Indian Outfits 101 & Where to get them

Did you get invited to a wedding by your Southeast Asian friend? Whether you’re a close family friend or a plus one, you’ll fit right in (at least fashionably) with this guide. 

First things first: let’s talk about your options and where they lie on the wearing-complexity scale.

3-piece suits

This is the most common type of Indian wear there is, which is probably why it is also the one with the most amount of sub-categories, namely Anarkali, Churidar, Salwaar-Kameez, etc. There are three basic components for these outfits: a top, some kind of pants, and a scarf-type cloth (aka dupatta or chunni).

Shirt styles:

  • Kameez (also called Kurti or Kurti) is a short, tunic type of shirt with cuts on the sides.
  • Anarkali is a much longer, gown-style shirt. It generally reaches the knees (or even up to the ankles) and is usually fitted through the bodice and flares out at the skirt.

Pant styles:

  • Churidar pants are pyjama-like pants; they are loose through the hips and thighs (to give the wearer room to move and sit) but very fitted below the knees. The bottom half of the pants are very long so that the fabric gathers along the calf and ankle giving the pants a bangle-like (aka churidar) effect.
  • Salwar can be thought of as the balloon pants. Unlike the churidar pants, a salwar is loose-fitting and not as fitted through the calf and ankle.

The dupatta is a long veil or scarf that can be worn in a variety of ways and with different outfits.

When you mix up the different style of pants and shirts, you get a brand new type of Indian outfit!

Here are some examples:

 

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Lehenga Choli (or Chaniya Choli)

While suits can be seen worn across the country, lehengas are more common in certain parts of India. The Chaniya Choli is also a 3-part outfit, consisting of a crop top or fitted blouse, a long skirt and a dupatta cloth to bring it all together.

Here are some examples:

 

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Sari

Sari seems to be the more commonly known Indian outfit (at least in my social circle). Also worn with a blouse, a very long cloth (the sari) is wrapped around the body with the excess length of fabric crossed and drapped over the upper body. It’s tucked into an inner skirt which is usually the same color as the saree making it less noticeable, if at all.

For some people, this is the most uncomfortable type of Indian clothing. But trust me, when worn right, you can break dance all night in this outfit, if you’re into that sort of thing!

Here are some examples:

 

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Accessorizing:

There is basically no limit to accessorizing. You can be as minimalistic or over-the-top as you wish! My personal rule, though, is to use jewelry to balance my outfit. By that I mean that if I’m wearing a glamorous outfit, I’ll wear very little jewelry. If it’s a rather plain, daytime outfit, I’ll accessorize as if my life depended on it. The time of day and type of event are also huge factors in deciding how much jewelry you should wear. Generally, you’ll want to sport a simpler look during the day and at smaller, family-only events.

 

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Where to get it

Now for the fun part — shopping! There are tons of sellers for Indian outfits in North America. Correction, there are tons of sellers all over the globe that can ship to North America! Here are some of my favorite sellers:

Hacks for blouses: Shop H&M or Forever 21! Sometimes they carry sequined crop tops that you can use as a saree or Lehenga blouse. Or, go a cloth warehouse, and get your blouse stitched. This may or may not be a cheaper option (depending on your choice of cloth, timeline, etc.) but it gives you more control over the type and fitting of your blouse. 

For more ideas about all things Indian, check out my Pinterest Board.

If you have any questions about Indian outfits, please comment!

Good luck, and chuck de fattay (rock on!)

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