For many years the popularity of the Bollywood film industry has been
highlighting the sari as the national dress of India. However, contemporary forms of similar dress - especially
the lehenga/choli is fast becoming a hotter fashion trend.
want to look like the film star celebrities who wear these
garments and they do of course look closer to formal western
dress and also show a lot more body.
According to legend the sari has existed for 5,000 years. This is not
unexpected especially if you recall the draped methods of dressing used by other ancient civilizations such as the
Greeks and Romans. What is amazing is that the sari garment
has survived where togas and other robes have passed into myth
and are now only seen in the land of fancy dress.
In India the original
sari form is still widely worn by Indian
ladies in every part of India. This is essentially the same style of dress
as worn by ancestral Indian women hundreds of years ago. Whilst
younger women favour western dress especially jeans and tops, many wear traditional dress
Teenage girls wearing traditional Indian dress don a pared
down version of a half
sari - a langa (skirt), a choli (blouse top) and a scarf/stole.
saris are usually worn over a petticoat (called ghagara, pavada,
chaniyo and shaya according to the region).
A sari is worn with a blouse top called the choli, which is also called ravika. The sari is worn with short or long cholis or the
Where women wear
saris they also wear a
top called a choli, which is like a blouse but allows for a bare
midriff. You can see examples where women don saris
and wear the choli all over India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri
The choli is an under bodice that like the Ghaghara petticoat
acts as a foundation for the top layer of the sari, but unlike
the Western petticoat, the Indian choli can be quite visible.
The choli can be cropped short and
snappy, almost like a built-up bra and finishing under the bustline revealing
bare midriff flesh. A U-scoop neckline is simple, and can
be cut to be revealing or not making it easy to wear and easy on
The cropped design is suitable for the hotter regions of the
sub-continent, but the choli can also be longer
to cover more flesh rather as an over-blouse does. The
choli top can have a V,
round, boat, sweetheart,
square, wrap-over, button front neckline or shoestring strap.
It may be, with/without sleeves, one sleeve, one shouldered,
short or longer or so brief it's almost a bikini bra top.
The traditional silk choli complements the sari fabrics very well.
Shimmering contrast warp and weft yarns create fabulous pattern
effects like this designer choli left. The choli can act
as the accent that pulls the outfit together in the way that a
western woman uses a great coloured bag or belt to achieve the
Modern designer cholis are often simple bandeaus and bra styles. Cut-out keyhole backs
and modern knit materials are all part of the newer choli
The traditional sari (saree) has always been a statement of refinement
in both old and modern India. The traditional length of a
sari is a
rectangular woven length of fabric, with loom fabric width at 4ft
by a bolt length of 18ft. Yes 9 yards of fabric that will pleat
and flow into goddess drapery. Most modern saris are made from
shorter bolts of fabric using less length with about 5 or 6
Nowadays most saris have one undecorated short edge, which is
designed to be hidden, a narrow band/border on the two long edges, and then
a deeper wider band on one the visible short end. This decorated
short end is called the Pallav or Pallu. It is the pallu end
that we see flowing over the face or over the breasts. The
wearer becomes adept at arranging at the pallu over the front of the face/neck
according to her modesty needs. Interestingly,
Greek costume images
show wearers draping their pallu too.
Historically early saris were
undecorated, but with time fabric was block printed, and
decorative weaving or embroidery added. Embellishment became
normal and today is almost the whole point for occasion
wearing of a sari - to show off a sumptuous length of decorative
fabric, including lavish scallop edge lace tulle fabrics.
The arrangement of a sari is peculiar to a region,
and so there are many forms of draping. However the most popular
drape method is the nivi. In Gujarati the style is just like the
nivi, but the draping of the pallu (end of the sari) is
different. In Gujarati the loose pallu end is draped over the
right shoulder and from back to front.
How the pallu is arranged
gives the wearer individual choice. She has the opportunity to leave
the pallu hanging freely or
tuck it into the waistline with freedom to show or
conceal the navel.
