Sarees (also known as Sari)

History of Indian Clothing

People in India wore mostly cotton clothing. India was the first place where cotton was grown, even as early as 2500 BC in the Harappan period.

By the Aryan period, women wore one very long piece of cloth called a sari, that they wrapped around themselves in different ways. The word “sari” comes from a Sanskrit word that just means cloth. Saris are first mentioned in the Vedas, about 600 BC. Rich women wore saris made of silk, but most women wore cotton ones.There were many different ways of draping saris – to dress up women wore them like skirts with a top part thrown over their shoulder or worn over their heads as a veil. Working women often pulled their sari up between their legs to make a sort of pants. Women who were fighting with the army tucked in the top part of the sari in the back, to free up their arms for fighting. Most saris were five or six yards long, although some saris were nine yards. Younger women generally wore brightly colored saris, but widows and other women in mourning wore only white ones.

Men also wore one long piece of cloth called the dhoti, which was generally white. They wrapped the dhoti (DOE-tee) around their legs to make sort of pants like the working women. Dhotis though were shorter so they didn’t have the part that covered the chest and shoulders. Men also often wore long cotton cloths wrapped around their heads as turbans.

With the Islamic invasions around 1000 AD, Persian fashions in clothing entered India and became popular especially in the north, though they never replaced the sari or the dhoti. Both women and men began to sometimes wear trousers with long tunics over them down to their knees. The trousers are called churidar. Women generally wore churidar with a long veil or scarf over it.

Indian women who could afford it generally wore a lot of gold or silver jewellery, especially earrings and nose-rings. Sometimes they also put a spot of red on their foreheads called a bindi (BINN-dee) as a decoration.

Different styles of wearing a Sari (Saree)

North Indian Style
North Indian Style
Bengali Style
Bengali Style
Devdas Style
Devdas Style
Gujarati Style
Gujarati Style
Maharashtrian Style
Maharashtrian Style
How to wear a sari Bengali style
How to wear a sari Bengali style

It does not matter how expensive your clothes are ... if you don't have the finesse, you will not carry them off with elegance. Elegance comes naturally. One can wear a $10 blouse or sari and carry it off like they are wearing something very expensive. This applies not only to Indian clothing but all kinds of clothing in general.

Indian clothing comes in a lot of styles because every region in India has a different way of wearing the same thing. For example, take the sari (or saree). Women in north India wear it differently than south India and women in west of India wear it differently than in east of India. I personally wear the sari in two styles: for religious events and weddings, I wear it Gujarati style but for all other occasions such as parties, visiting friends or general occasions, I wear the North Indian style. Did you know that Indian women have saris for all occasions: simple inexpensive saris for daily wear in the house as most women are housewives, then for the afternoon, they will wear something slightly expensive if going out, saris for parties, saris for weddings and even sari for mourning which is usually white.

  • North Indian: It is the widely used style in which Sari is draped around a waist once and then pleats are tucked in the waistband. The remaining portion of Sari, known as Pallu is put across the left shoulder and is allowed to fall behind.
  • Gujarati: This style of Sari is known as Seedha Pallu Sari. In this style Pallu is taken to back side and is then put across the front side of the right shoulder.
  • Bengali: A pleatless style of draping a sari.
  • Maharashtrian: for this style of sari you need a sari which is longer than the usual one i.e. 8-9 m long. In this style sari is passed through legs and one portion of it is tucked at the back providing room for greater freedom of movement.
  • Other styles of draping a sari worth mention are: Kodagu, Nivi and Kachha Nivi style.

The popularity of sari resulted in its different types. The most famous types of Indian sari are:

  • Bandhani
  • Patola
  • Gujarati brocade
  • Paithani
  • Chanderi
  • Gadawal
  • Banaras brocade
  • Kota doria
  • Kanjeevaram
  • Konrad
  • Pashmina silk
  • Kota silk
  • Puttapakshi
  • Baluchari


Churidar (shalwar kameez with skinny pants)
Churidar (shalwar kameez with skinny pants)
Punjabi Suite
Punjabi Suite
Patiala Shalwar Kameez
Patiala Shalwar Kameez

Shalwar Kameez

Shalwar (also referred to as pajama, lehnga for men) - pants

Kameez (or kurta or kurti) - top or shirt or knee length dress

Shalwar Kameez - Salwar Kameez - Punjabi Suit - Churidar

Just like how women and men wear pants and shirts or business casual clothing, similarly, in South Asian countries, men and women wear shalwar kameez as their daily mode of dressing. I used to wear shalwar kameez daily to work and at home. The outfits for work were elegant the ones worn at home were simple, mostly cotton because of the hot climate. Tradtionally, shalwar kameez was worn in Afghanistan and Pakistan but then spread to India.

