Why do Indian women like to wear western clothes?

Don’t you think the way we look at western clothing in India is complex, in some ways even twisted. Do we see western clothes as empowering in some ways, like the English language, computers and cell phones?

Most people who object to one tend to object to all these, and still seem to want them all.

I am sure more women would wear western clothing if they could, and for more than just comfort and convenience.

Here’s what I think might make western clothing attractive to women (and men),

1. It’s more  forbidden to married women, so it can indicate either that the woman is not married. Or,

2. Is ‘married but looks unmarried’ (and ‘looking unmarried’ is seen as a compliment for married women all over India).  Or.

3. She is lucky enough to have in laws and spouse who don’t force her to wear traditional clothing.

Any other reasons why Indian women might prefer to wear western clothes? This question was a search query that brought someone to this blog :)

Related posts:

No jeans for an Indian Daughter in law.

The way a woman dresses…

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101 thoughts on “Why do Indian women like to wear western clothes?

  1. I would often argue with my wife why she needs a dupatta with a salwar kameez, but she doesn’t need one with a plain kurta on jeans or otherwise or no scarf or something similar with a T-shirt. It is about the way the dress is- e.g. you wont’ wear a tie if you are not on trousers/shirt/coat, etc. Indian dressing (may not be Asian) is therefore lot more complicated then western ones. So, convenience ranks prime I think. And while Indian clothes are glamorous subtly, western clothes are glamorous as is by virtue of their design – tight fitting, skirt length, shoulder straps (thick, thin, none .. etc). So that could be another factor. Also, with western clothes you want to give a message strong- that you are modern and that you are kind of asserting your freedom to be yourself. Especially true for “bahus” of the house who don’t get to wear any form of western clothing. Since last 2-3 years I see that the Daugther-in-laws in my place (Siliguri) are allowed to wear salwar-kameez but still not OK with jeans,etc. And mostly because what will the society say.

  2. First comment yayyyyy!!
    Few of them just like to wear just for show off.;) and may be comfortable as well.
    But I feel one should not bother about the clothing of other person. Let him/her wear whatever s/he likes. Whether Indian/western, it doesn’t matter. It’s their’s choice.

      • Thanks for the sympathy Vishvanaath jee.
        There is always a oppurtunity just one has to keep patience and never lose his/her temper.

        P.S. anyways for me first comment doesn’t matter much. I had mention this just like that FTW .

  3. Hi IHM!
    I believe that women in India wear western clothes for more than just comfort and convenience. It’s makes them look confident, hence attractive. It shows that are capable of living their lives and are independent. It’s a sign of freedom. It’s sends signals saying ‘Don’t mess with me’. It shows you aren’t meek and that you will stand up and fight for what is right. :)
    IHM, the first thing that came to my mind when I read your question was one of your blog posts. And that is http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/the-night-i-was-not-an-easy-prey/.

    • It’s the countrymen who’ve made this thought dominating their culture.It’s no fact that western clothes are more comfortable.Even a loose ‘traditional’ Salwar Kameez can provide you enough of comfort.Well,the point here is that Westerners are much more developed and civilized than easterners.whatever they wear,do,etc. tends to be more attractive.So,the easterners are just trying to imitate them in order to look like them but in reality some of them look more like a hilarious imitation.We must not forget our own entity! our own roots! our own motherland!

      • Indian, what is comfortable for one person may not be comfortable for another, those who adopt western clothes for comfort, do it because they find it more comfortable. I think it is a good idea to adopt whatever is good for us, from other cultures. It enriches out own personality, minds and lives. I think For instance, Indian men who wear woolen trousers, thick jackets and thermals in Delhi winters are far more comfortable than those who wear cotton dhotis or pajamas. And given a choice between being seen by some as ‘hilarious imitation’ or being comfortable oneself, isn’t it better to choose one’s comfort?

    • I think the question of Indian women wearing western clothes is interesting and the comments have given me some insight.

      I had never read the post of IHM you linked here AaeKay, I am so glad you did, I just read it and I am shuddering at their audacity. I have been sexually harassed several times and on the train as well, I was young and had nobody to help me, I am so glad you came to her rescue, even if it was a dicey situation, it was courageous of you.
      If we stand up every time we see something like this – there are chances it might reduce.

    • As my sister Aaekay said wearing western cloths is a sign of freedom but if a woman don’t have security how can she enjoy the freedom?

    • seriously, you indian women are really annoying. i’m glad i don’t live in india. As long as indian women cover themselves up and don’t expose too much, it’s fine. Countries like iran are much more conservative than india. If people like you complain that indian culture is conservative, you need to go choke yourself. I beg to you indian women to stop being so unreasonable. The culprit for this unreasonableness is the british raj i believe. the white men have given indian women too much freedom

  4. Sometimes, women might wear western clothes because of the rebel in them. Because the in laws are telling her to wear salwar kameez, she might go and wear jean to show her disapproval against being told what to wear.
    After all, we all sometimes like to do opposite of what we are told to do ;)

  5. As you have said, the above might truly be reasons. But, I think there is a comfort in wearing western clothes, which I see lacks in traditional wear. I would prefer to wear a trousers and a t shirt when out shopping rather than a suit wherein I have to manage the dupatta etc. Once in a while its fine, but in general I think western wear is just practical in the way we have to run about in today’s times.