The model above wears a sari with a rich rose
embroidered band over a halter style choli. She could easily
drape her semi sheer sari over her head pallu style. Unlike some
models this girl shows how the sari has mystery - she hides her
midriff and navel but with a semi sheer fabric that hints at the
Pre 1970 most saris were made of fine silk or cotton, but in
recent decades synthetic materials especially polyester silk and
polyester georgette has meant women everywhere can afford to buy
a sari. One famous shop in Brick Lane, London sells in every
price range with saris ranging from £5 to £500. The same
shimmering effects are used in sari fabrics.
Some London based designer saris can start at £3,000. Indian silk
is one of the fibres used in the making of the most fine or
heavy woven silk saris whether traditional self draped saris or
designer prepared sari gowns.
The more decorative saris with extensive embellishment and
embroidery are as expensive as any western designer fashion
Contemporary designer pre-made
saris are often fixed into
position and have zips for ease of access so they can be put on
just like an evening dress. This does not make them worse or
better, but is a new approach to wearing a traditional garment.
Designers are producing pre-tucked and pre-pleated waistbands,
half-draped and part stitched saris that eliminate traditional
adjusting and fitting. This is how fashion evolves in any
century. Designers can fix drapery in specific ways peculiar to
a regional sari draping style and introduce innovation that a
younger customer may have difficulty achieving the correct
expertise which is easy when done daily, but harder for
At first this approach may seem threatening to the traditional
sari, but ease of putting on a sari may even help to maintain
the sari in the eye of C21st women. Ease of dressing
with a little fastener here and there, a zipped or half constructed designer
sari may also mean
the sari style spreads globally as celebrities adopt the gown. They love the graceful draped fashion look. As wanna-bees make it their
must-have too. It's easy to recognise that in the face of the current
craze for maxi dressing this is a real possibility.
In fact designers acknowledge that the one shoulder style of the
sari is their direct source of inspiration for asymmetric draped
dresses so beloved of celeb followers. Today there is hardly a
pop star, politician's wife or film celebrity that hasn't donned
a sari at some stage of their life to make a cultural leap
making it the garment of choice for numerous formal multi cultural
events. As ladylike dressing returns we may see more of this
traditional long dress as
the sari offers an alternative romantic elegant chic that
transcends seasonal trends.
Sari buying is easier if you know what you like or want or which
product is best. Silk and cotton are good traditional choices
and if you are wealthy enough then a diaphanous fine silk sari
may be on your shopping list. The more expensive the sari the
more likely it will be heavily embellished or complex in its
ornate weave especially on the Pallu end. When saris have gold
or silver pattern in the weave this is known as zari
Frequently the sari warp will be a thread of one colour and the weft
a different yarn. This adds variety, lightness, shimmer and
sometimes extra strength to a sari fabric.
Mostly you will want a silk base, but you may want decoration
and different types of jari add the metallic effects. You may
also want your sari to be long lasting so factors such as high
thread count and the use of top quality pure jari come into
play. Pure jari is the best as it's is more long lasting
and the sari will last longer. This pure jari uses silver thread
plated with gold. saris using pure jari should be dry cleaned
first laundering and carefully hand washed on later washings.
Heavy silk tissue for example is made from a silk warp and the
weft (weaving thread is made from jari producing a silk cloth
which shimmers with a shot of gold. Varoosi is also a gold shot
silk, but uses a gold weft every few rows rather than every row.
The alternative copper jari is dry clean only and not
particularly admired and you are advised to save up for pure jari
Brocade is a silk that can use Jari and is made on a
Jacquard loom to create richly ornate patterns.
Heavy surface embroidery work such as shisha mirror work, buttis,
zari (jari), zardosi (jardosi), zardoji, golden dori work,
beads, kasabtiki, tikli, aari, stones, chikankari, phulkari,
gotapatti, sequins, sequences, kundan and are all used to
embellish silk saris.
Zari work is the most ancient of Indian embroidery forms with
Zardozi the heavier embrodiery type and Kamdani the
lighter type. Zardosi stitches are very elaborate and closely
worked and used on heavier weights of fabrics including coats
and curtains. Kamadani is lighter and more suitable simply
worked on finer gossamer fabrics such as clothing and scarves.
Surat in Gujarat is famous for Karchobi work - spangles, raised
designs and thread combinations all create rich patterns. As
well as using gold and silver thread Zardozi embroidery can
incorporate pearls and precious stones.
