Home » Traditional Indian Clothing – Familiar (& Unfamiliar) Names

Traditional Indian Clothing – Familiar (& Unfamiliar) Names

India is a vast country with a range of diverse cultures, lifestyles, religions, social beliefs, norms, rituals, and rites. This diversity of the region is in part because of its varying geo-climatic conditions and also because of the migration of different ethnic groups from other countries. These varied cultural influences are reflected in their clothing too – there are so many different styles of clothing, throughout the country.

Fabric, textile printing, embellishments, clothes are all written in golden letters in its history – it is a part and parcel of the culture of Indians.

A very special thing about Indian clothing is that not much has changed – Indians still love their traditional clothes almost as it was all those years ago. Both men and women are used to wearing both western clothes as well as traditional clothes, depending on the occasion, climate, etc.

Common names of Indian garments


Aba/Abaya

It is a loose over-garment worn with pants. Aba is more like a cloak sometimes worn sleeveless and sometimes with sleeves. It is widely used used in Arabic countries.

Abho

Abho is a tunic with wide sleeves (like a Kaftan) generally worn by women of Gujarat and Rajasthan. It often has embroidery and mirror work as embellishments.

Achkan

A body-fitting long-sleeved coat often worn by men especially during weddings and other festivities. Length can be up to knees or slightly longer than knees. It will be buttoned down in the front.

Angarkha

It is a men’s outerwear that originated in India. It has long sleeves and the front of the garment is open at the chest and knotted with strings. From waist down, it is flared and comes in varying lengths.

Anarkali

A flared dress for women

Angavasthram / Thundu

A long rectangular piece of white cloth used to cover the torso for men. It was earlier called Uttariya

Badla

It is a flat silver colored wire used in Indian embroidery especially in Zardozi work.

Baghal Bandi

Baghal Bandi is a tunic-like garment worn by men. Similar to waistcoat in style, one side overlaps the other and is tied on the side. 

Bandgala/Jodhpuri suit

This is a set of jackets and pants and may include a vest. The jacket will have a band collar.

Balabar

It is an outer garment, a coat fashioned like Achkan, worn by men.

Chaubandi Chola

It is kids wear fashioned like a shirt or short tunic fastened with tie cords.

Chaugoshia

Chaugoshia is 150 years old traditional dress and is comprised of four parts : a tight blouse called choli, loose tunic called kurti, tight pajamas and a five-meter Khadakwasla duppatta.

Choli

Popular and an essential part of clothing by Indian women, a choli was traditionally a half-sleeved bodice. Today Choli comes is a wide variety of styles with different lengths of sleeves or no sleeves at all. Some have openings in the back while others have it in front which are fastened by hook, buttons, strings etc.

Cholo

Cholo is loose-fitting clothing worn by Sindhi women. There are many forms of cholo. The traditional one is a long ankle-length dress with an opening at the front to the waist and wide sleeves.

Choga

This is a long and flared robe-like garment worn loosely around the body like a cloak for men. Rajasthani origin

Churidar

Churidar is long pants similar to leggings, tightly fitted at the thighs and calf with gathers or wrinkles at the ankles. It is a modern variant of salwar.

Dhoti

Dhoti is a long rectangular piece of unstitched cloth 4.5m meters long used to wrap around the waist and legs as bottom wear. This cloth is wrapped around the waist and then one end is brought up between the legs and tucked or tied at the front, little to the left or right or at the back. It is worn by men mostly and sometimes even women in many states of India. Dhoti is known by different states of India – Laacha in Punjab, Dhuti in Bengal, Veshti in Tamil Nadu, Panche in Karnataka, Mundu or Veshti in Kerala, Dhotar in Maharashtra, and Pancha in Andhra Pradesh. Dhoti is traditionally paired with a Kurta. It was known as Antariya in ancient times

Dhabla

A thick wool blanket worn over the shoulders by Rajasthani men

Doru

Gaddis use a long rope called doru to secure their thick woolen coat at the waist.

Dhoru

A long blanket worn over the Body (Himachal Pradesh)

Dupatta

Dupatta which can be traced as back to Indus Valley civilization is a traditional attire worn by women in India as a symbol of modesty. It is a long shawl that is nowadays worn by women as part of the kurta, salwar kameez or ghagra.

Farji

It is an over garment designed to be worn like a coat over Jama. It has an open front with no sleeves or sometimes short sleeves and fur collars.

Farshi pajama

Farshi pajamas are voluminous flowing two-legged floor-length skirts secured tight by a string. It was worn by Muslim women of Oudh royalty and upper classes. A kurta and a dupatta formed part of the ensemble.

Fatuhi

Fatuhi is a jacket without sleeves. It is quilted with cotton or wool.

Ghagra

Ghagra is a long embroidered pleated skirt, secured at the waist. It is usually worn with choli and sometimes with a kurta. A kalidar ghaghra consists of many kalis or triangle shaped panels

Gherdar

A Mughal inspired costume with a sewn coat and full skirt.