  6. Out of various reason, I like to wear western clothes to office and otherwise because -
    1. Contributes towards making me feel, empowered, smart and confident about myself.
    2. Amongst other things my in’laws disapproved of such attires when i was married whereas i found nothing wrong in them. So its one of the things i like indulging in post my divorce
    3. I am proud of the fact that I can financially afford to buy the clothes i like (as opposed to depending on parents/ husband etc. for their approval and money). I am also proud of the fact that I have a fairly propotionate body despite my age and a child and I like to flaunt it in my western wear.
    4. It is obviously much more convinient, esp in this terribly cold weather, and comfortable to buy, maintain and wear.
    5. Having the freedom to wear western wear makes Indian wear a lot more appealing and beautiful to me as opposed to a compulsion (as it was when I was married)
    6. By wearing what i want I have proved to myself that I dont let others control me via regulating what i wear…I am in control of my own situation :-). Losing and then regaining control of my situation, has made me realize its importance and value.

    • well said..!!.. i liked you saying Having the freedom to wear western wear makes Indian wear a lot more appealing and beautiful to me as opposed to a compulsion (as it was when I was married)… we don’t like, if something is forced on us.. :)

  7. Why do Indian women like to wear Western clothes?
    I think , the answers would be the same as why *any* woman likes to wear *any* clothes?

    While comfort, ease of maintenance, etc are all factors , mostly women like to buy clothes that they think look good. Make them look good to themselves and others , feel good about themselves, flatter certain body parts and that add to their confidence.

    • And not just Indian men/women either, people the world over are moving to western clothing and western values, and in the long run that can only be a good thing.

      • Nish, not necessarily. ‘Western culture’ is not a fixed thing in space,it is amorphous, and we are not so much ‘moving to’ it as we are assimilating it with ours. There are aspects of contemporary ‘western culture’ that I don’t endorse, the indiscriminate use of plastic bags in the US being an example.

  8. Our tradition clothes have way too much fabric to carry around/wash/press.. I find it not just uncomfortable, but a waste of resources, space, effort!

    Also, amusingly, I find that when I travel as a lone tourist, especially with a large-ish camera in hand, the more western my outfits, the more the people are convinced that I am a ‘pardesi’ – an NRI if not a ‘firangi’. They are sweet to me, help me with directions & information sincerely & I’ve never faced street harassment while travelling in this mode. Unbelievable, yet true – at least till now for me.

    • Forgot to mention .. In salwar kameez or if they probe & get to know that I am a proper true blue desi who can speak the local language well, they immediately frown, ask how/why I am travelling alone & launch into sermon on why I shouldn’t be travelling alone being a girl.

      Somehow, even villagers in rural india find it acceptable that western women act independent and confident.
      If western outfits can give that illusion about me, then why not?

  9. Interesting question.

    The simple straightforward reason why women these days might prefer western clothes is the sheer convenience they offer when compared to traditional Indian attire.

    But I agree there is a general prejudice against western clothes for women.
    Leave western clothes alone, what about North Indian clothes?
    It took a long tme for women in the South to start wearing the “Punjabi Dress”, or “Muslim Dress” as the elders in our community termed them.
    I am referring to the Salwar Kameez.
    Today, its so common.

    Pants and Kurtas or shirts or Tee Shirts for women are now common but only in Cities among the young and the educated classes.
    My servant maid even today refuses to wear anything other than a saree. The cook, the lady vegetable vendor, the Aayaah, still swear by the saree and will never be seen in western clothes. It is not just disapproval of their men folk but their own inhibitions. But their teen-aged daughters are slowly discarding the saree and can be seen in salwar kameezes these days.

    My mother and mother-in-law have never worn any dress other than a saree all their lives. Mercifully, they never opposed modern dresses that their daughters/daughters in law wore.
    My wife now wears the Salwar Kameez nearly all the time, and the Saree is only for special occasions. She wore western dresses only when she went abroad. At home she wears a nigthie.

    My view is that convenience and climate/weather should dictate what we should wear. Respecting tradition is okay on special occasions particularly religious occasions.

    I find our prejudices totally illogical.
    There is evidence of gender discrimination here too.
    Men wear western clothes, (pants and shirts) and the Dhoti/Veshti wearing elders tolerated it.
    But they don’t approve western clothes for women, particularly skirts and frocks which are tolerated only for young girls who have not attained puberty.

    I am very open in this respect. I wear ONLY Western dresses at all times except on religious occasions when I am personally participating in the religious rites.
    Otherwise it is always trousers and shirts on formal occasions, and trousers and tea shirts on informal occasions, Bermuda shorts and tea shirts at home. I gave up the Veshti/Lungi/Paajamas over 12 years ago.

    The prejudice is not just against clothes. What about hair style?
    Bobbed hair for women is still frowned upon in orthodox circles.
    What about foot wear?
    High heels is considered too fashionable.
    What about cosmetics?
    Lipstick is still not generally approved while Kaajal is okay.

    To old minds, the ultimate horror is the sight of a woman smoking a cigarette! And if she is also wearing a pant and shirt, and sports bobbed hair, and talks only English, then the picture of an evil woman is complete.