Since true Zardosi is
hand crafted hand woven and decorated sari and lehnga fabrics
are expensive, but are still very desirable for weddings and
Left and Right -
Rich gold decorative work on a coral red designer saris. The red wedding
lehenga or red sari is a popular choice for Indian brides
especially for Sikh brides.
Today fake pearls and
Swarovski crystals and synthetic metal
thread can provide less costly alternatives and are a cheaper
modern Zardozi this might also be done on a synthetic fabric
such as polyester, rayon or polyamide.
One of the most special pieces of clothing a
woman can wear is a wedding lehenga. Lehenga choli is
currently the most contemporary popular form of bridal dress for
the bride and bridal party at Indian/Asian weddings.
The words lehenga, lengha, lehnga all mean the same thing - a long gypsy
style skirt. In India it is spoken as Lengha or Lehnga and in
Pakistan the usual pronunciation is lehenga.
Right - Rich metallic fabric used in making a pink designer inspired
swirling fishtail lehenga skirt, choli top and dupatta and worn with
The Lehenga is the skirt (as above and below
The Choli Bodice (which can
be cropped or worn longer to cover bare flesh).
The Dupatta which is a
shawl stole that is draped over the shoulder or head as desired. The Dupatta can finish at about the hip, but is often much longer
and this can elongate the body.
Extras include an overlay jacket for those who don't want the
brevity of a choli top and a lehengas belt. Contrarily for the
less modest and more modern woman the lehenga skirts is
sometimes teamed with Western crop top, halter neck or baby doll
Left - Designer inspired swirling lehenga-choli and vivid Indian
pink contrast dupatta.
Fabric choice can dictate the style of lehenga,
flounces and drape. The lehenga is customarily worn in the rural
areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan and those lehenga skirts are frequently panelled and
swell into a full hem, but the skirts can also be slimline columns and
slenderising on the right person. When you are choosing
fabric look especially at silks - brocade, raw silk, and
jacquard silk. Note the comment about selecting garments using
pure jari here.
Women of Gujarat and the Rajasthan countryside often wear the
lehenga a form of gypsy skirt. The lehengas are worn with choli
which can be looser than in other regions. Often these garments,
especially the choli are decorated with mirror work and
embroidery. This choli top left is longer than many cropped
and is a desirable look.
A lehenga is worn in other parts of India, but
some designs have less or more volume with some styles having
lower skirts that spread into swirling fans. These long skirts
are also called a gypsy skirt. A wraparound version is the gopi
skirt. Needless to repeat this gypsy skirt has inspired many a
western fashion designer!
As with any garment regional differences mean
there are many variations of the lehenga and combined with the
use of different fabrics and patterns the range of styles is
enormous. Bandhni work is a tie dye technique used by
Hindu women of the Gujarat region and Gujarat is well known for
this tie dye skirt style. When a head covering is called for a
bright veil called the Odhani (scarf/dupatta) can be used for
In the south less volume is used in the lehenga
skirts and a longer tunic called the kurti is worn because it
covers the midriff. In Northern states voluminous flaring skirts
are worn along with a kurti and Chunni (scarf) which is draped
around the neck, worn as a half sari or shoulder stole.
Where women wear saris they also wear a midriff baring blouse
called choli. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all
places where women don saris. In Urdu the word for choli is lehnga
and so it's easy to get confused as the many Asian languages affect clothing
Contemporary choli designs have front-opening
buttons or cut-out keyhole backs and although once the choli was
worn braless modern women prefer a bra. Designer versions also
use boning and foundation padding to create just about any style
like the bustier choli above centre, so the wearer can wearer the
choli with comfort without worrying
about straps showing beneath. Modern Indian designers
today push boundaries and team the sari with halter bikini style
The lehenga choli needs a fair figure to show
off skin and your figure will help clarify the choice of choli.
The choli is the foundation bodice and it can be cropped short and
snappy finishing under the bustline and revealing flesh.
The cropped design suits the hotter regions well leaving the
wearer with cooler skin. But the choli can be much longer and more covering like a bustier if you
are not comfortable with a brief choli. For extra shape,
princess seaming gives any woman a better figure.
and Kurti style cholis can overlap the lehenga belt and anyone
still unhappy with the basic choli can consider wearing an
The choli top can be any style you desire from
the currently fashionable halter neck to a V, sweetheart,
shoestring strap or square neckline. Likewise consider
short or longer sleeves, one shoulder or bandeau effects.
