The contemporary dress pattern of youth, especially urban, is greatly influenced by the foreign elements. The fashion shows and other forms of media have attracted people to experiment with the new patterns of clothing. Garments such as jeans, T-shirts, cargo pants, etc., liked by both the sexes, have flooded the Indian markets.
Nevertheless, a synthesis of tradition and modernity can be observed in the works of designers reflecting indigenous features in combination with industrial technologies. In today’s competitive market machine textiles compete with handwork and sometimes hand workers copy machine technology. But the vitality of the traditional style continues till today.
Each region of the subcontinent produces distinctive fabrics and designs. Women of Indian subcontinent are fond of decorative garments and ornamentation. The dress of women reflects ethnicity and region much more than the men’s dress.
The most common unstiched garment used is the shawl. A shawl roughly measures two to three yards in length and about a yard in width. It is wrapped around the body in different styles in various regions. It has fancy borders and sometimes decorated with embroidery. It is very common in the colder regions. The fabrics used range from coarse wool to the finest cashmere.
Dhoti / Lungi / Mundu
The dhoti, unstiched clothing, is popular among the men of rural areas today. It is a man’s lower garment wrapped around legs. A dhoti can be wrapped in different ways. In South India, a similar unstitched lower garment called mundu is worn by men. The lungi is another sarong-like garment worn by men of all regions.
The turban is the most distinctive unstitched male dress. This is wrapped around the head in different regional patterns. The turban tied by the Rajasthanis appears as big coils whereas the Rajputs tie it in such a way that a plume of fabric hangs down the back. For Sikh males, the turbans are integral part of their religious tradition. It is tightly wrapped, angular and almost geometric.
Kurta-Pajama is another set of traditional upper and lower garment worn by Indian men. The common fabrics used for this are cotton, silk and muslin. Kurtas, either long or short, can be stitched in various printed designs or embroidery work. Pajamas too can be of different styles such as Pathani, Churidaar, etc. One can clearly make out the differences in the dhoti-kurta worn by the men of Bengal region and the lungi-kurta worn by the men of Panjab. Today, even synthetic fabrics are use for stitching these dresses.
The sari is the most distinctive unstitched women’s garment. This is practically worn by women of all regions. The fabrics range from that for everyday use to expensive special occasion wear. Different ways of wrapping the sari and different fabrics and designs reflect regional differences. For example, in Maharashtra, women wrap the sari to the legs in the fashion of man’s dhoti, whereas tribal women in Orissa wear a short, thick, knee-length sari. A typical sari measures 13-26 feet in length and about 4 feet in width. A sari has three distinct sections – the borders along the length of the top and bottom, the interior or field between the borders, and the pallu or the end piece. The borders may be wide or narrow with decorations. Pale and light coloured with simple pallu worn in Bengal and Eastern India can be easily distinguished from heavy Kanjeevaram silk saris of Tamilnadu.
The Salwar-Kamiz is a popular stitched dress among women of almost all regions. However, this dress predominates in the northern regions including Kashmir, Panjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The salwar is a type of pant and kamiz is the upper garment similar to the kurta. A wide scarf (chunni) to drape over the head and shoulders is used with this garment. The kamiz may be stitched in different styles such as long or short, fitted or loose, long or short-sleeved.
Skirt, Blouse, Burqa
Other stitched garments of women include skirt-and-blouse outfits, the burqa, etc. The traditional skirt is long or full ankle-length with pleats and matching border. It is worn with a matching short bodice with sleeves. Today, the influence of western countries can be seen in the use of knee-length or even shorter skirts with modern designs. The burqa is worn by Muslim women. It is a loose cotton or synthetic overcoat with an attached veil.