    Times are changing slowly.
    The next generation will be a lot more tolerant.
    Let us wait.
    Regards
    GV

    • @GV,
      In the 1980s my MIL thought I shouldn’t be wearing salwar-kameez. Not for ‘married’ women had been her verdict. And the Andhra DGP thinks rural women switching to salwar-kameez is the root cause of all trouble. We live in the same country but don’t accept each others clothes/way of dressing even!

  10. These are interesting responses. :D I guess from an outsider’s point of view the reasons it would seem that it’s because of the West’s influence on India. This isn’t to say that people who wear Western clothes are trying to be Western, but it does show there’s been some influence. I also noticed (could be wrong, please correct me if I am) that it seems Western clothing is worn by India’s growing middle class.

  11. Nope…I think its mainly because of the comfort factor…in my personal opinion of course…I dont think I can do stuff with a saree or salwar kameez duppatta which I can do with a jeans and t shirt…I do find western formals sometimes uncomfortable especially if its a skirt which is tighter…otherwise..the three reasons you gave

    1. It’s more forbidden to married women, so it can indicate either that the woman is not married. – Is it? may be in small towns but now a days in Mumbai, IHM, most of R’s school children’s mothers wear jeans and t shirts and are so totally cool about it..

    2. Is ‘married but looks unmarried’ (and ‘looking unmarried’ is seen as a compliment for married women all over India). – Is it again? I dont think so..I dont wear any symbols of marriage no sindoor, no bindi, no mangalsutra, no toe rings…it doesnt bother me…I may look unmarried (and I do have people asking me if I am married at all) but thats not the reason why I wear jeans…its only the comfort factor..again my mom is equally comfortable in saree…whatever I do in jeans she does in saree (except sitting behind Appa on the motorbike legs on two sides :)) So I think its just a matter of comfort

    3. She is lucky enough to have in laws and spouse who don’t force her to wear traditional clothing. – is it again, again? I dont think so..do in laws and spouse really worry about this..may be again in narrow minded families, but in most cases I see around me, they dont bother at all!

    this of course is from my personal experience and personal interaction…I may be wrong :)

    • I think most men and families care deeply about what the women of the family wear.

      It is possible that you move in, by Indian standards, an uber-urban, uber-liberal circle and have therefore not encountered these attire-related prejudices.

      Most of the married women that I am acquainted with, women in their mid-thirties and beyond, do not wear jeans and trousers in the presence of their in-laws.

      In many families, daughters may wear jeans and trousers, but not the daughters-in-law.

  12. I can’t answer for others, but I wear western clothes because I think I look good in them, and because I am most comfortable in them. I wear Indian clothes too, and I think I look good in Indian wear too, and they are also very comfortable (kurti and leggings) but I’m now used to western wear.

  13. I wear all kinds of clothes. Though I love my sarees I end up wearing jeans and trousers more often for the sheer convenience and ease of wear. If I’m travelling, I would prefer to tie my saree in front of a full length mirror. If none is available, trousers are the easier option! (I sometimes wear skirts too, but not often- I feel fatter in skirts than I do in jeans/trousers:)

  14. Why don’t people comment on men wearing Western clothes? Why are women always the centre of attention?Trousers and shirts are not Indian although one man tried to convince me that now they are…

  15. I think it is rather sad that everywhere you go in the world today everyone is wearing the same ‘western style’ cheap Chinese made clothing. Wearing ‘western style’ clothing is somehow deemed to be symbolic of ‘modernity’. I’d much rather wear & see traditional clothing made with care than the generic Chinese made/western clones.
    Why is it that so many non-westerners choose to wear the absolute ‘trashiest’ of western clothing? Cut off jean-shorts, shirts with writing all over them (tacky), four inch ‘hooker heels’, -those hideous low waisted jeans that make EVERYONE’s hips look huge while simultaneously making your legs look stumpy & short- not to mention flashing some serious ‘bum cleavage’(seriously tacky).
    I remember as a little girl going shopping with my mom in downtown San Francisco in the 1970′s, we ‘dressed’ to go shopping- white gloves, hat, dresses (no pants or slacks) hair set the night before, shoes shined, matching handbags. Sales attendants who actually knew about the products they sold actually waited on you & packed your purchases in a box with a handle.
    Now in the US youngsters go to the mall in pajamas & flip flops with a cell phone plastered to their ear- yapping away oblivious to their surroundings. Ahhh, if this is ‘modernity’ & ‘progress’ I don’t want any of it. ;)

    • Why so many thumbs down ?..This is the reality of so called western world and it’s coming from some one who have lived their entire life in a western country..

      • I think the thumbs downs are for the condescending, bitter and judgmental notes in the comment – “hooker heels”, “tacky”, “yapping” etc.