Some saris are extra long so that
a choli can be cut off the excess of the fabric bolt, but a
matching choli is not essential. For even more comfort
many women prefer a more forgiving choli made of modern knit
materials. Lycra gets everywhere. But like any garment
perhaps the most comfortable choli would be one made to fit you.
EBay sellers that sell individual choli recommend careful
measuring and fitting as this is a garment on show, so a neat snug fit is
If however you are full busted keep the choli
plain and avoid adding bulky ornate embellishment to it. The
simple contrast of the silky plain top beneath your dupatta will
be more flattering. But this is where the reverse can work if
you are small on top and need to bulk up your top half. A little
decoration on the choli will draw attention to your top.
Overall remember it's your lehenga-choli, so you have the style you like best
and feel most comfortable wearing. A few digital photographs may
help you see more easily which style is most flattering to you.
Rich intricate embroidery and other surface
embellishment is an important feature of the clothing and
the variety of scale within the ultimate pattern utilising
small, medium and larger motifs ensures balance and good design
that will stand the test of time and those photos.
To bring the look together you will be best
choosing a medium to lighter weight dupatta (stole). The dupatta
folds and drapes over the shoulder and you need to ensure it
does this to best effect without adding so much excess bulk that
you find yourself becoming swamped with fabric.
Try fabrics out against yourself. Select soft
georgettes, smooth silks and firmer heavier silks or brocades.
Try draping these various fabrics against you whilst looking in
a cheval mirror to gauge the overall effect. Perhaps get a
friend to help you buy taking some digital photos of the
different fabric types against your body type. Take a deep
breath and with the help of your friend assess which looks best
against your frame and height.
The Salawar Kameez is worn more than the sari in
Pakistan especially since the changes of 1947. The sari is
considered Hindu dress and retained as formal dress for two
extremes - older women familiar with it pre 1950s and young
adults new to the fashion.
The Shalwar Kameez consist of two garments plus
an optional dupatta.
The Shalwar or salwar -
are loose pyjama-like trousers that taper to the ankle
to twice ankle width. Tape or Lycra/elastic is used to hold
them up. This leg style is cut from a wide waist line which
can be made up to twice the waist size, giving lots of loose
fabric around the thigh area. This means the Shalwar has
been designed with physical work, ease of movement and cool
airy volume in mind. Modern designers love reinventing these
proportions giving the Shalwar a new modern look.
Churidars - By using fabric cut on the true bias
crossway of fabric Shalwar pants can also be made up quite
narrow and look much like western leggings/jeggings. The
narrow fabric wrinkles at the ankles and this form of
Shalwar is called Churidars. Indian fashion designers appear
to be very fond of this narrow style right now as it reflect
the western love of leggings.
Right - A
Fashion designer wearing Shalwar Kameez - note split at
sides. Pyjamas - During the British Empire era (18th/19th
centuries) the British
took the Indian word for Paijamas around the world and so
today we are all familiar with pyjamas.
- this is the over top a long loose shirt or
fairly straight cut tunic which can be as long as a dress but
which may have open side seams (chaak) from the waist for ease
of movement. It is quite a unisex garment apart from the fabric
choice. This word Kameez has a Latin origin and relates to camisia (tunic/shirt) and from which we also get the European
words chemise/camisole. The Arabic word is Qamees. The older
style Kameez uses traditional cuts based on rectangles. Modern
shaping and a leaning toward a
European set in cut at the sleeve especially. More fitted
Kameez also mean more body is revealed so if the Kameez is
sheer or semi sheer women wear a choli top beneath it.
The decorated edges of the Kameez - the hemline edge, the
sleeves and neck are known as the daaman. Right - Vibrant Fashion Week Shalwar Design.
