What to wear in India? A guide for Men & Women


A question lingering on your mind since you booked your flight to India or even before, well India is a democracy and you have the freedom to wear yourself as do many Indians, who are more obsessed with Western outfits than the traditional. To be honest, traditional clothing is limited to festivals, ceremonies, or marriages and almost everyone in the cities could be found sporting a pair of denim jeans and a nice T-shirt or top on a casual outing, when it comes to the workforce men wear as western clothes as you do, Shirt, pants and sometimes the added on tie and blazer. When it comes to working women in some places they wear traditional Salwar-suit or Sarees and or Tops/Shirts as they prefer the image of the modern working Indian women dressing up in smart formals or casuals, which as per them are more comfortable and easy to handle than the traditional.

Most married women wear a saree (a long piece of cloth with a blouse), Rajputi Poshak in Rajasthan, and other traditional outfits depending on the region, but when they are on holiday even they shift to modern outfits as they are away from their home, society and are no more bounded by the social norms and tend to enjoy their purchases and get dressed in funky jeans, trousers with beautiful tops and or party dress, so it’s not that they don’t wear western outfits. The upcoming generation is open to fashion and trends across the globe and is not far behind to follow.

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Are you still confused about how to dress up when in India, here is an insight that is my personal observation been born and brought up in an Indian City. I rarely see young unmarried women in traditional unless you’re in a rural area or it’s an occasion well India is a country of festivals and festivities so the chances of seeing a woman dressed up in traditional Indian attire are good, but you can make out with the sparkling and heavy dresses. But the dressing culture in India is so vast and varied which changes from city to city, region to region, and from person to person that you cant catch up with it, here is a pic of a saint in his maximum clothing whereas many roam around naked as well so it’s difficult to say what’s the best outfit for you.

What to wear in India

Saint is almost naked.

The best way to do this is to pack a few pairs of clothing and try to go shopping before you actually begin your India tours, this way you would be aware of the way people dress up in India as you observe them walking past you, and also to your surprise you would be amused by the pricing, Indian clothing is cheaper and you would be delighted to wear them as people are more amused watching a foreigner dressed up like an Indian out of surprise, curiosity they would be glad to have a conversation with you so pack light for India with some extra space in your baggage for clothes you buy from India since they are cheaper and colorful and you would not like to pay extra baggage when you return, keep this in mind. Well, you can pass India in a couple of outfits and slippers, and when you return you will be carrying all the good memories and heavier bags back home.

What to wear in India

Guests clothed in India

You are free to dress as you would back at your home. Well, keep in mind the places you will visit for the day, keeping your modesty in the places you visit. If you are out sightseeing monuments, you can enjoy whatever dress you have packed up as there would be many tourists as well as Indians visiting the place and mostly all dressed up to their will, from shorts to crop tops and anything in between. But when it comes to temples you need to show some respect to the Gods, as some religious places have a code of conduct –

What to wear in India depending on the places you visit –

  • While visiting a temple keep your shoulder and knee covered at almost all religious places.
  • When visiting a Gurudwara the Sikh place of worship – you need a cloth over your head and don’t worry you can find one at the Gurudwara.
  • When going to a Mosque – you must wear a long skirt till your toes and shoulders are covered as the Jama Masjid, Delhi – the largest mosque doesn’t entertain showing off of skin and it’s always better to wear one beforehand than to rent a wrap-on probably used by many.
  • Dress and you will be amused to know you certainly are impressing others without the extra effort put in cause you are white and brighter than most in the country.
  • Strolling the markets it’s better to wear loose comfortable clothes the length isn’t a factor here, just be mindful of the people around you and dress accordingly.
  • Feeling hot you can wear shorts and a top, especially at major tourist attractions and cities as most Indian women adorn Western clothes too. But more short the dress be prepared for some extra stares which you would be getting anyway.