        I love SF wildly for its non-judgmental, all-accepting, liberal nature – but it must be rather painful for this white-gloved, suitably hatted and handbagged lady to venture into today’s downtown SF – the low-waisted jeans she bemoans (and skinny ones to boot) and canvas sneakers are the hip (and extremely comfy) “uniform” of the populace. Contrary to the lady’s statement, my hips (and legs!) look fine in a pair of low-waisted jeans, and a good belt takes care of avoiding any “butt cleavage”, so maybe she shouldn’t speak for EVERYONE. :)

  16. The comfort factor is definitely there. Imagine tying metres of cloth around you. My question always has been, “Why the hell should I?” It amuses me no end that people hitch up their saris while working showing off legs which does not matter. But if you wear midis or capris, then the leg show becomes offensive. Oh really?!
    Yes, in places like where I stay, if you are young and wear Western wear, it automatically makes you a contender for ‘unmarried’ look. But if you are older and wear Western wear, you can feel the distinct lack of comfort the others seem to have in your presence. The women tend to ignore you more and talk among themselves, as if by distancing and isolating you they are not letting you contaminate their world :P The men also do that. You do get lot of censorious looks too.

    • Bingo! Same here… esp if it is “older” and still wear “western”… Of course one simply does not mind them, and goes about in a pair of jeans/kurta, or a salwar! And the looks… Oh my! :D

    • @Shail – I can imagine.

      I come from a small town (Vellore). During my school days, my best friend’s mom had a live-in partner (She’s catholic, and couldn’t divorce her abusive, alcoholic husband to marry her partner, not that it should matter). Once when walking to school with another friend (who lived next door to my best friend), this came up and the girl goes “Andha pombalaiyale enge theruvukke avamaanam”. (That woman has shamed our entire street) Even at that tender age, I remember feeling frustrated at the bad manners of this girl, and wondering what business it was of hers to be judgmental.

      No one saw how she stood up to her abusive husband, single-handedly brought up two children, and tried to find happiness in a “second chance” she gave herself, instead of wallowing in self-pity all her life (though that would have been acceptable in our society!!) They only saw the “extra-marital” affair, and ostracized her.

      • That was a heart-breaking story.

        To think that your friend learned to judge and disrespect a woman much older than she was, just because she broke some stupid social norm about not “living in sin”.

        What about the sin of beating up your wife and coming home in a drunken stupor?

        How come a man’s failure to respect his marriage vows and to care for his family wasn’t considered “living in sin”?

      • @Bad Indian Woman
        According to Society (and the street khap),

        sin of beating up your wife and coming home in a drunken stupor = Husband’s prerogative, and hence not a sin.
        It is the “duty” of an abusive wife to put up and shut up. Bonus points if she maintains her “bhartiya naari” image flawlessly through her suffering.
        The only unforgivable sin is living with a man who is not your abusive husband.

        Luckily for her, it was just the street khap who treated her this way. Her parents were very supportive throughout.

  17. You’re right IHM, it’s funny how we claim to not get influenced by the western culture and yet feel a strange high every time we are commended for our perfect accent or when we are tagged ‘hot and pretty for as simple an outfit as an evening gown or even a jeans and top :).

    To answer you question, I’d go with what most of the above commenters have said about comfort. I feel too that more than the subconscious desire to be influenced by the western culture, women opt for western outfits for comfort factor. And also, I think, to try something different.

    I love to wear jeans and tees purely because I they are very very comfortable to wear, so is the case with chooridars and kurtas. And i love to mix and match different combinations just to have some variety in options. But I can’t say the same for a tank top or shorts or to an extent even sarees. Sarees are very hard to manage, I feel. But if you notice, quite a few western celebs have started wearing sarees or Indian outfits, even putting bindis, et al. So I think it has more to do with being comfortable in what you wear and at the same time wanting to try something different.

    Let me end my ramble before I get out of hands! :D

    Me – Please ramble Deeps, I never gave a thought to wanting a change or trying something different, but that’s so true.

  18. IHM, yes the above factors initially might be the reason for many Indian women to wear western clothes but once you start wearing you realize, a). western wear especially jeans and tshirts/shirts are very comfortable. It gives a simple yet stylish look to most. Very easy to maintain, no wrinkles no stress of ironing before wearing:) The biggest plus point is, you tend to look younger (yes, we women love looking younger)plus you try and keep yourself fit to look good in these outfits(so there is some health benefit too). Last but not the least,
    it is easily available and not very expensive. With salwar suits or sarees, you really need to hunt for a good tailor, or else you are left with a ill fitted dress/blouse in your wardrobe which really doesn’t help. Today’s urban women, generally is multitasking at home n office and with kids around, the western outfit is the most hassle free garment that you can get into in minutes and still look your best.

    But whenever there is special occasion, most Indian women still prefer wearing sarees/salwar suits with all the nakhra/jhatkas and enjoy looking very bit traditional. Aakhir dil hai hindustani:)

    Me – LOL Anonymous, true and the global-Hindustani dil also enjoys fusion clothing like say brocade corsets or kurtis with denim jeans, even for formal occasion :)

  19. I would say two things make me wear western outfits more often. Comfort, and confidence. While Jeans and tees are undoubtedly the most comfortable of clothes and extremely low maintenance, at work, wearing a pair f trousers and a formal shirt, just makes me feel more confident, because I think I look better and more professional.

    That being said, there have been times I have preferred kurtis and churidaars, again because I was more comfortable wearing that on said day, and did not want a stiff shirt!