- the scarf - a multi purpose scarf. The Shalwar Kameez is
completed with a dupatta which is a scarf shawl that drapes over the
head. This dupatta is frequently softer and more scarf like than
some which are huge like stoles. Dependent on region other names for these scarves are Odhani/Odhni,
Orna/Orni, Chader and Chunri/Chunni - in Gujarat it is
called the Unni. For modesty the dupatta long shawl is used to cover the head
and can be used for drapes around the shoulders or
over them. By varying the fabric, colour mix, print, pattern and cut
of the garment pieces along with the dupatta a huge fashion
variety can be achieved. Compared to the Chador or Burkha the
dupatta is the less restrictive option for Muslim women, but
even the wearing of the dupatta is a iconographic symbol of
shyness and modesty especially for Hindu women where the
head must be covered in temples.
Today the Shalwar Kameez is the outfit worn both women and men in
many parts of Asia. The unisex dress bears a relationship to
the top/shirt and trousers worn by western men and women. The area
in South Asia surrounding India we know has had many changing
So today the Shalwar Kameez is worn everywhere, but
especially Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's very popular in India,
particularly the North-western part of India and across South Asia.
Within India, Indian women often wear the Shalwar Kameez in place of
a sari and of course the style is perfect for men. The Shalwar
Kameez is worn more in the North India Punjab region following the
history of the Moghul Empire. In the Punjab it has the alternative
name Punjabi Suit.
born Pakistani and Indian people living in UK it's also an everyday
form of dress. The UK Asian
community is hard working and many men and women are professionals
so many of them also interchange with or solely wear western dress.
I've noticed on a hot
summers day in UK that Asian men in particular don a cool fine
cotton Kameez even if it's over jeans. As cultures cross and fashion fusion occurs
so this unisex form of dress has gone into the costume melting pot.
The easy tunic and loose trousers is a combination that people
through Europe buy in linen and wear for a continental holiday or a
retreat spa holiday.
A Kurti is a tunic (a short kurta) that reaches mid thigh and is often
interchanged with a choli or Kameez for comfort, a different
look or modesty. The Kurti is popular with straight trousers or
jeans as a form of Indo Western trouser suit. It is personalised
with a long scarf or for a modern look a short dupatta. The
dupatta is also added to totally western outfits to add that
Traditional styling and traditional jewellery, parure and
headdresses complete the look of many of these outfits. Not an
it bag in sight. Who needs one when you have the opulence of a
sari or Shalwar Kameez and hand crafted embroidering on a border
plus headdress or necklace like these here illustrate.
These images will inspire you to create your own innovative
Indian inspired fashion
The population of India is made up of an amazing
mix of gifted people steeped in artisan tradition as well as
technological expertise. India is so large with so many
very different regions and terrains it can be considered a
According to the CIA, India is a country about one third larger
than the USA. In July 2010 the estimated population is
1,173,108,018 persons. Gujarat is a state in North West
India about 450 KM from Bombay/Mumbai the fashion capital of
Gujarat's population is thought to exceed 50 million people.
Jari gold decoration is popular on clothing and Surat in
Gujarat is one of the most important jari-piding districts in
There are many forms of dress within India
districts with business and traditional clothing in huge urban
cities to nomadic wear in remote rural villages. The
fusion of South Asian and Western fashion has created
Indo-Western clothing. Empowered professional Indian
women, girls and teens all favour western dress.
Left - Western Wedding Dress - Vibrant Fashion Week 2010 India.
Pink has always been a hot trend in India. Vibrant Fashion
Week 2010 held catwalk audience attention by showing a variety
of pink evening pieces. Many of these pieces embraced the whole
spectrum of the pink range from hot raspberry pink to palest
pastel pink magnolia. India is famous for its pinks especially
vibrant hot pink.
All the designs used both traditional and contemporary
styles, construction and materials providing fashion choice for
everyone. Admire the saris, lehenga choli and Shalwar Kameez
suits, Kurti Tunics and Pyjama leggings all worn with dupatta.
more and see the Indian fashion images here.
4 pieces above reflect some of the Indian fashion shown at
vibrant Fashion week. This page is about pink fashions
especially pink/red toned saris.
According to taste, wealth and tradition bridal jewellery can be
made from 24K gold, silver or platinum. The bride is adorned with
abundant layers of jewellery that
matches her chosen outfit. You can be sure an Indian bride loves
a diamond as much as western bride. But many styles of jewellery
will be in line with traditional
Kundan work and
also rich gemstone settings.
Many styles, regional difference and religious facets of the
Indian culture are inherent in these old and new fashion designs
for women of today.
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