What to wear in India: 15 Useful Do’s and Don’ts

In India, Keep it basic, colorful and simple. The minds of inbound travelers are perplexed in complex jargon on what could be acceptable...

In India, Keep it basic, colorful and simple.

The minds of inbound travelers are perplexed in complex jargon on what could be acceptable and appreciated here. Does India give mixed signals in terms of where we stand in the world of 'what to wear' today?

Hell no!  India is celebrating its uniqueness with lots and lots of fusion wear and mix and match.


Me Pairing a White Top with Pajama Style Printed Capri by Splash India. Along with it wearing a sling bag. This is in Gujarat.


I would say India is in a phase of change. India is still in between taking a leap of faith from conservative to modern and hence the daily wear fashion that India represents in most states is moderate -  neither too flamboyant nor too modern - neither too traditional nor too outrageous. The small towns are a little more conservative than their touristy tier-2 cities  / metro cities counterpart. Then again, as a traveler to India, awareness is the key.

                                 Me wearing Top by W for Woman, and Skirt by Max Fashion in Rajasthan pairing up thrifted accessories and hat. Alongside is travel blogger Shrinidhi.

Indian Fashion has grown exponentially over the last few years. Today it is recognized worldwide by many countries appreciating the intricate details we delicately weave our clothes in. People generally love the brightness of colors that we wear. Bollywood, Mainstream media, Fashion shows, Renowned Designers, Fashion Retail Stores, International magazines such as Elle and Vogue etc too have added to well known Indian Fashion scene of today.

But as a commoner or more so a traveler, do we inculcate the runaway styles in our daily apparels. Do we dress up as Bollywood divas in our daily lives ? Even though the change through these sectors are apparent and the Youth of today are more experimental with their Styles, as a Traveler its best to let us be in every shape or form blend with the culture.


   As a traveler to India, its important to feel safe and comfortable within with what we wear.

       Yes, India can get very hot, but parts of the country can still drool over mini skirts.
                              .. And it is because it is not common in most parts.

So what do we fit in , if you ask me, in our luggage?

WHAT TO PACK FOR 10 DAYS

  • 2 Ankle Length Lowers 
  • 5-6 Tops 1-2 Kurti 
  • 1 Skinny Jeans 
  • 1 Skirt 
  • Jutis / Flip Flops / Shoes 
  • Accessories 
  • Scarf / Wrap Ups
As a traveler, here are a few important do’s and don’t I would suggest:
  1. ON THE ROAD WEAR: 'I can never feel comfortable in a Jeans in Planes. I can never feel comfortable in shorts in Trains' If you are like me, you are the same. Jeans are durable and sturdy but for a transport wear, its thick, it can get into the skin and its far from comfortable on long haul trains or flights. Probably not the best. Then what is the best. If you are looking for an ideal transport wear, I would suggest printed / dark slim fit pants / Pajama or Harem Pants for the trains - anything that eases your body movement than restricts it -  trains can get dusty and dirty - specially in the General 2- class. You can either pair it up with a top (that covers your butt and isn't tight) or Kurti(with a little Indian Touch).
    Me pairing up a long T-shirt till my calf with leggings, while mom pairs up Kurti with Pajama.
    If you are flying, you can still get away with fitting Joggers pants or shorts (not mini shorts but shorts). I like wearing light colored ankle length pants in planes. Refrain from wearing anything see-through (even with separate spaghetti lining inners) at trains. Trains are for masses and general mode of transport more preferred than planes in India, so people do come from all over India and hence its important to feel safe and not leered at. I haven’t seen people wearing Skirts in Trains either. So wear trousers and t-shirts or better still Kurtis with leggings. No butts cheek visible and no boobs hanging either - that is obvious word of caution in crowded trains or  crowded buses.
  2. WHERE ARE YOU TRAVELING? Talking of which, a lot of it depends on which part of India are you traveling. Some places are moderately liberal whereas others are more conservative. Don’t let the attire of village women fool you into thinking that you can get away with things, because as you walk into Rajasthan and Gujarat interiors, you may wonder if they wear such low cut blouses or backless, can I? No, not with your western wear. And genuinely not into less touristic circuits. Goa is one place in India where you can wear almost anything. The major cities such as Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai is more open to liberal dressing, where you would see many people wearing dresses or skirts or shorts etc on road. Whereas the rest of the country is a little conservative when it comes to dressing. Certain states such as Haryana, UP, Bihar, West Bengal people generally are a little more conservative than rest. In Madhya Pradesh, you would see women covered overall even on top of tops, but that is not because of Style, that is because women drive Bikes and with the heat and dust, they need to protect their hands, face and feet. Interiors of South of India are a little more conservative however, the popular mainstream circuits are still very lenient towards tourists. To be safe, wear and pack whats acceptable overall.
    Travel Blogger Nisha plays it safe - she teams up a long Top with Knee Length Jeans capris
    Me in touristy Agra, wearing Khaki capris and Halter Top. Pants are by RIG Pantaloons.

