India is a vast country and heavily populated.Size wise it is almost as large as Europe and more important is home to diverse religions and races from Mongolic to Dravidian and Aryan to tribal. The major religion is Hinduism but here also the number of sects and streams of Hinduism are a legion. In addition India is home to the second largest Moslem population in the world. It also houses significant minorities of Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis.
Climate and Dress
India also has a diverse climate from the freezing cold in the Himalayan regions to the hot deserts of Rajasthan and on to the sultry tropical plains of the south. Thus the dress of the people of India in particular the women vary from region to region and area to area.
Starting from the South which has a tropical climate the women invariably wear a sari and blouse. A sari is a 5/6 meter wrap around that is intricately tied around the waist and goes up to the ankles. The blouse can have any number of designs. The sari’s come in a wide range of material and cost. You can have plain cotton saris or embroidered silk saris. Some of the gold embroidered saris can set you back by many thousands of rupees.
The sari not only adds grace to a woman but creates an aura of mystery as it reveals very less and promises a lot more.The sari itself is worn in a number of ways. The tribal women of Orissa and Bihar will not wear a blouse and use the ‘pall’ to cover the upper body. Women from Maharashtra will wear the sari by dividing the pall through the legs thus adding allure to the wearer.
The Parsis will follow the western code of dress with skirt and blouse.
The North Indian woman
The north Indian women have adopted the shalwar kameez (shirt). A shalwar is a form of loose trouser that is tied at the waist with a cord. The kameez can be any number of designs to fill sleeves to half and low cut to full coverage. The shalwar kameez gives a woman greater degree of freedom and also accentuates her curves. The kameez come in a variety of designs and make. You can wear cotton or silk and the costly kameezs have gold embroidery and can cost upwards of ten thousand rupees.
The women of Rajasthan wear what is termed the Ghagra and choli. A Ghaghara is a loose skirt that goes up to the ankles and choli is a blouse. Even village women will wear enticing blouses that could be backless. The ghagra choli is extremely beneficial in the hot desert regions .These dresses are much in demand at fashion boutiques as well. Many of them are handcrafted.
The Women of the East
The women of the east wear a shorter version of a sari and their garb is simpler. Perhaps with frequent floods the need for a shorter piece of sari is important. The tribal women of the east in Orissa and Bengal dispense with a blouse and cover their torso with the pallu of their sari. Women from the tribal area further east like the Mizos and the Nagas have adopted the western dress of skirts and blouses. This is perhaps due to the Christian missionary influence in this area.
The Moslems in India have adopted all the dresses of the region they reside. But in addition they wear the Hijab or burkha.It may have been banned in Europe but in India it flourishes.
Up in the Himalayas and ladakh the women wear dresses made of woolen cloth. They wear full dresses that help them remain warm.
Thus India is rightly called a sub continent. It is a vast region and there can be no two opinions that it is a fertile ground for a dress designer. No wonder that a number of Indian women have won various beauty contests over the last ten years.