Find out everything about the origin and the materials of the traditional clothing in India, that are presently exported all around the world
TRADITIONAL CLOTHING IN INDIA
For DINKtravelers, the cultural traits we find at the destinations we visit inspire us to study and understand traditions while enjoying our journeys. Part of each culture is understood through fashion, one of the most original and distinctive elements it has, because every region has developed a different way of dressing, depending on its geographical location, the weather, religious beliefs and traditional celebrations, among other aspects.
A country that is quite famous for its colorful and elegant clothing is India. We invite you to learn about the origin, the materials and the garments that are manufactured in India and that are presently exported all around the world. Without doubt, in your next visit to this country, shopping for a new wardrobe will be part of the trip.
HISTORY OF INDIAN FASHION
It was in Alaipur where the tradition of silk knitting began. It’s one of the most ancient inhabited places in the world and one of the four most important Hindu pilgrimage sites because it’s said that this is where the cycles of rebirth began. This small city is a labyrinth of alleys that usually lead to traditional clothes shops, temples or dhamsalas –resting places for pilgrims.
Knitters are known as karigar, which means artists, and their workshops are known as karkhanas. If you take a tour, ask your guide to take you to one of these places. You’ll visit several interconnected halls where they keep the looms and where the knitters work laboriously under the artificial light, amidst a tranquil atmosphere that allows them to have the concentration they need to create beautiful designs.
Brocades are knit textiles with a crisscrossed stitching for which they use many colorful threads. Among the most distinctive clothes they create with this technique there’s the sari, known as kalabattun, which is made with a fine gold or silver-based silk thread. Also, silk is the most common fabric used in clothe-making due to its softness and lightness. Some time ago it used to be imported from Bengal, Central Asia or Italy, but nowadays it comes from Malda, Kashmir or Japan.
THE MOST ORIGINAL TRADITIONAL CLOTHING IN INDIA
In India, it’s common to see men and women wearing traditional clothes in the streets. DINKtravelers advices you to take note of the interesting combinations they’ve created mixing contemporary western clothing with traditional Indian costumes.
An example of this is the salwar kameez –pronounced shalguar camis– whose use spread throughout India after the Muslim occupation in the 12th century. Later, during the Mogul Empire, it continued to be worn and it even became the traditional costume in Punjab. That’s why they sometimes call it the Punjabi suit.
Another famous and multifunctional garment is the puppata –a type of scarf. It’s usually worn as a veil or around the neck. Women find it useful when they need to cover their head when visiting a temple or when older people are present. Also, it’s used as an accessory that’s worn hanging from one shoulder or draped around the shoulders. There are many different designs and materials that are used in its elaboration.
Another interesting garment is the kurti (men’s tunic) or kurta (women’s tunic). According to history it originated during Roman times when it was worn under a gown. It consists on a silk blouse that’s usually white or light-colored, with an embroidered neck and sleeves. If you buy one as a souvenir, DINKtravelers suggests wearing it with jeans.
Finally, if you want to find something unique in India, try on a sari. They say that it was created in an imaginative knitter’s workshop when he had a dream about a woman. He dreamt about her glimmering tears, her wavy hair, the different colors that defined her temper and the softness of her hands. He knit all of this together creating the sari. Without doubt, it’s the most sensual Indian clothing. It’s a seamless fabric that’s 6 to 9 meters long, which is wrapped around a woman’s body accentuating her natural curves while usually leaving the waist exposed. Underneath the sari women wear a fit top as well as a type of skirt called the petticoat. Both help keep the long fabric in place. This marvelous garment unified women’s fashion in India thanks to its numerous designs and the more than 100 different ways of wearing it there are.
THE HINDU WEAVE
Despite having new technological advances, in India it’s common to find traditional weaving workshops. There, artisans create a warp by tautening the threads in a longitudinal series and then weaving them together by moving a mechanism with their feet.
Before chemical dyes were introduced in the 19th century, white was the predominant color in Indian fashion. Now, before they start weaving, artisans submerge the threads in dyes they prepare in their workshops.
For professional knitters it’s very important to distinguish the type of thread they’ll use for their warp, because depending on the material, whether it’s cotton, wool, jute or silk, they tense the warp more or less. Learn to buy the most fancy and elegant clothing by taking into account that high quality fabrics have a 180 thread count per square inch in the fabric, while luxury fabrics can have a 200 thread count per square inch or more!