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Have you been to India?

DH and I will be going for 2 weeks this winter. If you've been to India, from a cultural perspective, what type of clothing were you most comfortable wearing while there? Long, loose/flowing items? Salwar kameez/sari? Jeans?

We'll be splitting our time between Delhi and Mumbai, with some day trips to places within driving distance (Agra, Jaipur, etc.). I'm not sure if wearing jeans is acceptable for women during the day. I know that shorts and short skirts are frowned upon by some, so I won't be packing those items.


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Re: Have you been to India?

  • Delhi and Mumbai are both large, cosmopolitan cities, and Agra and Jaipur are popular with tourists. Nobody will notice if you're wearing jeans, and as long as your shorts or skirts weren't too short nobody would likely care about those either (just not to temples). You would attract a lot more attention as a  foreigner wearing Indian clothing.
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  • I spent 3 weeks there. 

    Delhi and Mumbai .. you can get away with wearing more revealing stuff.

     I would not wear shorts in the smaller towns or in Jaipur. I did one day and it was really uncomfortable. I'd wear pants or longer skirts.


  • Touristy or not I would still adhere to basic cultural values and norms.  I haven't been to India but I have been to Nepal and I know a lot of adults really aren't happy about the changes to their culture influenced by western culture.  I personally never wore jeans because we walked a lot and they weren't as comfortable - and also you don't want anything incredibly form fitting.  I wore cargo pants, and capris, a skirt that came down to my shins, and a floor length skirt.  Anything that covers your knees is good.  Also I always wore shirts that covered my shoulders - t-shirts are fine - but no tank tops.  I wore traditional clothes occasionally and I think people respected that we were trying to understand their culture better - plus saris etc. are practical because they are designed for their climate and temperature.  I don't think it drew more attention to me as a foreigner - actually some people genuinely thought I was Nepali.  Kathmandu is a touristy city as is Pokhara with a lot of western trekkers - but after living there for a summer even we frowned upon westerners who wore tank tops and shorts because it is disrespectful and though no one will probably give you a hard time about it you'll still most likely get disapproving glances. 
  • I would definitely not wear shorts or short skirts. You will see tourists wearing revealing clothing, but I think it's very disrespectful. I was there in the spring, so it was very warm. I wore mainly capri pants and long flowy skirts, with light t-shirts. Jeans will be fine, though it was too hot for them when I was there. I did buy a salwar kameez and wore that occasionally. I found thin flowy skirts (kind of peasant-type skirts, for lack of a better word) to be the most comfortable.



  • I spent 10 days in Chennai and surrounding area.

    At the beginning, it was the awful sticky hot season still. So I felt most comfortable (culturally and physically) in a few cheap salwar kameez I bought down the road from my hotel.

    Other days I wore jeans and t-shirts. No matter what, I still stuck out like a sore thumb, lol.


  • Skip the shorts entirely. The only people who wear shorts in India are young schoolboys.

    As for skirts, I would err on the side of being conservative and not wear anything above the knee. I also wouldn't wear any spaghetti strap, camisole or strapless tops.

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  • Dress conservatively but not like a native, necessarily.

    I'd forego jeans in lieu of khakis or cargo pants.

    If you are blonde or redheaded and/or pale skinned you will be stared at anyway and may be approached as a curiousity.  It's nbd, just go with the flow, I found no one to be disrespectful.

    Have fun, India is amazing!!  I've been to Agra, Delhi and Jaipur.  Be prepared, if you've never been to the "third world" before the poverty is STAGGERING.

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  • You don't have to go over the top, but I think you'll be treated better if you dress in a way that respects local norms.

    Big cosmopolitan cities of course have people who wear all kinds of things, but as a tourist you will likely be spending more time in historical sites and markets than at the upmarket shopping centers and fancy suburban neighborhoods of the jean-wearing elite. Not that you wouldn't spend any  time there, but you don't really go to India to hang out in a western atmosphere, generally speaking. A lot of the sites in Delhi are located near Old Delhi or in neighborhoods where people aren't the wealthy, educated elite and you won't see a lot of women in jeans--much less pants (except salwar kameez) there.

    If you intend to venture out without your husband, even just around the block, you'll receive less negative attention from men if you dress according to local norms.

    Also, not sure exactly what time you mean by winter, but Delhi and Rajasthan can be quite chilly in the wintertime and you won't want to wear a short skirt or short sleeves, regardless of cultural norms! In Jan. I generally wore long skirts with yoga pants underneath, otherwise I would have been freezing in the evenings.

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  • Jeans are definitely fine, except that you might get a little hot, depending on your comfort level.  I think long flowy skirts are definitely the most comfortable, since they're both cool and covering.

    I think tank tops are also fine unless the straps are very thin.  I wore tank tops a lot of the time we were in the touristy areas (Jaipur, Agra, etc) and never felt uncomfortable.  Plus, most of my salwar kameez are sleeveless anyway.  In a few temples, I did unfold my dupatta (I usually wear it around my neck like a scarf rather than draped over my shoulders) to cover up a little more.

    There are so many fashion-forward women in the bigger cities that even short skirts aren't really out of place.  I would say the biggest argument against them is that there's a common misconception that all western women are easy!  So if you don't want some suggestive looks, you might want to cover up a bit more than usual.
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  • My DH's family are all from India...especially Delhi.  They all wear jeans and trousers or skirts most of the time, unless going to a dressy event.  You'll be fine in anything that is reasonably sensible.
  • Have fun, India is my absolute favorite country!

    You will be fine in jeans, other long pants, or flowy skirts or dresses (that are to the knee or right around there) in Delhi and most definitely in Mumbai.  I was told not to wear jeans or very form-fitted pants (basically anything that emphasizes your rear-end!) in more rural parts of the country that don't see much tourism.  If you are visiting temples or mosques, you should not have bare arms or exposed legs.  I wouldn't wear tank tops as a general rule.

    I want to echo something that PPs have stated: you may attract a lot of attention in certain parts of the country based on your appearance, no matter what you wear.  I am a tall, very pale, curly-haired redhead, and I was approached countless times (dozens and dozens) during my time there by people who wanted to touch my hair or take a photograph with me.  Don't let this bother you if it happens!


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