Indian clothing is colourful and free flowing. It reflects the country’s cultural and ethnic diversity and is designed to be comfortable in the sweltering heat of the Indian summer. The majority of Indian fashion and clothing history is influenced by Hindu traditions, though increasingly younger Indians look to the globalised fashion world for cross-cultural styles.
Saris, are the most common outfit worn by an Indian woman, both traditionally and in contemporary India. A sari is a simple rectangle of coloured cloth 5 to 6 yards long that is wrapped around the woman’s body in a specific manner. Due to the generous amount of cloth involved, saris fit women of all sizes and are traditionally adorned to accentuate the curves of the female figure, often revealing the wearer’s midriff. The well-to-do wear saris with threaded highlights of real gold as a sign of status and prestige.
The dhoti is a male version of the sari. Men in India, due to the climate, don’t traditionally cover their upper halves. Therefore, the dhoti is much smaller than the sari, only requiring enough material to cover a man from the waist down. Other traditional men’s clothes are kurtas and pyjamas. The kurta is a flowing shirt, also known as a kurti when worn by women. The pyjama is a knee-length coat with a Nehru collar.
Traditional materials for Indian clothing are cotton and silk. According to the website "History for Kids," “India was the first place where cotton was grown.” Saris and dhotis were primarily made of cotton, though the elite of Indian society wore silk. Gold is another important material in Indian clothing. Women wear bangles, necklaces, earrings and nose pins of gold, while men wear rings and watches. Other materials used are rayon, polyester, denim, jacquards and moss crepe.
Costumes from Bollywood films, which are often exaggerated versions of what is worn day-to-day in India, have proven hugely influential on the direction and designs of Indian clothing. Film directors often recruit top fashion designers to concoct Bollywood costumes, which are generally colourful and ornate. Though many Bollywood designs are rooted in traditional Indian garments, many films also show young, hip Indians in jeans and T-shirts—Western dress that is becoming increasingly popular in India.
Lakme Fashion Week
Mumbai’s Lamke Fashion Week is a major annual event for Indian designers and clothing enthusiasts. 2010 featured a full slate of Indian designers, including Abdul Haler, who has clothed Michael Jackson, Middle Eastern royalty and President Obama’s sister-in-law, among many others. Designs at the show range from homogenous global fashion pieces such as generic lightweight men’s suits and low-cut dresses with flowing skirts to layered, wrapped, sensuous evening gowns clearly influenced by the sari.