    About looking younger, unmarried etc, I hardly think so. I think if one looks unmarried, they would , be it a kurta or a pair of jeans.

    About ‘being lucky’ because the in-laws allow it, well I disagree, that cannot be a reason for wearing western clothes! Yep, it is still possible that a reason a woman wears traditional clothes is the in laws, but highly doubt if the reverse is true here!

  20. Well, do you know, what if I say it is because I can wear denims and a Kurti and ‘forget it’?

    Let me be clearer. My father never ‘allowed’ me to wear jeans when I was younger- according to him, my husband would decide if I could wear them. Surprisingly, I wore a lot of skirts/wraparpond skirts, etc. as a college student, but NO trousers/ denims!

    After marriage, I just began wearing denims without taking any ‘permission’. I don’t think there was any problem with that, at least not that I knw of.

    Now, denims and a kurti is my standard dress- which can be a simple kurti or an embellished one- as the occasion demands. But I prefer it to a salwar-kameez or a sari or what have you, where there are duppattas/ pallus to take care of. I just like to wear my clothes- and then forget about my clothes. Even my kurtis are always comfortable cotton, with no poky areas (I always take off any labels!) 3/4th sleeves. Sensible wear, like sensible shoes.

    I wear dressy clothes only at a very formal gathering or function.

    Also makes for less luggage to lug along- take 2-3 trousers and 10-12 kurtis, mix-n-match. I realize the convenience of this when I have to pack for travelling somewhere for, say, a wedding- the sari-blouse-petticoats/ salwar-kameez-duppattas take up so much space!

    Of course it is liberating.:)

      • This was my first response when I read this question! Definitely less luggage space – two jeans and four shirts/kurtis/tshirts (six pieces in all) for a week’s vacation, and not (salwar+kurta+dupatta)3 * 4 = 12 pieces!

        But these days those mix&match kurtas + leggings provide the same freedom, don’t they? I am more comfortable in them and not denims. Oh and did I tell you about my fetish for Marks and Spencers skirts and dresses??!!!

        so it is all about comfort and your personal preferences. Maybe I am thick skinned enough to not worry about what others say or look at.

  21. Along with everything you have said, Western wear is so much easier. In India, Kurtis and jeans (I should call it adapted western wear)work so well. So much more convenient than our traditional options. I used to wear western formals to work,in India, it was less to iron :) And easier to get on and off buses, than have to worry about a dupatta which might get left behind. Plus, it was far easier for me to decide what to wear to work as well..

    That said, Western wear has certainly taken on the mantle of letting the society know that the woman is in command(of herself, mainly), in so many ways. That she decides what she wants to wear, and not what others decide for her. In that sense,western wear, or western wear adapted to Indian clothes, certainly is a statement of sorts, even if it is a subconscious one.

  22. Clothing is not only about protecting your modesty and shielding yourself from the elements.

    Clothing is about signalling. You wear certain clothes in order to send a message to your surroundings about who you are, and what subculture you belong to. To explain someone choosing western clothing, you should thus look at what kind of message that sends.

    It says “I’m modern” and “I’m independent”, and “I’m young”, and “I’m confident”, and perhaps also “I reject certain cultural norms” or “I’m a rebel” (obviously this would depend on -which- kind of western clothes) It does not surprise me that these messages appeal to some of the Indian women.

    We all do it. I current wear a grey t-shirt that says: “This was supposed to be the future”, a pair of ordinary blue jeans, black wool-socks, and robust trekking-boots. These things are cheap, practical and comfortable, but they also say something about who I am. (or atleast who I pretend to be) For example, it’s no big surprise to anyone from my culture that I’m a programmer, whereas they *would* have been really surprised if wearing this, I told them I’m an attorney or a hairdresser.

    This is also why marketing for clothes tend to show desireable people doing attractive things in attractive surroundings, wearing the clothes. You’re supposed to think: “that person is who I want to be”, and then buy the clothes. (offcourse the clothes won’t actually make your surroundings prettier, your teeth whiter or your car cooler)

    • Okay now I have to ask, was is it about Western clothes that show you’re independent and modern? I only ask because if that’s the case, would that mean Western=modern? :)

  23. Wearing western clothes for many women in my age cohort, at least among my friends, has been more about asserting ourselves and to show to ourselves, if not to the whole world, that we are not the doormat types, thank you!
    And I can guarantee you that if in (the unlikely and hypothetical event where) wearing of Western clothes was made compulsory, and forced down our collective throats, by parents, in-laws and some random strangers called society, the same cohort would have switched to wearing Indian traditional clothes or maybe even Japanese/Namibian/Tibetan/any other clothes or in a jiffy. :-)

  24. In the US, Indian women rarely wear Indian clothing, primarily because it’s quite uncomfortable and also because they are very expensive here (4-5 times as much as equivalent normal clothing). But when you go to Indian-community events, you often see men and women in Indian clothing- so it’s sorta become decorative wear here :-)

  25. Women might wear western clothing for a trillion reasons or three, how come not many consciously question the choice of the majority of men to wear western clothes. When it comes to women, somehow in addition to the reasons of comfort and convenience, come questions of morality, social acceptance, character and what not.
    I’d rather say it is not what a woman wears but how she carries it off would be indicative of the statement she is trying to make consciously or unconsciously. There are extremes in both Indian and Western wear and we know enough of that from the range available in saas bahu serials to Baywatch.
    In India, I wear western wear for various reasons – its less messy, easier to pack, easier to run around, no frill and fuss over dupatta or sari palla when working 9-10 hours, convenient formal wear and informal – one feels so conscious with your entire mid rib bare in a sari! And I am a married woman, so yes, when people see me in western wear they throw the “unmarried compliment” my way! I wear comfortable kurtas and churidars/salwars (minus dupattas for obvious reasons) too 2-3 times a week and saris when there’s a special occasion – wouldn’t go to an iyer wedding wearing anything less than that :D.