    While keeping it simple in Leh.

    And Kashmir... Top is by AND India

    You get the idea right? Here I am wearing a spaghetti top by United Colors of Benetton with waistcoat in Punjab

    And plain white shaded top in Gujarat.

    Here's me wearing teeny weeny shorts and spaghetti top in Goa :)
    Us, donning a saree in a temple in Kerala

    Mom wearing Kurti and Leggings in Agra

    Me contrasting Black with Red in Chikmagalur

    It's sweet to be informed about every state a bit, for example, I personally observed that people in West Bengal do wear a lot of sleeveless - i.e Sleeveless Kurti, Sleeveless Blouses with Sarees. Although Sleeveless is alright in every part of India, West Bengal does it a little more.. 
    Dripping in Sweat, in West Bengal.
    Going for a Jungle Safari? Keep colors toned down and neutral.
  3. TRAVELING SOLO OR IN A GROUP? Before being a travel blogger, I used to do a lot of trips with my brother. And being with my brother, I never felt unsafe to not wear what I want. Sometimes, I used to be with friends, in those cases too , I never felt the need to confirm to the general dressing guidelines.
    Me with my friends on a tour in Karnataka

    Again, in an Indian resort.
    We would party, dance and would wear teeny weeny clothes and they were okay as long as people were there. I did my college from Manipal Karnataka which is a university town, there too every one was fashionable. My family too is very liberal and so the need to dress up how it should be never was imposed. However, when you are traveling solo, it is very important to dress up appropriately. Dress how the rest dresses, and the unwanted attention from men wouldn’t be an issue. 
                                    Camouflaged Style Denim Top by Myntra in Gujarat

  4. EXPERIMENT MIX-MATCH: What I love about India and I so miss that in US, is the collection of bright colors we have. Even toned down neutral colors in Khadi are elegant personified. So instead of being wary of what would work best, why not practice some mix and match as every Indian does. Pair up t-shirt with Harem Pants, Kurtis with Jeans, Scarfs as Headgear etc etc. Did you know wearing Bandhani Rajasthani Duppata with White T-Shirt and Jeans looks FAB! Well now you got an idea. The Prints in India are gorgeous and a lot of time you get it really cheap in the flea markets of Small cities / Touristic Circuits so why not go crazy! I personally do not like or keep scarf, but it comes handy when visiting religious places or conservative places where you may need to cover up a little of your shoulders or sometimes head.
    Mom tries woolen scarf on me, which I resist..
    Me wearing a light shrug to cover my shoulders in Darjeeling..

    Services such as tailoring comes very cheap so you can also get your own Fabric from the Indian Store and get it stitched in your size too if you have time. 
    Travel Blogger Lakshmi Sharath carries her dupatta beautifully.
  5. SHOP FLEA / FAIRS: In a place if you have time, talk to locals on what is the best place to shop. Do your google research too on the festivals and fairs that offer Flea Clothes / regional Clothes. While Baga, Anjuna, Palolem in Goa is known for great flea markets, one can’t pass by Colaba Mumbai or Lajpat Nagar/ Sarojini Nagar/ Janpath / Dilli Haat without picking a stuff or two. Conoor also has these fairs where they sell winter clothes for dirt cheap starting from about Rs 100 (My mom got Parka style Jackets for about Rs 150) whereas the flea market in Jaisalmer Rajasthan and Ahmedabad gets you the best embroidered clothes, hats, bags. I have personally seen the brand Accessorize carrying many of these stuff what seems like are from Rajasthan and Gujarat.  When you pass by mall road of Hill stations, make a stop and look for what you can buy. In Bihar, you can get in the Handicraft stores and buy local embroidered Madhubani clothes.
    In fact, Handicraft stores in every state of India can be a great visit. In flea markets, do haggle, and most often than not you can get really great finds for fraction of a cost that sells for hundred of Dollars overseas.

