The clothing for which India is known is very different from that of most other countries in the world. This is for two major reasons (apart from cultural differences); namely, the climate and the religious specifications. This country is incredibly hot and often wet or humid. However, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam require that their followers be dressed modestly and in a dignified fashion. This may restrict their choice of fabrics and styles somewhat, but the clothing that has been created as a result is effective, fascinating and always beautiful. The more westernised urban areas have begun demonstrating trends towards the clothing of places like North America and the United Kingdom. However, the majority of India still adheres to traditional clothing forms.

Women can generally be found in a:

• Sari – this is a strip of material, usually brightly coloured and ornately decorated and embroidered, which can be draped
Image of Indian women wearing a sari
Woman posing namaskaram action in blue sari
over the body in a variety of styles. A commonly seen style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist and the long end slung over the shoulder. This leaves the waist and stomach somewhat exposed, which is considered to be acceptable in India. Women in saris usually wear a petticoat as well as a blouse (known as a choli) under it. The choli is generally cropped and often without a back so as not to make the woman too hot. Younger girls can get away with half saris.
• Salwar kameez – although this was originally considered appropriate only for Muslims, it is now accepted throughout India. A salwar kameez comprises a loose pair of trousers with a loose shirt. This is most frequently worn in the north-western areas and is paired with a scarf to cover the head.
• Lehenga – this is a skirt that is colourful, made from a lot of fabric to ensure that it sways and swirls as the women move. This is elegant and beautiful, a popular memento for tourists.

Men’s clothing is a little more varied. Their traditional outfits are called:

• Dhotis – this is a rectangular piece of cloth that wraps around the waist and is then knotted fast. These are most common in Western India and are usually worn with loose shirts, kurtas or lungi.
• Kurtas – a kurta is a loose shirt, usually without a collar, that falls to just above or below the wearer’s knees. These can actually be worn by women too, and are then known as kurti. Today, these may even be worn with a pair of jeans, as they cover the body shape sufficiently, according to religious traditions. It may open in the front, which can be in the centre or to the side.
• Lungis - the lungi is better known as a sarong to most. It is a brightly coloured tube of fabric that is wrapped around the waist and tied into a knot. Lungis that are just unsewn strips of material are cheaper. During ceremonies and celebrations, silk lungis are worn. These are trimmed with a strip of black or white material at the top and bottom to prevent the lungi from fraying. This style is considered to be far cooler than trousers.

In many areas, particularly industrialised towns, men can often be seen in common trousers and a short-sleeved shirt. Female visitors to India should don a long skirt or loose trousers, with a shirt that does not reveal the shape of their bodies. This shows respect for their customs and beliefs.

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