  26. I never thought wearing western clothes can increase ones confidence!!!!!! personally i used to wear only traditional clothes, then i came to north india a metro city. everyone was wearing jeans so i began to wear them. now i find them comfortable because i don’t need to bother about 3-4 articles of a dress…jeans rarely need ironing…. they need not be washed every single time…So convenient…..that’s all.

  27. Comfort :) And come to think of it, all the moralists should consider that western clothes, especially a pair of jeans, and a shirt, would definitely cover more than a saree would :P!

    My mother, though she wears a salwar kurta when she visits her offspring outside Kerala, will not wear it in her hometown :) Says it is not seemly! She does not mind her daughter or daughters in law wearing ANY kind of clothes, just that she will not! I guess some habits/customs are hard to let go.

  28. May be this is off-topic.. Is it really true that married women want to look unmarried? And do women want to look younger? If yes, why is it so?

    • If married women wear Western wear or non traditional dress, others ASSUME they are unmarried because in their mind is a definite picture of a married woman in traditional clothes.

      And some women MAY want to look young just like some men do.

      • reminds me of an incident. After being newly married i decided i would wear sindoor to proclaim myself married so that guys would not look at me. One of my freinds, a guy started laughing at my innocence. ‘You think that makes a difference to a guy???????’ he asked.

      • Talking about images. I grew up with lots of images too. I can’t imagine my Mother /Grandmother in anything but saree. And after my sister settled in USA, it was very very odd to see my mother wearing jeans (only there:P ofcourse) . But, we were actually fascinated too. Also, I was surprised to find old ladies speaking in English in South India ! Initially it really use to take me aback and also thrilled watching them speak fluent English. So, depending on prevailing values/culture, etc we build our images! My daugther (8 year) obviously doesn’t see her mother in saree. That’s not her Mummy’s image.

        Looking young is a very valid point too :)

  29. Hi I stumbled upon your blog just today…will surely be following you :)! Everybody here seems to agree upon western influence (varying in grade though) being one of the reasons…Im not negating it any way.! But just tell me any “free” country in which people wear their traditional clothes to work or on daily basis!! I believe just like”English” language this specific style in clothing has become “universal” nd no more a western style..!!! and pluhhzzz we shud stop alienating ourselves by saying “western world” . This social conditioning only helps Hippocrates to grow in leaps nd bounds..!!! we dont need that, we already have them in plenty :)!

  30. What I find interesting is that “western clothes” are not what they used to be. Women in the west wore cumbersome, uncomfortable clothing that were not practical back in those days. What happened was the women’s suffrage movement and the subsequent evolution of women’s clothes with the times. I think the problem for us is that when the women’s suffrage movement was going on elsewhere in the west, we were busy fighting for independence from the British. We needed a different identity from them and one of it was through our clothes. This, I think forms the core of our problems with letting our women’s clothes evolve with time. We were a country and culture interrupted in its path of progress and although the external elements of oppression are long gone, some of us are unable to let go of the thought that the west is bad. We will have to invent an identity (not just in clothes but a lot of the other aspects of our “culture” as well) that is more consistent with the times we live in. Of course some others simply like to use this as yet another tool for domination

  31. I think it is done because you want to show that you are still hep, never mind if you can’t really carry it off. Also, it is a sign of being independent (in the minds of some) or liberal. They might want to emphasize that they still have a desirable figure after kids — much more visible in jeans, tights or Tees. They want to put up pictures on FB :).

  32. 1. comfort and ease
    2. Look stylish and cool. Though I love western wear, I definitely do not approve of people who see me in traditional clothes instantly judge me as a behenji and someone who is not worth knowing. This does happen a lot in cities among youngsters. there are cliques depending on what you wear. I do like both depending on my mood and what I am doing that day :)
    3. Project being modern and independent

  33. I know this junior in girls hostel that came from a very conservative background. the first she did in hostel was go get a jeans and lipstick., I assume this was taboo in her middle class town upbringing.

    so yes for some it can mean freedom!!

  34. Another reason “at the work place to be taken more seriously. I would prefer to wear formal wear when I present something to a global client than wear saree/salwar ..

    is it true? my assumption..

  35. is a mini skirt better than an ill fitting loose salwar kurta?
    are pant suits better than saris that are worn showing half the stomach and the back and the clevage?
    are saree blouses with low backs and fronts better than a t-shirt and a jeans
    are sarees better than pencil skirts , when you can show off your abdomen through a sheer saree

    The Rudali woman in the the movie looked far more “sexier ” when she was completely clad from head to toe.