  6. FOR THRILL SEAKERS: I believe, clothing for adventurous, always have to be very flexible and durable and water resistant and quick dry. If you are adventurous and looking for some great clothes, shoes, inners for your trek, the best place for it is Decathlon. North Face / Columbia are also great options, if they are in your city. Columbia has this great hiking pants which are a little expensive but worth it.
  7. WHAT IS NOT SEEN IN GOOD LIGHT FOR WOMEN: This is very important for people to know. Except for Goa, Bikinis are not popular on beeches and not preferred too. Going topless could be an insane idea. Sheer Tops from which your bras may be visible is not seen greatly too. Except for Goa and Big Cities, Shorts, Mini Skirts are no no. Any dress which is body hugging / super tight is not seen in good light in rest of the cities. Skirts below knee is great to wear. Pencil length skirt - not so much for travel unless its full length or ankle length. Sleeveless are okay but do not go overboard wearing shoulder less in small towns. Generally speaking, even spaghetti tops that reveals a little too much, may not be ok. You can wear Knee Length / Bermuda Length Capris too. I have a mixed feeling about crop tops, even though a little navel show is okay, I have never seen any one wearing Crop Tops in small towns. Also make sure that your cut of sleeves do not peek a boo into your bra. So no bra show and no butt show is basically what it is a about. That is why refrain from wearing very low waisted jeans. Opt for mid waisted ones. Skinny jeans are popular in India. Leggings / Jeggings are popular too. I also love wearing Knee length capris or shorts. 
  8. BRANDS VS LOCAL TOWN SHOPS: A lot of people in India do believe that these local town shops are more affordable than plush mall brands. Having lived in Bilaspur, Chattisgarh I would say, no. Fashion comes late in these stores and are not always the best selling designs. Sometimes they are great but according to my fashion sensibility, not upto the mark. So these are the brands that I would still prefer over conventional Local Town Shops: Max India : If you haven’t seen this brand in malls, you must have a look. This brand comprises of affordable, fusion wear with a touch of Indian-ness whether its tops/skirts/capris etc. A perfect wear for travelers. Fab India & Biba India: A little on the expensive side, Fab India is well known for how seamlessly they combine Indian textiles to Western / Indian attires. whether its long skirt / top / plain kurti, this is a brand that focuses on comfort yet elegance. Biba India is another such brand to look for. Pantaloons: The Indian section of Pantaloons too comprises of fusion clothes brands like Rangmanch, Global Desi, AND etc caters to fusion wear. Global Desi and AND also has individual outlets. When it comes to western wear too, Pantaloons offer mid range decent clothes especially from their RIG line. Zara India: Does India have Zara, of course, why not? And believe me the clearance sales of Zara in India is unmatched. I miss that too in US(the most I have seen is 30% sale in US where as India has about 70% sale) and during those 50-70% sale , the prices are so comparable and affordable that missing it is sin.    The fabrics are gorgeous and the cuts stylish. They also have one of the best fitting and durable jeans. Vero Moda India too offers a great collection.  Myntra India / Jabong India: Do you shop just before you travel? Why not check Jabong India / Myntra India. I love the fact that they carry almost everything under the sun and have great return policies as well. Rangrage / Chimp India: For funky t-shirts that inks Indian-ness would be Rangrage and Chimp India. Forever 21/ H&M: Known worldwide for affordable wear, they offer great collection of dresses/trousers/tops to choose from and ain’t expensive at all. I personally prefer H&M over Forever 21, but both are great stores with super affordable fashion.
    Me wearing a top by Splash India and bottom by Zara India in Ooty

    We do have interesting color palette... notice what my friends are wearing.. all colors.

