When we think of India we think of a vast country with an extensive cultural history bursting with different traditions and intriguing idiosyncrasies in each state. One area where variation is particularly prominent is in fashions. It is incredible that in each of the 28 states there are different styles, from colours to materials to designs, the people of each area can be defined through their Indian designer clothing. The main influencing factors are climate, topography, the craft of the region and the social and economic conditions. I will now describe the fascinating varieties of Indian designer clothing prominent in each state. Some focus more on colours whilst others are for comfort. Whatever the differences in Indian designer clothing they all provide stimulating examples of India’s rich culture and history.
Firstly there is the state of Punjab. The traditional dress is vibrant, colourful and covered in a particular type of embroidery called “phulkari” which is in the form of flowers in different colours. The most popular clothing for women in Punjab is the Saree and Sharara as well as the Salwar Kameez. The menswear consists of a long kurta on top of a loongi. Another item of apparel that is particularly significant is the turban.
In the state of Haryana we see a different form of traditional dress. The Indian designer clothing is simple and colourful. The women wear a ‘Damaan’, a skirt that is ankle length with a shirt and a ‘Chunder’, a piece of cloth used to cover their heads. The men wear a ‘Dhoti’ which is a piece of cloth that wraps around the legs as well as a ‘Kurta’, a long shirt, traditionally these clothes have always been white. They also wear a turban called a ‘Pagri’.
The clothes from Jammu and Kashmir are mostly made from silk, cotton and wool.
Traditionally in this state both the men and the women wear the same gowns, the Pheran and ‘Poots’, two gowns that are worn on top of one another. Muslims and Hindus wear the gown slightly differently. The Muslim women wear it to their knees whereas the Hindus wear it from their ear it to their feet. The gowns are radiant with intricate, colourful designs on the outside and goat or Yakskin on the inside because of the cold climate. The men on the other hand wear a Khan-Dress or a pathani suite.
The state of Rajasthan is a totally different kettle of fish! Rajasthan is filled with deserts and dust so the landscape is fairly dull in colour, however the people of this state make up for the lack of chromaticity in their landscapes through their Indian designer clothing. The materials are covered in precious stones and various colours including mirror work. Again the turban is a prominent item of Indian designer clothing. However what is intriguing about the turban from this state is that it changes depending on the social status of the man. The man of the lowest social status will wear turbans with only one colour in contrast to this the highest classes will wear turbans of a variety of colours with different designs which change for different occasions. The womenswear from this region consists of a dress with four pieces. The skirt is called a ‘ghagra’ there is then the long head cloth which is called the ‘odhni.
The men from the state of Gujarat wear cotton trousers called ‘chorno’ and a short top called a ‘kediyu’ or ‘angarakhu’. The women of this region wear ‘chaniyo’, a colourful petticoat and a blouse called a ‘choli’ or ‘polku’ this look is then worn with a ‘odhani’, a cloth covering the body and the head from the back.
The variations in Indian designer clothing are wonderful at defining people of different states and celebrating in the rich cultural history of India. It is a shame that with the influence of the western world more and more Indians are wearing the same clothes and are losing that stimulating uniqueness that was so original to India.