  36. Apart from all the reasons listed above, I love western wear because almost any top goes well with almost any trousers/jeans…for a very disorganized person like me it is very difficult to get up in the morning and search my wardrobe for the salwar-kameez-duppatta match coz they come in sets and in my wardrobe they are all over the place :) now a days the kurtis and leggings have changed the picture though as someone commented above…I would leave with an interesting story that happened at work.
    I had moved to India after living abroad for long and I was wearing ONLY western clothes at work for the following reason
    - I didn’t know the what’s the latest Indian fashion and I didn’t want to look as if I had woken up after sleeping for 10 years :) and I wanted to wait and observe and then buy new trendy Indian wear. Finally after couple of months I shopped and one fine day wore a nice salwar suit to work …I was so surprised coz at least 4-5 guys came to me and said, You look so different today; You are looking good; Now you look like a nice bahu; This look suits you; etc etc .. and some of them I had only hi-hello relationships and had never talked to before. BTW I work for a famous consulting firm and all these guys are MBA from top B-schools from India and abroad…I might be wrong, but this incident made me think that most of guys no matter how broad their outlook is or how educated/posh they are like to see women in traditional wear. Another observation at work – 10 years back western wear was not very common in India. Women usually bought their first set of western wear before their first international trip and then used them again once they were back in India. It is so nice to see that trend has changed and these days every body wears western clothes to work – be it a fresher or a mom of college going kids …. Western wear – age/marital status/children status/International exposure status – NO bar :)

  37. Few points here

    1. I am probably the only one who feels that even in Indian clothes one can look decent and feel comfortable. I live outside India and wear a lot of salwar suits often – but I see aunties around me wearing western wear all the time. It’s like almost that they have ditched Indian clothing as soon as they set foot outside India.

    2. I have nothing against women who wear Western clothing – I also wear kurtis+jeans/leggings etc very often. But I don’t know why people get judged depending on what they wear. It happens to me all the time. People of my age group look at me like I am an alien if I wear Indian clothes. But it is not that I care. By the way – I am PROUD that I don’t look manufactured and the same as 100 people around me. I would love to be the 1 person in a crowd full of western-clad people and stand out in my Indian wear.

    3. Wearing Indian clothes does not make me any more Indian than those who don’t. I don’t judge anyone else – so why am I judged? I am beginning to enjoy it nowadays, I love the looks I get in malls etc. I don’t dress like a chamak challo in garish outfits – and I wear very subtle, very contemporary prints etc so why glare at me as if I were wearing nothing? Gosh!

  38. Hmm, let me tell you that Indians (men and women) look more gorgeous wearing their traditional clothes. In can see that lot of men are wearing jeans in the Wedding parties and some other parties. In western countries men try to wear pant and shirt in the parties because they become better dressed in that outfit than wearing jeans!! But Indians do the opposite….When I visited India was very hot and lot of men were wearing jeans in the street! Jeans are thick and hard (uncomfortable) for the hot climate. Remember that in western countries there is not so much hot, and, when there is, everybody wear very less clothes like short pant,miniskirt, bikini, etc. And I agree with the opinion of someone above that most Indian are adopting “cheap Chinese version” of western clothes. And that version is coming to western countries too. I think the best is to wear both styles (Indian and western) as per the situation. Means, sometimes it is good to wear western clothes but sometimes it is good too to wear your beautiful and “smart” clothes (I mean, Indian traditional clothes are perfect for your climate and the colours make Indian skin to look more beautiful. Western dark /boring clothes make Indians to loose little bit beauty. Yes, I know that saree is not comfortable at all but the other Indian clothes are very comfortables. I could see that men and women looked very special (even old people) wearing Kurta, salwar or saree) but wearing western they loose…shine.

  39. Hello, I am new to the this blog. I am a western woman living in Colorado USA and I have questions that I believe are related to the discussion of Indian women wearing western clothing. I have thought that traditional Indian clothing is the most lovely thing that I have ever seen on a lady since I was very young (and I am no longer young, I am 54 and a grandmother). I have always wanted to wear a sari or salwar kameez but had no resources back then to find out more about them. Now it is much easier to find and purchase via the enternet. I have purchased salwar kameez and found them to be very comfortable and stylish summer wear. I have some lovely hand-loom saris as well and am amazed at the skill and artistry involved in the making of these incredible garments, they are works of art. I never believed that anyone would take offense or find it inappropriate for a western woman to wear these garments as they are colorful, graceful, modest and very flattering. I have since come across several comments, and “travel tips for western women traveling in India” that state that this is most definately not the case. They report that western women wearing Indian attire are considered to look ridiculous and an easy mark while traveling in India. I would have thought that it would considered respectful and more appropriate to dress according to the expected norms rather than the opposite. I think that ladies of all cultures love clothes and are very excited and willing to try new styles that they find to be lovely, comfortable and stylish. I am saddened that very normal female enthusiam to embrace and try new styles would be looked down upon as long as it is not offensive or disrespectful to that culture’s beliefs or sense of propriety. I do not think it odd or inappropriate for women of other cultures to wear western fashions any more than their own traditional dress. My question is, how do Indian ladies really feel about western women in salwars or saris either in India or abroad? I hope to travel to India one day and would appreciate honest feedback on this subject. Please forgive me if my ignorance on this subject has offended anyone as my intent is to only gain better understanding.