    Me, in a party in Bangalore

    Me, wearing a Jumpsuit in a media trip. Jumpsuit is by Kazo

    Me wearing a tie and dye dress by Myntra in Turtle Beach Karnataka

  9. ACCESSORIES: India is big on accessories. In fact, we love our accessories so much that we can even complete our look of Jeans with Bangles. You get these great roadside junk jewelry in North India whether its your earrings or arms cuffs or necklaces or anklets and they come for very very cheap. Although India is huge on Gold and generally people in South India do wear a lot of Gold even when outside, I wouldn’t recommend wearing lots for a traveler. One can go sleek and tiny like MIA, Tanishq or GILI as a ring or a tiny pendant but heavy in any way is not recommended. Junk Jewelry for me has worked best when traveling. One can go online with purchases from Etsy or Voylla India.
  10. FASHION FOR MEN: The least talked about probably, why do men need Fashion? Isn’t it all for girls? We think so, and men are neglected in their world of the same old. Even Forever 21 has a bucket size corner for men. Well how do men dress up in India today? They do not dress up in Dhoti or Kurtas, they do dress up casually. And by that I mean, simple casual T-Shirt and Pants or Jeans / Bermuda shorts which can be had from many store brands or online.
    Travel Blogger Sid the wanderer keeps it casual.
  11. SHOES/ SANDALS FOR INDIANS: I have always loved the design by Crocs. Although a little expensive than usual, they have great stuff for travelers. However, my feet is not very good with the rubbery material it is made of. A few friends I know swear by crocs. The quality of Bata has degraded over the years but Bata is still a very cool bet for affordable Sandal wear. Inc -5 has some very cool footwear that I used to wear a lot. Catwalk too is great. A lot of people buy jutis, but for me, I would prefer to add on a little cushion on the jutis so I look for cushion on Jutis when I buy, my feet are a little too soft. Scholl (in Bata Stores) offers great footwear too. All in all , I would suggest, test the sandals / shoes before you buy them. Reebok / Adidas / Nike offers best shoes second to which would be Decathlon. When it comes to shoes, stick to conventional. India has rough terrain at times, so comfort wear is essential. If you are traveling from US, TOMS and AEROSOLES are great brands.
  12. CLOTHING TRAIL FOR INDIANS Spundana by Welspun takes you to the trail of villages of Kutch where we can watch these creators of handwork in Embroidery and Appliqué with their craftwork of mirror work, handwork etc, meet them and buy their products.
    Textiles dyed and tied in Patan Patola Heritage, Gujarat
  13. GET GORGEOUS WITH ETHNIC WEAR: As travelers you may never have to be part of a wedding, but what if one day you decide to bump into one(just like that!) or your friend is an Indian friend who is getting married. Indian Marriages last long and is no less than a carnival. Days and days of pampering and rituals go side by side where the attendees are in their ethnic best. If you visualize big fat Bollywood in real time, all dressed and decked up in Lehenga Choli and Sarees and Glitter, this would be it. Over the ages, the trend has slightly shifted to Lehenga Style Gowns or Wrap up Sarees or Kurti Gowns, all in all, they all look fabulous with great work on them. If you are traveling, and wish to buy these do so. .
    Me wearing Kerala Kasavu Saree which I got from Nalli, Chennai
  14. MAKE UP AND SUNSCREEN With the sun India has, it is important to not make make up look like made up with sweat dripping your face. Washing off foundations get easy and so when traveling keep make up light. I love little shine and color on my face, so what I personally do is apply BB Cream by Colorbar / add a little Kajal or Kohl by Colorbar, add a little lip balm and Sunscreen and I am set to go. Sunscreen by Clinique was expensive but the best that suited my sensitive skin. If Neutrogena or Lotus Sunscreen suits you do apply them. Kajal is big in India so apply some under your eyes and let your beauty shine. 
  15. SLING BAGS I personally would recommend Sling Bags over Shoulder Bags in heavy pickpocketed areas. Colorful Banjara style big sized bags / Indian Traditional jholas / bagpacks too are a great bet to keep your shrug, purse everything inside.Buy zipped bags if you are traveling often.
     Indian Jhola, Img Source: Jaipur Online






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4 comments

  1. Nice one really like your collection and blog post especially on hawrah bridge and the one on speedboat nice one

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Award winning travel blogger at Ankionthemove talks about comfortable, affordable, stylish clothes / make up / accessories / footwear that makes your travel light n easy! Styleonthemove is all about being real with brands that make it all happen............

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