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Indian fashion is as diverse as the country is known to be |© szefei / Shutterstock
Indian fashion is as diverse as the country is known to be |© szefei / Shutterstock
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11 Style Lessons You Only Learn Living in India

Picture of Aditi Mukherjee
Updated: 14 August 2017
Carrying its own ethnicity along with bits from foreign kingdoms that settled in the country for generations, India’s everyday fashion is unique and disparate within itself. But, just like anywhere in the world, women tote the torch of style. An array of colors, some fanaticism, and a whole lot of cultural symbolism is what India’s fashion is essentially made of. Here are things you’ll learn about Indian fashion when you’re in the country.

Common Folk Fashion

Generally speaking, India is not a country that invests in huge clothing brands that easily. The majority of the common folk don’t wait in the queue for Masaba or Tarun Tahiliani’s latest summer collection. It’s the local brands at fashion malls that usually lure the Indian crowd. Light, affordable Indian wear is what you will mostly see women wearing.

Women don’t really care about the big fashion brands
Women don’t really care about the big fashion brands | © Senorhorst Jahnsen / flickr

The Fashion Industry Vogue

There is a completely different world outside the street scene; the fashion industry in India is super active and the trend aficionados are anything but average in style. Recently, social media has helped online fashion bloggers to bloom in all parts of India. If you spot them at fashion weeks and store launches, they will be covered in brands from head to toe and flaunting the latest trends.

Mawi Neitham, a fashion blogger, styled herself quirky for the Amazon India Fashion Week
Mawi Neitham, a fashion blogger, styled herself quirky for the Amazon India Fashion Week | © Mawi Neitham

Colors

India is kaleidoscopic and clothes have a significant contribution in this. This is true for fashion in any part of the country. The concept of when in doubt, wear black or monotone is lost on Indians.

Monochrome or black doesn’t make much sense
Monochrome or black doesn’t make much sense | © Pixsicle

Diversity

India has 29 states and seven Union Territories and they are all quite different from one another. The Kashmiris in the north have a very different way of dressing than the Keralites living in the south. The saree is a traditional attire that binds India almost throughout, but there are probably 20 different ways of draping the six yards. Weaves and fabrics change too as every state produces its own kind of silk.

Women from Rajasthan usually cover their faces with odhani (stole)
Women from Rajasthan usually cover their faces with odhani (stole) | © Fulvio Spada / flickr

Cultural

In India, dressing is also ruled by culture and traditions. If you see a woman with a red streak on the edge of her hairline or a red dot between her eyebrows, it means she is married. Newly-wed women from the northern parts of India wear choora for a considerable time after their wedding. Women in Rajasthan cover their faces with their saree or odhani. A lot of women wear mangalsutra, another sign of being married.

A bride shows off her mangalsutra after her wedding vows
A bride shows off her mangalsutra after her wedding vows | © Parekh Cards / flickr

Accessories

For Indians, minimalism doesn’t make much sense; it’s all about accessories. Nose pins, bangles, earrings, necklaces, or chains; it’s got to be something! Unlike the western part of the world, Indian women love donning jewelry. In marriages, the amount of gold the bride wears is a clear sign of her family’s status!

An Indian woman wears many accessories on a usual basis
An Indian woman wears many accessories on a usual basis | © Sharon Christina Rørvik / Unsplash

Bollywood-Inspired Fashion

India has two passions: cricket and Bollywood. Bollywood is one that inspires fashion a lot. India’s evergreen heartthrob Salman Khan supports a Non-Government Organization (NGO) called Being Human and he’s often seen wearing t-shirts that endorse the organization. Mysteriously enough, clothes with “Being Human” printed on them appear at local flea markets that men buy and flaunt with a lot of pride!

Indian actor Salman Khan’s “Being Human” t-shirts are quite popular among Indian men
Indian actor Salman Khan’s “Being Human” t-shirts are quite popular among Indian men | © Aslam3809 / wikimedia commons

Homemade D.I.Y.s Win Over Makeup

Indian girls and women are usually dissuaded to wear makeup. It will ruin your skin, they say. Instead, India has homemade D.I.Y.s, face masks, and peels that will keep the skin glowing and make you look beautiful even if you’re not wearing any foundation.

Indians prefer to keep their skin glowing with masks
Indians prefer to keep their skin glowing with masks | ©sirtravelalot / shutterstock

Long Hair

There’s a popular proverb in India—”baal ladkiyon ka gehna hota hai”—which means “hair is a woman’s ornament.” And thus, long hair is a sign of beauty in India. So salons are meant for trimming just an inch or two and the local parlor lady will always have a concoction of oils to make your hair stronger. This has a cultural symbolism too. In olden days, widows used to cut their hair short so it was considered inauspicious.

Long hair is considered a beauty asset in India
Long hair is considered a beauty asset in India | © Uber Images / shutterstock

Local “Ladies Tailor”

Ask any Indian woman and she has a favorite tailor who stitches all her blouses and dresses. Every locality has a bunch of tailors, and women scout for the one who will give them the best fit. These tailors are the most coveted men before festivals in India because on such occasions women make new clothes and they want nothing to go wrong with them.

Every locality has tailors that stitch blouses and dresses to their customers’ satisfaction
Every locality has tailors that stitch blouses and dresses to their customers’ satisfaction | © Radiokafka / shutterstock

Covering Up is Always a Good Idea

When in doubt, cover yourself. Skin showing is not taken too well in the country. Call it conservative or a concern for your skin in the sunny weather, but less is definitely not more in terms of clothes in India. That doesn’t mean you need to cover arms and legs completely. But, showing a lot of leg or cleavage might not be a great decision.

Skin showing is not taken too well in India
Skin showing is not taken too well in India | © Harsha K R / flickr