Just like sari, shalwar kameez comes in simple and pricey variations. Shalwar Kameez can cost from $20 to $500 and sometimes more depending on the occasions. You can get them in cotton, chiffon, cotton silk and pure silk, polyester and combination of cotton/polyester.

When I don't want to wear the shalwar, I usually switch it with black leggings. Gives the whole outfit a slightly more elegant look.

Another variation both for men and women is that the pants come like skinny jeans. I personally find this trendier than wearing the loose pants.

Some examples of the different styles of shalwar kameez for men and women are shown here.

Most Expensive Sari in the World - in Guinness Book of World Records
Most Expensive Sari in the World - in Guinness Book of World Records

How often have you come across a Rs. 40 lakh ($100,000)  Silk Sari? It is made out of Chennai Silks and is a one of a kind sari.

The exceptionally stunning saree is meticulously woven with 12 precious stones and metals to depict 11 of Raja Ravi Verma's popular paintings. Explicitly projected is 'Lady Musicians.'  Besides, the border of the sari, pictures 10 other paintings of the artist that pays tribute to 20th century artist.

The best part of the is that that the women in the paintings are intricately hand-woven and beautified with jewels of gold, diamond, platinum, silver, ruby, emerald, yellow sapphire, sapphire, cat's eye, topaz, pearl and corals.

Already in the Limca Book of Records, this 40 lakh rupee sari  will be the first silk sari that required the use of 7,440 jacquard hooks and 66,794 cards during the weaving process. Moreover, it took a group of consummate workers nearly 4,680 hours.

Punjabi Kurta-Pajama
Punjabi Kurta-Pajama
Indian Kurta-Pajama
Indian Kurta-Pajama
Pakistani Kurta-Pajama
Pakistani Kurta-Pajama

Patola Sari

Patola - The queen of Silks: The patola sari is one of the finest hand-woven sarees produced today. It is a specialty of Patan, and is famous for extremely delicate patterns woven with great precision and clarity. A patola sari takes 4 to 6 months to make, depending on how complicated the designs is and if the length is 5 or 6 metres. Besides Patan, Surat is acclaimed is also well known for Patola saris.

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Comments 12 comments

Shamiema 5 years ago

Hi my name Shamiema im intrested in being part in a fashion show or photoshoot.By only dressing sari and panjabi pls email me if u are looking for people im available. Im from South africa so would prefebly refer in my country.

Kind Regards

ambee12 profile image

ambee12 5 years ago from Canada Author

I live in Canada. There is a fashion and/or modelling agency called SAMA:

You can contact them.

sasanka7 profile image

sasanka7 4 years ago from Calcutta, India

Nice and very informative hub.

ambee12 profile image

ambee12 4 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you Sasanka7 for your kind words. It took a lot of work!

karan 4 years ago

hi i would like to know more about the fabric producers of all the above said fabric

ambee12 profile image

ambee12 4 years ago from Canada Author

Hi Karan,

Can you please be more specific as to what you are looking for? I understand about the fabric producers part but would like you to eloborate further.

sari 4 years ago

Thanks for your visit and your uplifting comment. Cheers and Happy Hubbing.

aditi 3 years ago


Aranya 3 years ago

Indian sarees are always beautiful, all women look gorgeous with sarees.

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lolitabenzb 3 years ago

really gud is more

lushika profile image

lushika 22 months ago

Such a great information about History of Indian Clothing.

Get Indian Clothes at

ambee12 profile image

ambee12 14 months ago from Canada Author

Sorry......I have been a tad lazy in checking my Hubpage account regularly so was unable to respond to all or any comments. Happy Holidays!

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