What Clothes to Wear in India

Written by misty witenberg
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What Clothes to Wear in India
Loose fitting trousers and tunics are an Indian staple. (Indian women image by Melissa Schalke from Fotolia.com)

Despite what you might see on Bollywood stars, when in India, it's best for women to wear modest clothing that covers the length of their arms and legs as a sign of respect of cultural traditions, as well to keep from getting lewd comments. Leave shorts, tank tops, and tight-fitting clothing at home, as well as anything that won't hide dust easily. Men have an easier time with dress than women, but still have a few basics to remember to help them blend in.

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Headscarf or Shawl

Not only is this a cultural tradition, but a headscarf, or dupatta, is considered quite fashionable in India, not to mention it helps keep the sun off your head and face. They also come in handy since women must cover their heads when they enter most religious sites.


Unfortunately, making direct eye contact with a man in India can cause a woman to get some unwanted attention. A pair of dark sunglasses can reduce the chances of being caught off guard, and help protect both men's and women's eyes from the bright sun and blowing dust.

Long-Sleeved Tunic

It's best to fully cover your arms when you're out, and it will also help keep you from getting a sunburn. Choose a loosefitting garment in a cotton or linen fabric to keep you at your coolest. These are also easy to rinse and wear again if they get dusty.

Long Cotton Skirt or Pants

It is considered rude for women to show their legs in India, so choose an ankle-length cotton skirt or loosefitting trousers to wear with your tunic. Both men and women can also buy a matching tunic and trousers set called a salwar kameez, or Punjabi suit.


Saris are nothing more than a few yards of lightweight fabric that Indian women use to wrap over their shoulders and around their bodies as a type of dress. These can take some practice to get right, but if you can, it's an easy wardrobe fix for most occasions. Always remember to wear a matching blouse and long skirt or petticoat underneath your sari--it should never be worn alone.

Slip-on Flat Shoes or Sandals

Both men and women must remove their shoes before entering religious temples, so it's best to find shoes that will be easy to get on and off quickly. You'll earn bonus points if you wear shoes that aren't made out of leather, because the cow is a sacred animal for Hindus.

Full-Covering Pajamas

Believe it or not, India can get chilly in the evening. Long-sleeved pyjamas for men and women will not only help keep you warm, but they will also help protect you from mosquito bites during the night.

T-Shirts and Jeans

Visitors may take notice that many Indians are wearing Western-style clothing, especially around metropolitan areas. A T-shirt and jeans would not necessarily be seen as out of place for either a man or a woman, especially if the T-shirt has long sleeves.

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