Styles of the Indian Dhoti

Written by katie roberts
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Styles of the Indian Dhoti
The dhoti forms part of traditional formal wear in India. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

The traditional wear of the working classes, but now seen as part of formal and ceremonial wear, the Indian dhoti is a style of men's trouser. It is constructed from a rectangular piece of unstitched fabric measuring about 5 yards. It is wrapped about the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist. Traditionally it is worn with a long, loosefitting shirt.

Traditional Dhoti

The dhoti can include pleats to make it fuller. The fabric is pleated at the waist and tied with a cord; this style is popular in Bengal. The dhoti can also be worn with an extra-long length of fabric coiled over the shoulder. This style of dhoti was favoured by Ghandi who wore the traditional one piece, peasant costume for his political travels across India.

Subcontinent Differences

The dhoti is worn across the Indian subcontinent but the style can vary from highly pleated, decorative dhoti almost as full as a Japanese Kimono, to much simpler styles with much less fabric. The dhoti is almost always made from a single piece of fabric and is passed between the legs and tucked into the waistband at the front or back to create different styles. The ends can be used as decoration, as in bridegroom dhoti, or more practically to cover the body or to wipe sweat away.

Bollywood Style and Hip-Hop Glamor

Bollywood films have helped make the dhoti a fashion item. Available in a range of stunning colours and fabrics, the clothes of the working man transform into stylish formal wear for Indian weddings. the style has also been adopted by rap stars, with American rap artist MC Hammer's iconic trousers a perfect example of fashion crossing from one culture to another.

Ladies Fashion

The Indian dhoti trouser has become a ladies fashion item. Acceptable in Western society, the loosefitting trousers are worn under a long tunic. They are a fashion staple available from most large retailers, and with a tapered elasticated ankle and a more fitted waist the style is comfortable and practical.

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