indian clothing

A Look at the History and Color of Women’s Indian Clothing

There’s no mistaking the richness and beauty of Indian culture. From its ancient art and celebratory dance to its religious traditions, Indian culture can be discovered in the fashion of women.

The bright colors, luxurious fabrics, and intricately beaded details are just a few standouts that come to mind.

But it’s not just these recognizable fashion traits that have such a profound effect on the people who wear them. Rather it’s what these garments represent for the Indian culture as a whole.

To an outsider, a woman wearing a saree evokes a cultural message about her country of origin. But for many Indian women, it’s how one wraps the saree that signifies the region they live in. Continue reading for a brief history of Indian clothing for women.

The History of Indian Clothing

From as early as the second century BC, sculptures and works of art depicted both Indian men and women wearing sarees wrapped around only the lower half of their bodies. It wouldn’t be until the 12th century, after the Muslim takeover, that a change in the style of traditional dress would come about.

For the sake of modesty, the Muslims insisted that Hindu women must cover their upper bodies. The introduction of blouses would become a more common look, as would a petticoat, underneath the saree.

By the time the 15th century arrived, it was clear that both the Muslim and Hindu influences were highly influential in the ways women dressed. From the divided garments to the addition of blouses, jackets, and slim pants, the goal was modesty.

As the British influence became more prevalent with modern times, so did Indian fashion. Western fashion found its way into the designs of contemporary clothing. With looser guidelines for hemlines and necklines, the look of Indian women’s fashions will continue to evolve.

The Role of Colors

The vibrant colors found throughout the communities in India are a stunning representation of both Indian culture and its heritage. From the brightly painted villages to the bold spice colors used in cooking to the intricately painted Hindu temples, color is ever-present.


Religion plays a large role in the symbolism of color choices in India. One of the most well-known gods in India, Lord Krishna, is connected with the color blue. Not only is blue the color of spirituality, but it also represents calmness, trust, and tranquility.


Yellow is frequently associated with purity, regalness, and the rich spices used in Indian cooking. Turmeric is among the top flavors used to enhance traditional Indian cooking. It is also used as an offering in religious ceremonies.


Green is the universal color associated with nature and all of its abundance. Found among the bright Tika powders in the markets all across India, green has a quiet elegance to it. Because of its deep connection with nature, green also represents a spiritual with the universe.


The color red remains powerful and magnetic in Indian culture. Red can be found in the colors of spices, a woman’s wedding garments, and worn as a tiny dot called the red tilak on the forehead to represent a married woman’s spirituality.

It can symbolize both purity and fear and is associated with the red-eyed goddess Durga.

Types of Traditional Female Indian Clothing

Both functional and elegant, the clothing worn by females in Indian culture is created with various types of fabrics and details. From opulent silks to breathable cotton, there is no mistaking the look of women’s clothing.


The saree (or sari) is one of the most recognizable articles of women’s clothing in Indian culture. Made of strips of silk or cotton, saris are draped over the body and wrapped around a woman’s waist with the end hanging. Because the midriff area is bare, sarees are often worn over petticoats or shirts for a more modest look.

Embroidery, symbolic colors, and custom-made sarees are worn on special occasions such as weddings. If you’re looking for the perfect saree, find out more here.

Salwar Kameez

One of the more recognizable garments worn by Indians is the Salwar-Kurta. This two-piece divided garment became popular as a result of a heavily influenced Muslim culture.

The salwar kameez is made up of slender pants (salwar) worn at ankle length, topped by a tunic (kameez). The tunic has made its way into modern fashion and can be worn in a variety of ways.

Anarkali Suit

The Anarkali suit is one of the most popular garment styles of Northern Indian women. The suit is created of a long jacket or blouse with slim pants. Depending on the occasion, the Anarkali suit can be decorated with rich embroidery, patterns, and textures.

The jacket can be long-sleeved, short-sleeved, or sleeveless; the length of the jacket can also range from above the knee to floor-length. Anarkali suits are versatile garments to wear to formal events such as weddings or more casual family gatherings.


The churidar has a very similar look to the salwar. the pants are form-fitting from the calf down and more flowing above the knees. Although it might sometimes be confused with the salwar kameez, the churidar has a more voluminous look. It is frequently worn with a kurta, a long tunic type blouse.

Accessories and Details

In addition to women’s fashions, there are also several accessories and details that accompany these looks. While bindi and henna tattoos have religious roots, their historical significance makes them special.


Bindi are red or black dots that are placed on a man or woman’s forehead to signify both cultural and religious affiliations. In the Hindu religion, it represents the presence of the third eye and can bless the person with good luck.

Henna Tattoos

Henna, also known as mehndi, is a traditional and decorative way to mark the body for celebrations and festivals. Considered to be a form of body art, the henna used is made from a paste of ground and dried henna leaves.

Detailed patterns are painted on the hands and feet as a pre-wedding ritual. These temporary tattoos, symbolizing transcendence, will stay in place for up to three weeks after application.

Celebrate Indian Culture in Style

We hope you found some great information about traditional Indian clothing to help you discover more about the culture. For more great working mom tips, fashion ideas, and advice on how to save big remember to visit our blog every day!

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