How to Dress in India for Female Travelers

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What to wear in India

We love getting mail! Who doesn't? So instead of just replying to emails, we thought we should share more of them for everyone. Here's a great email from a New Yorker who will be visiting India next year and wants to know how women travelers should dress:

Hi there!

I was just reading your blog and travel truly is an exciting experience! I'm going to India with some friends at the end of January into February and I was just wondering if you could give me a little advice on what kind of clothes really are acceptable there? We're 4 fashionable young NYers who want to dress well on our trip, but not be inappropriate or rude in our attire. You ladies seem to be the same way! So what did you find to be okay to wear in India as a young woman? 

We've stocked up on maxi skirts, t-shirts (hope they're okay), toms, and sandals. We're keeping our fingers crossed that tank tops are okay too as long as scarves/shawls cover the shoulders? And are leggings okay to wear without getting any major stares? Thanks for writing such a great blog- I hope to experience as much travel as you guys did one day too! We're using Goahead Tours Grand Tour of India for our itinerary. Below is a link of our itinerary. Thanks again!

Thanks for reaching out and asking another girl traveler. It's funny how we took a similar route! From North to South. And we also went around the same time so it's similar weather! The challenge of what to wear in India is dressing appropriately because they are much more conservative than any country I've been in.

What to wear in India

Great Lengths

Your shirt sleeves should reach your elbows and don't wear a skirt that doesn't cover your knees. When you're visiting temples, make sure you have a scarf to cover bare shoulders. I had such a hard time sticking to this. I had only brought tank tops and shorts for our Southeast Asian journey. 

What to wear in India

Shopaholic Strikes Back

But a quick shopping trip in Pushkar did the trick. (This is the perfect place for colorful and cheap clothes by the way). I stocked up on some scarves and shawls to cover myself up. I also bought some salwar kameez (traditional blouse made of silk that goes down to the knees and has slits on the side) and white Indian cotton pants made for my size. They were dirt cheap (about $4) and I was all set to go around India without raising too many eyebrows. 

What to wear in India

Hot and Cold

Northern India will be very cold in February so make sure you bring some winter clothes and appropriate footwear. You can just dress in layers New York style. The weather gets warmer as you make your way south. The beaches are less conservative because a lot of foreigners go there.

What to wear in India

Cover those assets

Leggings should be okay but just wear a top that covers those "assets." I have to say that regardless of what you wear, as a female foreigner you will get stared at a lot and may attract unwanted attention. But just keep your wits about you and stick together. 

I can't wait for you to experience India. It's one of my favorite countries! Enjoy your trip and don't forget to send us photos.

Happy Travels,
Sole Sister Lois

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7 sole trails

  1. You're right, it is hard to decide what to wear in India! Having lived there for 6months, I always had to be conscious of what I wear so as not to offend locals and gather unwanted attention. Really helpful Lois, love the pics! I would love to go back again someday. You'd never go wrong with a kurta and a pair of leggings. It's easier to dress up on winter, but have to fight the urge to show some skin on summer. Stock up on cotton shirts and don't be shy to wear colorful clothes :) Also would like to share that they should bring shoe covers so as not to leave their shoes outside when visiting temples, (or go barefoot, eek!) they're allowed now :)  

  2. nicely written Lois. Gusto ko rin ang male version ng damit nila. I wanna try one when I get to go to India. 

  3. Thanks for sharing all these tips claire! It's enough to create another post. Thanks for sharing and look forward to traveling with you someday!

  4. Thanks Doc Wends! Feeling ko bagay din sayo ang kurta and indian pants!

  5. Lois - wearesolesisters.comJanuary 10, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Thanks India was so fashion inspiring!

  6. You're better off with pants and a long shirt or mini dress with sleeves than a maxi dress or skirts. Maxi dresses look like Indian nightgowns. Skirts are something little girls wear. T-shirts are considered to look cheap (inexpensive), and don't ventilate as well as woven shirts. The big scarf is supposed to obscure your chest area by hanging in front of it. That's why conservative people get up in arms at the young women going without one.


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