Last updated on April 14th, 2017
Though there are many things to consider before coming to India, one of the biggest challenges for me was defining how to pack properly. Since I was going to work in India for at least one year, I needed to consider both business and casual attire. Despite I’ve read multiple articles about India, I still ended up bringing half of the suitcase I’ve never used. From the other hand, I was missing some stuff I wish I’ve taken from my home. In this post, I’m going to write about the dressing style recommendations. In other words, what to wear in India to feel both comfortable and accepted by the locals & society.
India is a moderately conservative country in terms of dressing style. The bigger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and holiday destinations like Goa, Pondicherry have more liberal rules in terms of clothing. The farther you go from the big cities, more conservative your clothing style should be. Below are several recommendations I suggest to follow:
1. Get yourself covered
This is advisable for both health and cultural reasons. Whether you are in a big city, or in a small village in India, you will get a lot of attention from the locals on the road. It doesn’t matter if you are a guy or a girl, you will be stared if it’s obvious that you are not a local. Don’t take it personally that something is wrong with you. People show this way their curiosity.
In India, it is culturally more acceptable if your arms and legs are covered. You don’t need to limit yourself to wearing full sleeves. Half sleeve shirts or tops will work fine. Nevertheless, sleeveless options are more suitable for big cities.
In addition to saving yourself from the unwanted attention, covering up your body will protect you from the insects and excess of sun. Many people think that lesser clothes feel more comfortable in hot weather. Generally, it is the other way around. It is better to cover up yourself with light cotton clothes to protect your skin and feel less sweaty.
2. Loosen up your clothes
In big cities, you will find Indian girls or guys wearing tight jeans and skinny tops. Nevertheless, if you wear the same, you will stand out from the crowd much more. India is not the best place to wear skin tight tops and shirts especially for girls. As a foreigner, you will already have the excess of attention, but wearing skinny clothes and showing your curves or muscles will further increase the unwanted staring. It is also advisable to wear loose cotton clothes in the summer season so you don’t feel sweaty and sticky.
3. Pack Light & Fill the Suitcase in India
India is one of the best destinations for shopping. It will spoil you with choices! Wherever you land in India, you will find good, high quality and affordable clothes there. By the way, branded clothes will be also cheaper here. I’ve covered recently some useful tips that can save you money while shopping in India. If you reserve some extra space in your luggage, you will be able to buy some clothes in India that are comfortable and culturally accepted.
4. Try traditional
Whenever you are in India give a try to a traditional wear. From saris to churidar and kurtas, you can find clothes from finest material at very reasonable price. Maybe saris and churidar will be a tough ask to wear, but kurtas can be a daily choice with leggings or jeans.
5. Respect Religious Wear
India is a land of many Gods and different religions. I guess visiting different temples, mosques and gurudwaras will be on your list. Lookout what exactly other people are wearing while coming out of the religious site. Few important things which should be kept in mind: cover your head with a scarf or a handkerchief, remove shoes and dress conservatively. It is all about paying respect to the religious beliefs of the local community while entering their religious sites.
Below there is a checklist what to wear in India and what not:
- Jeans, long pants, leggings are fine. Honestly to say, I am wearing jeans only in winters. When it is really hot, I suggest choosing loose bottoms of lighter material like cotton. Alladin pants, long skirts, pajamas, etc.
- Shorts can work in big cities, though I advise wearing at least knee length. Capris till or below the knee will work just fine for guys. For girls, it is advisable to have capris well below the knee.
- It’s hard to spot lots of girls wearing skirts here. Even if they do, they wear maxi skirts till the ankles.
- Buy a scarf. It is a universal accessory that can protect you from the sun, provide an additional coverage and add the stylish touch.
- Showing Cleavage – I think it is clear that this option is off the table 😀
- Shoes. Give preference to darker color shoes that are easy to wash. India is a dusty country, thus so you will need to clean your shoes daily. Take a pair of flipflops – they suit many purposes in India. Many offices accept them during monsoons.
- Traditional clothing like saris, kurti etc. can work for different occasions. During summers, cotton formal kurtis are my top choice for office wear. Don’t lose your individuality just because you are in India. Wear your style of clothing just with a tad of conservatism, and you will do just fine.
I know it might be tough initially to change some part of your wardrobe and follow these limitations, especially if you intend to stay for a long time. For me as a girl the hardest thing was to give away skirts, however, I discovered and adapted some new styles that I totally like! And you also will find yours 🙂