Ghutanna

A ghutanna is worn by men and women alike with kurta. It is a kind of tight pyjama which is shorter than the full length pyjama and ends at the calf.

Izar

Izar is a voluminous outer garment usually worn by Muslim women.

Jama

A Mughal period costume, Jama is a long coat that ended around or below the knees. It has full sleeves and most James are fastened to either left or right or sometimes both sides with strings. Some jamas are opened in the front. It was originally a dress worn by men, but women have also adapted it to be worn with pyjamas.

Jangia

Jangia is an undergarment worn by boys and men

Jimi

A gathered unstitched skirt (Gujarat)

Jhabbo

Jhabbo is a long robe that is loose and has short wide sleeves. It is loose-fitting at the upper part and has a flared skirt. It is worn by men and women.

Jhabbla

It is a soft and breathable garment made of soft cotton worn by newborn babies. It is a simple dress with a drawstring neckline.

Jubba (jhabba)

A loose Kurta with folded cuff and side slits

Jhumb

Jhumb is a long sheet or blanket draped over the head to cover the head and the body.

Kalidar kurta

Kalidar kurta is inspired by the lehengas and has several pieces stitched together to give it a unique look like a frock. Kalidar kurtas are made with cotton, linen or silk. They are worn as everyday wear and also for special occasions.

Kameez

Kameez is a long shirt or tunic with open seams on both sides below the waistline. It can have various types of collars or go collarless. Same is with the sleeves. A kameez is usually cut straight.

Kamarband

A sash tied at the waist ( origin of cummerband) ; also called patka

Kanchli

Kanchli is an upper garment with sleeves like choli worn by married women especially in Rajasthan.

Kawrechi

This is a blouse worn by women in the state of mizoram. It is worn with Puanchei as a skirt.

Kurta

It is a long loose shirt like garment that falls below knees or just above the knees. Traditionally it was mostly worn by men but later both men and women started wearing it.

Kurti

Kurti is a short kurta worn by women in India. Traditionally kurti meant waist coats, jackets or blouses which sit above the waistline with midriff covered.

Lehenga

Lehenga is a paneled ankle-length skirt mostly decorated with different styles of embroidery.

Lungi
Lungi is a type of sarong wrapped around the lower waist by men. Some lungis are open type and some are sewn like a tube.

Mekhela Chador

Traditional dress of women of the state of Assam – it is a saree consisting of two fabric pieces. The Bottom portion (Mekhela) is worn as a skirt and the top portion (chador) is draped over the upper body

Odhani

Odhani is a small veil /headscarf worn by women mostly with a ghagra, kanchli and kurti. It is shorter than a dupatta and covers the head and right shoulder. One end is drawn across the body and tucked into the waistband and the other end is often left hanging in the front.

Pagdi /Pugree

Pagdi or turban is a kind of headwear made by winding a long cloth in variety of styles over the head. In Punjab it is tied up with the long hair of the wearer. Pheta is the name used for Pagdi in Maharashtra. An ornament called Sarpech is added to the pagdi to make it look festive (for weddings and festivals)

Pratidhi

This is a breast covering – a piece of cloth covering the breast very similar to the modern bra. The pratidhi was also called as uttariya, kanchuki, kanchuli, choli, cholaka or angopa. Even today this can be seen in some parts of India like Tripura where it is wrapped around the body as a breast covering. It can also be tied at the back.

Pyjama

Pyjamas are soft loose garments worn as bottom wear and secured by drawstrings. It is worn by both men and women.

Peshwaz

Long high waisted gown belonging to the era of Peshwas.

Pheran

A long loose tunic worn by both men and women in the state of Kashmir

Pheta

This is a head scarf (Maharashtra)

Puanchei (Mizo Puanchei)

It is a very colourful shawl from the state of Mizoram – It is a part of the traditional costume there. Mizoram women wear this during festivities.

Puan

This is a traditional costume of women in the state of Mizoram

Purdah

A long robe covering the entire body with long sleeves

Rumal

Handkerchief

Sari

An unstitched long fabric usually 9 yards in length with a decorated end panel called pallav and draped around the body by women in different styles. A sari is often worn with a short tight-fitting blouse called choli.

Salwar kameez

Salwar kameez is a two-piece dress with a loose baggy type bottom secured with drawstrings at the waist and a long tunic left open on both sides at the seams from the waist down.

Sherwani

It is a long coat buttoned to the neck and reaching the knees or just below the knees or calf length. It is worn over a kameez

Tehmat / tamba

A variation of Lungi ; Tradition dress of the men in Punjab.

Topi

Cap; Gandhi topi needs no introduction.

Read more about traditional Indian costumes : Indian Costumes – A Biswas; Indian Costume by Govind Sadashiv Ghurye

Related posts : Different types of clothes ; Fashion styles : Fashion subcultures.

AUTHOR : Hi, I am Sarina. I am passionate about clothes, sewing, fabrics, fashion and surface design techniques in no particular order and absolutely love writing about all of these including what I learn, what I experience, and what I have bought to do all these. You are more than welcome to stay here and learn with me.

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