Saree or suits are the only two options you think of when you prefer Indian wear? Well, lets explore different types of Indian wear and their traditional and modern versions!
To all the pretty women, Indian wear adds a bonus to your beauty. They divinely contour your body, giving you the perfect look. There are different types of Indian wear and they are not just limited to suits and saree, but a lot more than that. Today we are discussing the 11 amazing types of Indian wear with their traditional as well as modern styles. Read and choose which type of Indian wear suits you the best.
11 Types of Indian Wear with Traditional and Modern Styles
Have you ever tried wrapping your mom’s dupatta as a saree? Even I did. Saree is a traditional wrap and round costume of India that originated in the Indus Valley civilization. It’s one of the most well-known types of Indian wear. Rather than just one style of classical drapery saree, there exist 80 variations across the subcontinent. Like pleat less Bengali, Odi styles, Kodagu styles, the Malayali style so on.
Saree consists of a blouse and an underskirt, over which a cloth is draped according to a preferred style. Traditionally, saree was a drapery attire. But now there is a substitution for that, the stitched and pre-stitched saree, which one can wear like gowns and don’t require draping efforts.
Not just the draping styles, but the blouse designs have also changed immensely over the past few decades. New versions include plenty of western inspiration like one-shoulder, off-the-shoulder, feather, ruffles, capes and many more. But yet, the concept of saree remains the same and is still omnipresent in leading fashion shows and Indian fashion collections from luxury to affordable.
Deepika Padukone in a red saree, carrying the essence of originality in her look is one of the best examples of the traditional type of saree on the left (Suneet Varma). Whereas on right, Shilpa Shetty in ruffled stitched, and belted saree is an example of modernity in sarees (Sonaakshi Raaj Merani).
2. Ghagra Choli
Also commonly known as lehenga choli, this ensemble consists of a long pleated skirt with usually cropped choli and scarf or dupatta. Originated from the Mughal era, it is one of the favorite garments women still prefer today. This is one of the most common types of Indian wear, other than saree, which you can wear on formal occasions like weddings. Lehenga choli remains intact with long skirt choli and dupatta. However, over recent years, the styles, silhouettes and surface work of the choli, dupatta, and skirts have changed.
One of my favorites from nowadays is the lehenga with a cape that acts as a replacement of dupatta. Modern choli designs have evolved in terms of length, both short bralette-style and longer versions keep rotating in fashion. We’re also seeing lehenga-skirt pairings with button-up shirts, crop tops, and more.
On the left, you can see the traditional style of ghagra choli/lehenga consisting of a choli, ghagra, and dupatta (Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla). Whereas on the right, you can see a modern tiered lehenga, with uneven frills and strappy choli with a bow on the shoulder, without dupatta showcasing the evolution of ghagra choli (Falguni Shane Peacock).
Lancha is another form of lehenga choli. The difference lies in the choli style and skirts. In the lancha ensemble, the choli is usually longer than waist length and falls over the lehenga’s waistline. Lancha is a more conservative attire, as this ensemble doesn’t let waist exposed. Traditionally, Mughal royalty wore lanchas and nowadays, they are a big part of wedding wear, bridal wear, and festivity fashion.
The left picture is an example of traditional lancha with a long kurti worn over a flared skirt with dupatta (Sabyasachi). The right one is the perfect example of the modernized style of lancha, with a peplum jacket-style top and a flared skirt and no dupatta (Rohit Bal)
4. Dhoti Kurta
Dhoti is the traditional costume for men in the Indian sub-continent. It is a rectangular piece of cotton or muslin fabric that’s wrapped around the waist, covering the legs partially. It needs to be wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted usually in the front. Traditionally a garment meant to be worn by Indian men has now evolved with a modern twist to become a widely popular option in women’s wear, too.
Dhoti has been evolved from drapery to stitched style, which can be more easily worn, and is preferred by many Indian men as daily wear or night-wear. In recent years, dhoti has also made itself a prominent component of Indian women’s wear by still holding a place on runways. Women, these days, wear a pre-stitched dhoti in silk or satin, paired with long or mid-length kurta or a draped and belted top. Many such modern variations are being seen in new collections.
On the right side, you can see the original drapery form of dhoti with a short kurti (Anamika Khanna). And the right image shows a pre-stitched form of dhoti with a pre-draped, belted top in saree style (Sonam Luthria).
5. Salwar Suit
Salwar kameez is the most comfortable attire among all the other types of Indian wear. It is a combination of salwar, kameez, and dupatta. A salwar resembles a loose and pleated pajama and fits tightly at the waist and it tapers at the ankles. Whereas a kameez is the upper part of the dress and we wear it above the salwar and it is of knee-length or nowadays even longer. Trends are evolving, like the style of kurtis & dupatta are changing but the essence remains the same.
In recent years we’ve seen both very short kurtis as well as ankle-length kurtas paired with different types of salwars, including trouser style, asymmetric, or Patiala. The dupatta has also acquired Indo-western elements like ruffles, lace, or feathers, at times disappeared completely. It is an alternative to saree or lehenga as a formal Indian outfit, offering much more comfort and equal grace.
On the right, you can see a traditional salwar kameez. On right, you can see the Patiala salwar, which has more pleats than the normal salwar, paired with a strappy low-cut kurti (Ritika Mirchandani).
6. Anarkali Suit
A long frock style flared kurta with tightly fitted churidar pants forms the combination of anarkali. An anarkali dress is fitted until just above the waist and then flares till knees. Anarkali is one of those types of Indian wear that recently made a comeback after decades. The modern designs are floor touching and gown-like. It usually looks royal and very classy as well as comfortable. Modern styles of anarkali suits include jacket style, cape style, tiered, floor-length, and gown style.