    • Rhonda Lewis so far as I can tell Indian men and women have no problem with the sari or other Indian clothing being worn by foreigners. A lot of foreigners do wear sari, dhoti, salwar kurta etc in India. In Vrindavan they are requested/required to wear only saris, draped in the way the local women wear.

  40. From the comments, it seems very obvious that most Indians/Chinese/Asians are giving up their so-called “traditional” or what I would like to call “usual” clothes because Western clothes are more comfortable and utalitarian in the changing lifestyles of Asians, as both men and women shift away to jobs in an industrialized economy. But please remember that even Western clothes today are an evolution of “traditional” Western clothing which was also cumbersome to wear. The only thing that happened is that Westerners evolved their clothing to shift their modern lifestyles and they had no other alternatives available at that time. But Asians already have an alternative available and that is Western clothes. Hence they are adopting Western clothes. If Asians want to preserve their “traditional” wear, then they need to evolve it too! Instead of copying, think about ways you can change a sari or kurta or salwar-kameez, so as to make it more easy to put on, comfortable or handle-able. Adopt velcros or zippers into costumes to make them quick and easy but still look similar. I believe Fashion Institutes and manufacturing industry should do this important work and unless no-one does this work, the unfortunate consequence would be the dominance of western clothing, making ethnic clothing traditional in a real sense. Cheers!

    • For indian weather conditions cotton trousers of various lengths, shorts and kurtees which are popular with urban indian women would make sense for men too. full sleeves formal shirts and synthetic trousers with belt, nylon socks and shoes which indian men wear is impractical. But I am not sure if any tradition like pagri or juttees should be preserved just for sake of preserving.

    • ” Instead of copying, think about ways you can change a sari or kurta or salwar-kameez, so as to make it more easy to put on, comfortable or handle-able. ”

      Instead of telling women what to wear, please mind your own business and modify your own dhotis all you want. Cheers!

      “the unfortunate consequence would be the dominance of western clothing”

      Unfortunate for whom exactly? I couldn’t care less and it is absurd to expect me to change my clothing to suit your concerns. So really, if you care about making indina clothing dominant, please feel free to wear it yourself.

  41. this is such a stupid discussion!!
    i wear western because that’s all i have worn all my life and it’s the same for most women my age!
    “the times they are a changing” :P

  42. Pingback: The sari is the best way of showing global companies that these are Indian women managers? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  43. I live outside India and I have always had a fascination with sarees, not so much salwars because I don’t find them very pretty at all. Also cos salwars are really hot most of the time. I really love sarees though, but mostly the pretty party ones, and this year I finally got a half saree and wore it to my cousins wedding.

  44. Pingback: A response to: Why we think women activists should change their attitude of “wear what you like” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  45. Mostly, I wear jeans, tops, kurtas, capris etc because of comfort and convenience. And yeah these days Indian women wear western wear because of latest fashion, they are adopting western culture. Rest they look smart, gorgeous and confident in western wear.

  46. i completely disagree with this whole article…

    treat women with respect…

    they deserve the freedom to wear what they want, when they want…

    Indian mentality is way too foolish..

    are trousers and tshirts or shirts traditional clothes for men?

    i dont think so..

    but often men refuse to wear traditional INDIAN clothes like dhotis, kurtas, pajamas since supposedly wearing them in todays climate is unbearable…

    but they expect women to be draped in 7 yard of clothing no matter what the season is..

    this is plain stupidity..

    let me ask you a question..

    when a man gets married does he change the way he dresses? are his dressing option cut-down??

    no, right…

    then why must we submit women to this injustice rule..

    its the 21st century..

    grow up

  47. Pingback: These lines sum up the biggest reason for male child preference and skewed gender ratio in India. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  48. I think a better question is why Indian men like wearing western clothing. For real, how many Indian men do you see wearing lungis or dhotis, or sherwanis outside of special occasions? And how many of them are even the slightest bit Westernized? The men don’t want to deal with pleating and pins — and by the way, that’s the most traditional wear. They also don’t want to go shirtless.

    In India, I think many women go for western clothing because they don’t have to manage pleating and pins. Without pins, it’s a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. Driving is a pain with a sari. Going to a western style bathroom is a pain in a sari. Going in a traditional toilet is only really easier if you’re not wearing underwear. Carrying potluck food is a pain in a sari. Folding the sari and putting it away properly is a pain. Six yards of fabric can get very stuffy. My mother sweats like anything in a sari. Salwar and other clothing is fine. You’d think people would be more cognizant of each other’s long flowy clothing at functions. They are not. And of course, people expect you to wear 6 inch heels and walk up stairs in a sari. Saris are not universally flattering. If you are an apple shaped woman or carry your weight in the middle, a sari will not flatter you.

  49. I think if we feel comfortable and more active in jeans than salwar kamij cuz we can easily take care and put on jeans for me depends on my schedule and time and society , situation ….i do love my indian costumes …

  50. Pingback: “If we have people of your ilk in Bharat we do not need external enemies at all!” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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