Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"What's in your suitcase?" Wednesday: Cultural Dress

It's been a while since I posted about something in my suitcase. My break from blogging over the holidays was good for me, but now it's back to it! I am now in India, which is why I'm very grateful for my careful packing five months ago.

Typical dress in India includes a kurta (thoses dresses with slits down either side) over leggings or baggy pants with a scarf like the picture on the right.

I brought back a lot of traditional clothing from my previous trip to India in 2012, but my lack of packing space and variety of cultures that I would be visiting made it impractical to pack all of these. I still really wanted to be as respectful of culture as possible. This is especially important for solo female travellers that don't want to attract more attention than they already do. This post explains how I packed lightly with clothes that would work well in both Europe and India.

Long Shirts or Dresses

In India as a female, unless you are wearing a sari (or want to get even more stares), it is best to wear a shirt or a dress over your pants that covers your hips completely. I packed multiple shirts that do so. Tunic-style sweaters and shirts are great for this, as well as t-shirts that are made extra long intentionally (or ones that have stretched out after rare access to a dryer - that worked out well for me!). Dresses are great too, and as long as you wear leggings or pants underneath, it is perfectly appropriate. My chambray shirt and long sweater (which can be made much longer than in the picture) have been huge assets here.


Leggings or Pants

Even though it's hot (upper 80's in January!), only pants that cover your knees are appropriate in a place like India. For this reason, I packed jeans, leggings, and a pair of linen pants that are cool enough for the weather, but still appropriate. Many travel packing websites will tell you to leave out the jeans. Others will tell you they are a necessity. I'm in the second camp. I can't imagine this trip without my jeans. Mine are a thin, cheap pair, which helps with the packing and heat.


I packed three scarves for my travels, and I haven't gone a day without one here in India. Women almost always wear a scarf over their chest unless wearing a sari. I've already featured my circle scarf here, but my other two scarves have been super important now that I need to wear them every day. Added bonus: when you're walking or riding around always dusty India, it is great to have a scarf to cover your mouth and nose. You will likely have grey snot no matter what (not kidding), but a layer of protection against the pollution is always a good thing.

Other Items

I've already featured my long black skirt here, and though most Indian women don't wear a long skirt outside of a sari, it certainly meets expectations for modesty. It is also a great item to remember in being sensitive as it usually will work well in any culture.

I also decided to pack just one kurta for when visiting more conservative areas. I always pair it with a long sleeve sweater or shirt and a scarf. I've definitely noticed that I get less stares when wearing this, and I plan to buy a few more while here. It can also be really fun to dress in a new way!

For your next travels, make sure you research what the culturally appropriate ways of dressing are and try to pack accordingly. I hope some of these tips can help with that!

Keep an eye out for my country overview of India coming (hopefully) tomorrow!




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