Mariellen Ward is
a JourneyWoman who writes about India, yoga and transformational
travel on her blog, BreatheDreamGo.
She has traveled for more than a year in India and leads small
group tours to some of her favourite places there. We asked
Mariellen to advise our readers on how to dress appropriately
in Rajasthan, so you fit in socially. This is what she had
a dream, a fantastical medieval Rajasthani city complete with
a sprawling Maharaja’s palace, ancient temples and narrow
laneways lined with artisan’s workshops. Though it is
the Indian state most visited by tourists, Rajasthan is still
one of the most traditional and conservative and this is amply
evident by the way people dress, work and live, here. One
hot day, I was seated at an outdoor café in the courtyard
of the City Palace and the present-day Maharaja (king), ramrod
straight posture in an elegant pink shirt, strode by.
Yet, on the
same day I saw the Maharaja, I also saw a pale-skinned couple,
tourists from (perhaps) Europe, North America or Australia,
walking in the bazaar wearing shorts and tank tops. They looked
as out of place as a beef BBQ at a vegetarian ashram. From
the point of view of the locals these people would be considered
socially inept and disrespectful of the culture.
In spite of
what you see in Bollywood movies, most Indians still favour
modest, traditional clothing – and you may find that
you enjoy your time in India more if you do too. This is especially
true once you leave inner city Delhi and Mumbai, and if you
go to any social occasions (such as weddings), festivals (such
as Diwali or Holi) or to religious gatherings, temples, gurdwaras
(a place of worship for Sikhs) and mosques.
For those women
travelling to India, here’s eight tips to help you dress
for social success.
underwear and comfortable shoes and sandals to India,
but not a lot of other clothes. Go shopping in India
for three-piece salwar kameez sets (also known as suits).
These consist of a long or short tunic, tight or loose
pants and a long scarf, called a dupatta or chunni.
Wear all three pieces together. Buy cotton in summer
and silk or cotton in winter. FabIndia
is a great store to buy mix-and-match suits.
Indian clothes has several advantages. It suits the
climate and the need for modesty, plus you will fit
in a bit better, and be less of a target for beggars
and touts. You can get in touch with your inner hippie
or backpacker in India if you like, but you will pay
the price with a lot more hassles. If you are wearing
Indian clothes, local people tend to respect you more
and also treat you with more warmth, honesty and openness.
Try it and see what I mean.
gurdwaras and mosques you have to cover your head, so
it’s a good idea to always have a long scarf (such
as a dupatta or chunni) with you.
need good solid, comfortable shoes in India. The country's
infrastructure is much less than perfect so expect pavement
to be broken, potholes will be everywhere and sewage
sometimes runs freely in the streets.
of shoes, feet and shoes are considered “unclean”
in India. You may be asked to remove your shoes to enter
people’s homes and you definitely have to leave
your shoes at the entrance to temples, gurdwaras and
mosques. There is usually someone there who will store
them for 10 rupees. Also, never point or touch anything
with your feet.
a general rule, make sure your legs and shoulders are
covered, especially in religious or sacred places. Women
in India are very modest about their breasts. They wear
armour-like bras and then drape their dupattas over
their chests. You will probably not feel comfortable
in a thin, light bra; or in clothing that reveals your
bra. This look is trendy in the west, but a taboo in
modesty rule goes out the window when pertaining to
wearing jewelry. If you are invited to a private party,
a nice restaurant or a hotel, layer it on and the bigger
the better. But be very careful. It's important to realize
that walking around wearing flashy jewlery just draws
attention to yourself and makes you a target for the
many, many 'have-nots' in India.
My advice is to buy any wonderful baubles that you can
afford but don't wear them while in India. Bring them
home and wear them in places you consider safe or share
your goodies with the pals you left behind.
loves Indian shawls – inaccurately called pashminas
– and, unless it's meltingly hot, they can really
come in handy for both modesty and warmth. Unlike the
common dupatta or chunni that women in India wear --
which are longer, usually made of lighter fabric and
worn as an accessory -- shawls are worn primarily for
warmth. By the way, real pashminas are very expensive:
if someone tries to sell you one for the equivalent
of $5, $20, $50 or even $100, guaranteed it’s
not pure pashmina. At best, it's a mixture pf pashmina
and wool or silk.
to wear a pashmina shawl...
you aware of the many ways you can wear a shawl? Twist
it, tie it, drape it and fold it. It's a fashion accessory,
a way to cover your bare shoulders when modesty is
called for plus it's a wonderful way to simply keep
you warm. Even on the hottest days, Journeywoman carries
one in her backpack. Hot weather outdoors invariably
means that the air conditioning is set on HIGH indoors
and you'll need that extra bit of protection from
the cold air that seems to be directed right at you.
Going into a house of worship? A pashmina makes a
sophisticated head covering. Slip a colored pashmina
over a black tank top and black jeans and a savvy
traveller is set for the opera. Packing a glass jug
you bought in an Italian marketplace? Just wrap this
new treasure in your pashmina and it will do the trick.
to watch a video that illustrates the many fashionable
ways that you can wear a shawl at home and away.