Dressing appropriately in India can be difficult, as what’s appropriate varies immensely from city to city and region to region. Varying factors like weather, intricate cultural differences, etc., go into perception. Furthermore, the people of India have a very unique fashion sense, which can make it a bit tricky for foreigners and other travelers to comprehend.
A key aspect of enjoying travel is discovering and trying new things. So instead of doing the same thing that you are used to, venture out of your comfort zone and try out things the way regionals do. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to fit in and not stand out as a tourist in places you travel. This is especially difficult when you’re traveling in India because most people will be wearing different clothes than what you are used to.
Not following the regional dress code can put you at a disadvantage making you appear overdressed or underdressed tourist. The key to figuring out the ideal balance is doing your research before you go and pack accordingly. Here are some general guidelines that can help you with a good idea about how to dress in India.
How To Dress Like An Indian
- Blend with the locals. The best way to dress is by following the local customs and wearing what the majority of them wear.
- Don’t wear anything that draws attention. Additionally, avoid dresses that are expensive & fancy (eye-catching bright patterns, extensive embroidery, etc.)
- Wearing Indian outfits in India will greatly aid you in avoiding awkward stares in public places. This also has the added benefit of showing the locals that you respect their traditions.
- Wear clothes that are ideal fits and not too revealing.
- Try perusing online shopping platforms like Mynthra, Ajio, Flipkart, Amazon, etc. However, the better option is to go to the local shops.
- Temperature and seasons in India vastly differ. Indians usually wear clothes acclimatizing to the climate of their region. For example, local shops in Chennai will have only limited options for winter wear.
- Although international brands like Zara and H&M are popular and they promote Western culture, regionals still stick true to their traditional dresses.
- Indians are not always conservative. They just prefer modesty in dresses. For example, Bikinis are common in beach destinations like Goa and are seldom seen in a busy metropolitan like Chennai. So pack in accordance with the place.
Men in India are comfortable wearing kurtas (a loose overshirt), t-shirts, shirts, shorts, pants, lungi, or veshti. They wear lungi or pants at home for sheer comfort and remember to always refrain from wearing clothes like that to places like the temple.
Women have a variety of options to wear. Listed below are some that are usually worn by Indian women folks.
- Skirts/midi that covers at least until the knee
- Salwar Kameez or Churidar – a three-piece suit that includes a top, a pant, and a shawl
- Tank top with jeans. We recommend you to cover your shoulders with scarves or shawls aka dupatta when you travel to places that are not metropolitans.
- T-shirts and palazzos (loose pants)
- Sarees – common choice among married women
- Kurti, a long tunic shirt
- Maxi dress – a single-piece long gown
- Jeans and leggings are common and can be worn in any part of the state.
- Shorts or trousers – not so popular except in cities and beach destinations.
- Party wears – common attire while attending parties or clubbing.
You can mix and match these to your comfort standards.
What Outfit To Wear During Different Occasions?
As Indians, we’ve noticed that some foreigners visiting our country wear inappropriate clothing, at certain places. They tend to dress incorrectly for the type of event they are attending. This might be an acceptable norm everywhere else, but decorum and respect are highly-held values in Indian communities. Not only does this look bad, but it can also offend the people around you if you are not knowledgeable about how to dress for work or special occasions in India. Here are some ways to avoid these common mistakes and make sure you always look your best.
To A Temple
Dress modestly if visiting a holy place of worship like a mosque or temple. Some temples prohibit people from entering by wearing Western or modern clothes that to them are too revealing. This is explained in detail which also highlights the rules to follow while visiting any Hindu temple in India.
To A Business Meeting Or An Interview
All business formals including shirts, blazers, and other business attire accepted in other countries can be worn for official meetings in India. Salwar Kameez, Kurtis, and sarees are also acceptable ethnic formal attire for women and are worn every day to the office.
While Doing Yoga
There is no specific dress code for yoga. The dress should be comfortable to stretch your body and have room to move freely. People in India usually wear cotton t-shirts and jogger pants for practicing yoga outdoors while women wear padded sports bras with yoga pants for practicing indoors. You can also search Google for “yoga apparel in <India>” for a broader range of options.
To A Party/ Pub/ Club
You can wear tees mixed with jeans, a one-piece skater, a pencil skirt, or shorts. It is totally up to you but heads up, you won’t be allowed inside a club in office or formal attire. Shoes or party footwear like heels are preferred. Pubs are not common in most places but nightlife is active in metropolitans and developed cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Goa, Pondicherry, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
Note: Alcohol is prohibited in the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Lakshadweep and is referred to as dry states.
To A Beach
All beaches in India are not the same. Beaches in Goa cannot be compared with the ones in Chennai as both cultures differ. For example, you can wear a bikini or shorts in Goa but the same cannot be worn on the beaches of Chennai. The beaches of Varkala (Kerala), Kovalam (Kerala), Gokarna (Karnataka), Goa, Andaman, and private star hotels are a few places where you can flaunt your beach body. Locals wear casual clothes on most of the public beaches in India.
To A Wedding
Indian customs and traditions celebrate weddings in a grand way which take place for three or more days. If you are planning to attend an Indian wedding, you have to know which outfit and jewelry to wear for such occasions. Do not wear western wear, formal office dresses, or casual everyday wear to a wedding. Dress in a fine costume and match with jewelry (earrings, necklace, and bangles) to add richness and blend in with the crowd. Indian weddings focus heavily on splendor and grandiosity. So you are free to be as dazzling as possible.
- Men – Kurtas, Sherwani, Ethnic jackets and pyjama
- Women – Lehenga (A blouse and a skirt paired with dupatta), Saree, Long gown
These traditional Indian garments are often adorned with intricate embroidery, mirrorwork, sequins, and beads. We recommend you use Google Search for <Indian> wedding dresses to get a clear picture of how Indians deck out for a wedding.
To A Funeral
Wear casual clothes that reflect the somber nature of funerals. It is highly disrespectful to wear fine clothing during funerals. A casual shirt with pants for men while a simple saree or salwar kameez for women would suffice. Some people usually prefer to attend funerals dressed in black or white.
Where To Buy Garments In India?
Buy clothes in the local flea markets or shops at a much cheaper price (bargaining is key). Sarojini Nagar, Chandni Chowk, Chor Bazaar, Janpath Market, and Lajpat Market in Delhi are popular street shopping spots among locals. Ask around if you are not familiar. They offer good products at a competitive price. Always ensure to check for product quality before buying from the streets.
Online shopping apps like Mynthra, Ajio, Flipkart, and Amazon have wide options for you to choose from. Have your address handy and expect delivery in 3 – 7 days generally. Personally, we have bought online and returned the same if we had any trouble. The money will be returned to the same mode of payment. However, the time taken for a refund is based on the company’s policy.
Branded apparel can be purchased both online and in stores located pan-India. From international brands to locally owned boutiques, you can buy clothes that match your fashion sense.
Indians may be conservative, but there is a reason why Indians regardless of the region they are from, can travel across the country comfortably regardless of the diversity each place houses, and believe it or not it’s because of the modest and decent clothing they drape.
A dress transcends simple attire and goes beyond that. To an extent, it’s a reflection of who you are. Dressing like the locals do shows that you are an open-minded person, someone who is not afraid to try new things, respectful of the local customs, and approachable. So consider the above-mentioned tips and dress accordingly. Enjoy your stay in India in a meaningful and enriching manner.
What is your favorite ethnic wear? What is the most interesting thing that you noticed about the Indian style of dressing? We would love to hear about it through comments. For more travel-related content such as this and more, subscribe to our newsletter and stay connected by following us on social media.