Asia,  India

What to Wear in India For Women

India is an absolutely stunning country, but so many women are intimidated by stories they’ve been told about assaults that have happened in the country. I travelled there with my boyfriend and was fine. I’ve heard many solo female travellers say they, too, were absolutely fine. Every India experience is different from another, so it’s important to remember to stay safe. Things can happen anywhere you go, and if you’re planning on going to India, being respectful in terms of how you dress goes a long way. Here’s my take on what to wear in India for women.

As a general rule of thumb, try to wear more conservative outfits. This can be tough in the Summertime when it gets HOT (upwards of 40 degrees!). I’ll talk more about my Summer India packing list later. In places like Goa, you can get away with much more revealing clothing, as it’s considered more of a touristy beach town. This guide is on what to wear in India for women… but in the more traditional parts of India.

Maxi Dresses

These were my absolute essentials in India! I brought one black maxi dress with me and it was definitely my most worn item. It was super easy to move around in and I was able to get comfortable on buses and trains without worrying that people could see up my skirt. It was also stylish and easy to dress up for nicer dinners. I loved it so much, I actually had another maxi dress handmade for me in Jaipur with the classic block print fabric.

I also brought a normal dress, but I made sure it was knee length. In Delhi and the big cities, it was fine, but I wouldn’t wear it in some smaller, more conservative cities.

Loose flowy tops

Loose fitting, flowy, white tops were another fantastic thing to wear in India. Peasant blouses are both trendy and airy so it’ll keep you super cool. I like tops that have cap sleeves. It’s basically a tank top, but slightly more conservative. I was a little nervous about wearing tank tops my first time in India, but I found that in most urban cities, I didn’t get looked twice at! If you ever do feel a little iffy about your clothing choices, throw on a scarf, which brings me to my next point.

Scarves

These were invaluable during my time in India. They made my sleeveless maxi dress more than appropriate when needed, and they were great to have on hand just in case I felt a little funny about what I was wearing. I also threw this on my head during our Rajasthan camel safari, which was a good shield from both the sun and sand. I’m soooo glad I brought a scarf with me. Make sure yours is lightweight unless you’re going in colder months!

Loose linen trousers

I didn’t actually bring a pair with me, but I wish I did! I bought a pair in Jaisalmer and they were perfect for India. The quality wasn’t top notch, so I’d definitely bring a pair if you can. These were so easy to throw on and absolutely a must-have. Harem pants are another good kind of pant to bring – I’m not a fan of the drop crotch look, but you can find some that are super subtle.

Jeans

In colder months (or up north) it can get cool enough to be comfortable in jeans. I saw lots of Indian women wearing skinny jeans and no one thought it was inappropriate. I got a bit cold in Ladakh and it would have been nice to wear jeans.

Leggings and a Long Top

I packed these because I was planning on doing some trekking, but I got so much wear out of these! Make sure you pair workout leggings with a top that covers your bum. I wore a shirt that was slightly too short and I got LOTS of stares so I’d avoid that as it was quite uncomfortable. Again, loose and flowy is the way to go.

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What do Indian Women Wear?

There’s a huge mix of what Indian men and women wear- there was no ‘dress code’ I could see! I saw ladies in Western clothes that were super tight and short, and I also saw ladies in beautiful traditional Indian clothes. If you feel comfortable wearing Indian clothing (which people tended to see more as appreciation than appropriation), I say go for it! Salwar Kameez, saris, and kurtas were popular clothing choices. You could either buy super cheap ones, or you could go all out and buy some of the expensive, stunning ones.

What’s Okay and What’s Not Okay?

I saw lots of crop tops and they were no problem! I wouldn’t wear a super busty or revealing crop top, but a little tummy is totally acceptable!

Revealing clothing is generally not so acceptable. Showing lots of cleavage won’t fly, but the smallest amount is ok! As for your bottom half, I’d avoid wearing anything too tight or short. It seemed that you could get away with less clothing on top than on bottom (but still try to be quite conservative). See my above point on leggings.

While you might be able to get away with long (knee length) shorts, I’d avoid wearing shorts and opt for either capris, trousers, or a long skirt instead.

What Shoes To Wear in India

I brought three pairs of shoes with me (which seems like a lot, but bear with me).

  • I was mainly doing a trekking holiday, so my hiking boots were essential. If you aren’t planning on hiking, skip these.
  • I brought a pair of Birkenstocks with me. While these are chunky and heavy, I find them so great for walking around in. They give me enough support, they’re easy to put on and take off, and they look alright with dresses. Chacos would be another great alternative shoe.
  • Lastly, and you won’t believe me when I say this…. I brought Crocs. NOT the chunky rubber shoes with the holes in them, but a pair of Croc sandals. They’re made completely out of rubber but they have a T strap look so they’re actually really cute. These are my go-to travel shoes because they’re comfortable as heck, they can be shower shoes (completely rubber!), and they can be dressed up with a dress for a night out.

I wore my Birkenstocks and Crocs as everyday shoes, and when I was hiking or travelling, I’d wear my hiking boots. After a long hiking day, the Crocs were super comfy to wear. In colder climates, I bring my Birkenstocks hiking with me. They’re great because you can wear them with socks (a fan of #stockswithsocks)

What To Wear in India During Summer

Indian summers can be brutal. I would definitely pack a maxi dress, linen pants, and flowy loose shirts. Avoid jeans and heavy trousers. DO however, bring a light scarf and a fleece jumper (trains can be air conditioned if you get first class and it can get cold in the North at night!).

Sunglasses and hats are vital in the summertime to protect your face from the sunshine and heat. Seriously, do NOT forget these (or sunscreen!).

Whilst you can pack lighter fabrics for the summertime in India, there’s only so much clothing can do. My top travel tip for summer in India would be to explore during the morning and evening, and during the hottest part of the day, either sit in an air-conditioned cafe or your hotel. If the heat doesn’t bother you that much, power through and try to save the more covered attractions (palaces, museums, forts) for the hottest part of the day (11am-4pm).

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What to Wear Hiking in India

If you’re used to hiking in shorts and a sports bra, you’ll probably have to rethink what you’ll wear hiking in India. I would avoid shorts, even if they’re loose, and instead, opt for leggings or trekking pants. I packed a pair of each and both were totally accepted. The trekking pants felt a little more respectful, but the leggings were just fine. I also wore tank tops and workout t-shirts. T-shirts are recommended over tank tops, but both are fine in the long run. I also brought a SUPER lightweight long sleeve workout top which was nice to have at both sea level (protection from the sun) and at higher altitude.

Again, just keep in mind that even though you’ll be hot and sweaty whilst exercising, a lot of hikes are in more rural parts of India and it’s more appropriate (and sometimes safer) to cover up more.

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Wearing the right clothing so that I wasn’t getting any extra stares made me feel so much more at ease whilst travelling there. It’s amazing that clothing has the power to completely transform an experience, and it’s really important to know what’s good to wear in a certain destination. India is an incredible destination and there’s something in the country for everyone. Hope these tips help!

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