Indian Fashion 101 (Part 1)

I am blessed to have a multicultural group of friends. I love travelling with my girls and seeing the locals’ quizzical looks when we enter a store,  a restaurant or a bar. They are always surprised to see the rainbow of skin colours and express shock when they learn we are from Canada! We definitely challenge some of their preconceived notions about our home and native land.

So what does that have to do with fashion, you ask? Well, my girls are enthusiastic about wearing Indian clothes to my wedding, and I thought it would be prudent to give a little run-down for them (and all other non-South Asian folk reading this blog) about various types of outfits and fashion choices!

1. Sari

An example of a typical sari

When most people think about Indian clothes, the sari comes to mind. It is the quintessential Indian outfit. The sari can be traced back to the Indus Valley civilization, which was hanging out in the Indian subcontinent around 2600 to 1700 BCE. The sari is worn by women throughout India. In some regions, it is worn at parties or special events, whereas in other regions, the sari is everyday wear.

I love saris. They are elegant and can be very sexy–quite a feat given the fact you’re wrapped in several feet of cloth! Wearing a sari can initially be uncomfortable; you have to figure out how to maneuver within all that material. Going to the washroom can be a test. However, once you figure it out, wearing a sari is like being draped in pure femininity.  The  way the material hugs my curves and falls gracefully over my body makes me feel absolutely beautiful. I actually feel most beautiful in a sari.

A sari has 4 main components:

a. Blouse (Choli in Hindi)

The blouse is the upper portion of the sari. The blouse is always cropped and leaves your belly exposed. There is a spectrum of sizes and shapes, from little bikini-style tops (usually seen on Bollywood actresses or Indian runways) to blouses that have full sleeves and fall around the middle of the rib cage. Blouses are often custom-made.

Examples of blouse designs. The options are limitless! (Image courtesy of

A more risque blouse. Very sexy. Not sure I could wear it around my dad, uncles, or guy cousins. Ummm...awkward.

A long sleeve sari blouse. I love this look!

I love this sari!!!

b. Petticoat

The petticoat is a simple, long drawstring (usually) cotton skirt you don first. The sari is tucked into the petticoat, which is usually the same colour as the sari.

Examples of petticoats

c.  Sari material

The sari material is one unstitched piece of rectangular cloth, usually measuring about 9 metres in length. It comes in various types of material-cotton, satin, silk, crepe de shin, georgette, you name it. Silk and georgette saris tend to be the easiest to wear. Putting on a sari is not easy; my mom still does it for me!!

Click on this link for a youtube video showing you how to tie a sari!

Indian clothing stores have now started stitching saris for you and making it as simple as snapping a button. Seriously!

d. Pallu

The pallu is the part of the sari that drapes over your shoulder and down your back. Often, the pallu is the most embroidered and dramatic part of the sari. This can make or break the sari!

Pallu examples from saris designed by Satya Paul.

Some more pics of saris:

The colour combination is fabulous and so typically Indian! (Image from

An Anju Modi design. The sheer fabric is ultra modern, as is the colour combination. The embroidery and classic blouse, however, maintain the sari's traditional appeal.

Ashwairya Rai in a Satya Paul design. The halter blouse, the bold colours, and the polka dots make for a modern take on the sari.

Some great Indian designers/websites to check out for inspiration:

Satya Paul

Manish Malhotra

Payal Singhal

Anju Modi


Charmi Creations

Lakme Fashion Week

Ok, folks, that’s all for now. I’ll come back with more!




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