Also no matter what you wear in India or how your looks are you would be asked for a selfie or a chat at places, don’t take that personally and feel good about the unexpected stardom you are receiving which you would never get back home. You can respond to them in a polite manner by saying “NO” in English or “NAHI” in Hindi and ignore them and move on keeping in mind if once you get yourself clicked with one person there would be a queue of people who would try to get a picture of themselves, their spouse or kids and get them pictured with you, so if you have the time go ahead and enjoy the paparazzi’s or stick to the No in Hindi “Nahi” and continue to move on.

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The best time to visit India is during the winter which begins at the end of September and lasts till mid-march the weather is cooler and pleasant and you would enjoy the most during this time of the year as compared to harsh and hot summers, keep in mind even during the winters the mercury can be high, especially for people coming from colder countries. So it is advisable to wear cotton, linen, and or silk at all times, rather than wearing fancy synthetics which can make you feel uncomfortable. Well above the cotton you must sport some warm clothes or at least keep a jacket or sweater handy, especially at dusk and dawn, and you can wear a nice tee, or shirt with trousers, jeans, or shorts (if you aren’t feeling cold) and PAJAMA (it is truly Indian) as your on holidays aren’t you.

dressed up for a gurudwara visit

Dressed up for Holy Place

What to Wear in India for Women

P.S: The writer of this blog is a man so don’t be offended, ladies.

Well, you will be looked upon cause staring is not awkward in Indian Culture and we tend to stare freely when we find something different someone fairer than our tone. Being fair is a blessing in India and you can find various beauty products claiming to make you fair for men and women equally alike. Since you have that extra edge it’s just out of curiosity that people will turn back to take another look at you, but that’s okay in Indian Culture and you must admit it too. Whatever you dress in – you will be amused to know you certainly are impressing others without the extra efforts put in cause you are whiter and brighter than most in the country.

In general, wearing loose clothes is favorable when in India, especially down south where the weather is more humid. You can wear what you prefer as long as it ain’t too revealing from shorts to crop tops all are okay to be worn in India.

General dressing up Do’s & Don’t for women –

  • Deep cleavage is a no-no cause that would get you a lot more stares.
  • Wearing Synthetic clothing
  • Too tight clothing, as sightseeing, can be tough if you are uncomfortable
  • When visiting a temple or a holy place of worship, wear sober clothing.
  • Ignore the requests made for selfies if you are low on time as it could result in a queue of people trying to get a selfie.
  • Shorts are fine in most cities and tourist attractions.
  • When visiting a small town and or village, it’s advisable to cover yourself up to your knees and shoulders.
  • It is advisable to wear full sleeves and pants/jeans at dusk and dawn or a mosquito repellent to prevent mosquito bites.
  • It’s great to carry a long scarf which comes in handy to your rescue if you need to cover up, so a scarf can be wrapped around like a cloth covering you up.
  • Staring is common in Indian culture and doesn’t think of it as rude or be uncomfortable.
  • Dress with confidence and in comfort.

Well, some decency in clothing is expected but not demanded.

Traditional Rajasthan clothes

Traditional Rajasthan clothes.

What to Wear in India for Men –

Men in Indian society are not looked upon seriously when it comes to their dressing sense and have the upper edge to wear anything they would usually wear back home. But keeping in mind the geography and weather here are some recommendations which could help you pack light and make your journey easier through the Indian terrains.
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Dress Code India

  • Shirt – Cotton or linen shirts during the day can be fine if you feel good in shirts.
  • T-Shirt – Yes always easy to live in t-shirts are a good choice.
  • Vest – Yes a sleeveless vest can be your companion on a hot day or especially during summer.
  • Jeans – As long as you are comfortable it does a great job.
  • Trousers – Yes.
  • Shorts – Cool, comfortable, and breathable shorts are a nice choice but be sure to carry PJs for the night as mosquitoes can be active by the evening and you might not like them.
  • Blazer – Yes in winter one might need to cover up at night and can be handy for dinner at some fine dining restaurant if you are single.
  • Jacket – Only during winter do you need warm clothing.
  • Men can sport traditional attire like Kurta – Payjama which come in all colors and sizes and different pieces of work, so if you’re invited to an occasion it might come in handy and you can buy them here itself.