How people dress up in India? Part 1

How do you imagine everyday style of modern Indian people?

I have heard different versions of the answer to the question above: some people think that everyone wears traditional clothes in India, some people think that the most of Indians do wear Indian wear, and some people are very surprised that traditional clothes even exist in modern world at all..So how people dress up in India?

Also check: Why Indians stare at foreingers?

In fact, traditional clothes really survived in India, unlike in most of the countries, not just in museums but in daily life of modern Indian people. Many local designers and brands continue to produce traditional wear, clicking their advertisement pictures with the participation of foreign models as well along with the Indian models (I did work as a model in India too, so I know local fashion industry from inside). When you see it, it looks like traditional clothes are not going to disappear here…

I am also graduated as ethnographer as well so I do know how traditional wear disappeared in my country, Russia – it did happen about 100 years ago widely and because of factory clothing becoming available for everyone. So traditional clothing did disappear there because it was not produced on factories and people did not want to make it with their own hands anymore. In India such thing did not happen, and fashion industry does not kill the traditions here but helps them, it is possible to say so. However, things for men and women worked out differently.

Indian men mostly don’t wear traditional clothes, it is actually rare thing here to meet a man wearing traditional, although for sure possible. But most of men in India dress up like everywhere: in formal pants, jeans, shirts, t-shirts etc. For women in India things are more strict and sometimes it can be not just their choice but many other factors which decide how they are going to dress up.

Elder women in India are usually conservative in their style so they do wear traditional clothes on daily basis. Middle-aged women dress up differently: some of them do only wear Indian clothes, some of them do not wear it at all and some mix Indian and, how it is called here, “western wear”. Indians invented also such style as Indo-western – it is actually how most of the foreign tourists in India dress up as well: preferably loose type of tops, pants and skirts with Indian motives, but less than on Indian wear. And even though Indian people sometimes blame western cultures for “spoiling them”, in real most of the tourists are afraid to wear anything short in India, even though they can see some Indian girls wearing it too and they also can’t really relate to understanding why not to wear shorts in almost 50 degrees heat. I have even heard once the conversation of middle-aged women in plane on the way to Delhi, they were discussing that they have taken only pants with them and will have to, perhaps, make sarees from bedsheets 🙂

People from small towns and villages, as well as lower cast people, regardless of their age, also, even if they have moved to the capital, still mostly continue to wear traditional clothes. But children in villages do not wear Indian clothes mostly. Teenage girls in small towns and villages can be forced to wear Indian clothes but can be as well allowed to wear jeans – and their parents will be considered to be open-minded for that.

But things in big cities are quite different. Young girls and children don’t really wear Indian clothes and dress up a “western” way (or Indo-western). In fact, very often young girls don’t even know how to drape a saree, not before marriage at least – after marriage things can change for some of them: they can be just forced to wear Indian clothes every day (if they have strict and traditional mother-in-law). If to say frankly, not every fashion stylist in India knows how to drape a saree, although they can be assigned for saree photo-shoots (that’s just one of the moments that was surprising for me).

Young unmarried women do wear traditional clothes mostly for family gatherings and functions. They can wear it in daily life too: to office and college, but it is mostly about kurtis (Indian tunics), as well because formal suits aren’t that famous here for women yet (unlike for men), so sometimes kurtis can be considered good as formal wear for women.

To read Part 2 of this article, Click Here

About the types of traditional Indian clothes I will write later. Stay tuned!

My Intercultural blog – Click Here

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