Priyanka looks stunning in a pink traditional Anarkali with churidar and dupatta (Anita Dongre). On the right you can see a full-length anarkali with a corseted waistline, paired with an appliqued cape and no dupatta, giving it a new modern look (Rohit Bal).
7. Kurta and Churidar
Churidar can be paired with frock style kurtis as well as other kurtis, like A-line , front cut , short and long length kurtis. Churidar trousers are longer than the length of legs, the excessive length folds at the ankles and appears as bangles (churi), therefore known as churidar. This is another ensemble that originated in the Mughal era and was worn a lot by Pakistani Punjabi women before partition. Now it is worn all over India and Pakistan.
On the left side, Deepika wears traditional-style mustard churidar suit with long calf-length kurta and a dupatta (Sabyasachi). On the right side, a model wears a modernized form of churidar in the sheer fabric, with a short fringed kurti under a feathered floor-touching cape that has western influences (Falguni Shane Peacock).
8. Women’s Sherwani
Sherwani originated in the Mughal era as menswear, when royalty and noblemen wore it. But in recent years, sherwani has also evolved to women’s wear. Sherwani suits come in fabrics like silk, cotton, cotton silk, chanderi, net, chiffon, georgette, tussar, velvet, and many other fabrics. If you are in the mood of wearing something unique than suit or saree then this outfit is a must-try for you. This is one of the newer types of Indian wear and isn’t very common yet.
Unlike a kurta that we wear over the head, sherwani typically has front closures and a mandarin collar. Usually heavily embroidered all-over, sherwanis make great outfits for weddings, festival celebrations, or graduation ceremonies.
Here you see the modern and traditional styles of sherwani. On the left, you can see a typical long sherwani worn by Sonam Kapoor (Chandini Whabi & Rhea Kapoor). On the right, you can see a short front cut sherwani worn by Yami Gautam (Manish Malhotra).
9. Indo-Western Suits
Nowadays, we are seeing a lot of different types of Indian wear like palazzos and pantsuits, which are a fusion of Indian wear and western wear, and are very much trendy. Palazzo suits are kurtis paired with pleated loose trousers called palazzos. The new styles of kurtis include different varieties, including A-line, long, short, off-the-shoulder, and more.
Pantsuits refer to fitted pants or trousers paired with different types of kurtis. Other than these, we’re also seeing cropped pants, boot-cut or cigarette pants. Indo-western suits are usually worn without a dupatta.
On the left, you can see a model wearing long kurta with palazzo pants and a dupatta, a simple concept of Indo western. Whereas on the right, you can see palazzo pants paired with a crop bralette attached to an embroidered cape (Manish Malhotra).
10. Indian Gowns
Yet another western-inspired ensemble, Indian gown is usually accompanied with dupatta and is embellished with Indian surface work. Nowadays you can find gowns of different styles, and over the last decade, gowns have become one of the more popular types of Indian wear. For example, off-shoulder, one-shoulder, bell sleeved, saree style gowns, and many more. They are also paired with shrugs, capes, and jackets, adding a pinch of newness to the concept of gowns. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been seeing western-inspired embellishments like feathers, bows, fringes, and more on the runways.
On the left, you can see a typical A-line full-length gown with dupatta (Manish Malhotra). On the other side, you can see a gown in the style of saree with frills at the bottom and sheer panel at the waist and back (Gaurav Gupta). A cross between a lehenga and a saree, this style of gown is comfortable and practical.
11. Sharara and Gharara Suits
Similar-looking ensembles, it’s very common for us all to confuse shararas and ghararas. Both originated in the Mughal era. They are traditionally from Lucknow, where mostly Muslim women wore them. Pakistani brides also traditionally wear these outfits as wedding outfits.
Gharara and sharara suit consists of kurtis either long, mid, short, paired with flared trousers, called gharara or sharara and dupatta. Ghararas are well-structured pleated pants. They are fitted close to the body till the knee and flare out at the knee or a little above the knee. The seam is often decorated with a piping or golden zari lace.
On the left, you can see Sara Ali Khan simply wears a traditional gharara outfit, with dupatta (Manish Malhotra). On the right, Shilpa Shetty wears high waist gharara. With a crop top and dupatta, she wears a saree style outfit with a belt, flaunting the stylish fusion (Manish Malhotra).
Whereas shararas are only fitted at the waist and are fully flared till the end with a large flare (ghera). Oftentimes, they may flare out to the knee, and then pleated and flare out even more thereon. Nowadays, you find different styles of kurtis paired with shararas and ghararas. For example anarkali style, off-the-shoulder, crop, and more.
In the left, you can see flared sharara with kurti and dupatta, just an original style (Simar Dugal). On the right, actress Shilpa Shetty wears flared sharara paired with asymmetric, one-sleeve, mid-length kurta without dupatta (Nachiket Barve).
So I hope you loved these 11 types of Indian wear. Wear it with confidence and flaunt the goddess in you with your unique style. Do let me know your favorite types of Indian wear in the comment below. Also, share your pictures in Indian outfits by tagging us on Instagram @shilpaahujadotcom.
Tania is Fashion Journalist Intern at ShilpaAhuja.com. She is pursuing Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University, Noida.
She loves fashion, and grew up with a love of heels, dresses, makeup, and jewelry. She has a unique style and displays her knowledge of fashion with skills of journalism. Her dream is to become a news anchor and her current work in fashion journalism is about proving that the sense of fashion and styling is essential in all aspects of life. She also loves to travel, capture memories, and write about them.
She has also done a short journalism course certified under United Nations and Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore. Prior to fashion, she has internship experience in marketing and sales. There she worked as a Community Leader, created marketing strategies, and developed a network web.
Connect with her on Twitter @TaniaMalhotra8.