Q&A: What to Wear to India

February 10th, 2009

Q: I am going to India (New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur) in March for my honeymoon, and I do not have a clue what to pack!  I am especially concerned about what kinds of shoes I should bring and how to dress conservatively in warm weather.

by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: How exotic to being to the "golden triangle" in India for your honeymoon - I’m quite jealous!  The weather should be lovely - March is Springtime there, so it won’t be too hot or too cold.

I suggest packing a small, colorful, flirty wardrobe for your honeymoon. As Indian people dress so colorfully, you will be sharing in the spirit of the country.  Don’t feel as if you need to bring everything - there are so many beautiful clothes to purchase - or have made for you. 

Do keep in mind India’s traditional culture.  As you suggested, conservative dressing is a must, especially in the towns that you will be visiting.  As such, you’ll want to dress appropriately (e.g. knee length or longer skirts, no exposed cleavage, respectful clothing for the holy sites).

Here’s what you need to bring to India:

pleated-geo-print-dress_020509
Pleated Geo Print Dress | $150 at Banana Republic
A few pretty dresses that pack easily are always practical.  They can each be an entire outfit, and they don’t take up too much space.  Look for dresses with conservative necklines and hemlines. 

grenada-palm-cami_020509
Grenada Palm Camisole | $160 at J Crew
Colorful, patterned tops in natural fabrics like silk and cotton are also key.  If you don’t bring these, you can also pick them up on your trip.  Indian clothing features beautiful textures and patterns - it’s no wonder why fashion designers are inspired by the country decade after decade.

shawl-cardigan_020509
Shawl Cardigan | $69 at Gap
Pack a versatile, neutral colored sweater for layering during the cooler evenings (and for anywhere with air conditioning).

retro-chambray-wendy-skirt_020509
Retro Chambray Wendy Skirt | $78 at J Crew
Knee length skirts in a-line or circle silhouettes are pretty, flirty, and allow you range of movement.  Leave the pencil skirts at home.

ae-military-pant_020509
AE Military Pant | $44.50 at American Eagle
Casual pants are great for days spent exploring.  Paired with a flirty top, you’ll be as comfy as you are chic. 

martin-osa-signature-trench-coat_020509
Osa Signature Trench Coat | $150 at Martin + Osa
Finish off your vacation wardrobe with a lightweight trenchcoat that goes with everything.

With your wardrobe buttoned up, let’s talk about shoes. I suggest flats, perhaps in a somewhat edgy style to counter the feminine outfits.  Flats are the easiest to walk in and are so easy to pack.  Avoid open toe shoes or sandals if you mind having dirty feet (the streets can be very dusty).  One last consideration for shoes - select shoes that slip off easily as some sites do not allow you to wear shoes at all.

As you travel around the country, carry a bag that closes securely, as there is a lot of petty theft.  You can bring a little clutch for evenings when you dine out or go dancing.  Lots of pretty, sexy lingerie should round things out for a wonderful honeymoon.

Last thoughts?
  Save room in your suitcase for any beautiful silks or pashminas to bring home.

What would you wear to India? Share your style with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A, Women, Women's

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sarah  |  February 10th, 2009 at 2:17 am

    As a female and having been to India and those specific places (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur), I would be wary to wear many of these outfits - especially the top two. In hot weather, you pretty much sweat all day and along with the dust, you can say goodbye to keeping your nice clothes nice.

    Be prepared to be stared at - a lot. As a general rule I would cover shoulders and knees and dressingly less conservatively may invite even more stares from locals. This particularly applies to visiting religious sites (e.g. mosques) that require conversative dress. You will be able to buy long sleeved light cotton tops there, it is also common to have clothes tailored there where you can choose your own materials and styles if need be. It is possible to wear loose clothing of thin cotton material that keeps you cool, protected from the sun and modestly dressed.

  • 2. Suzanne Menair  |  February 10th, 2009 at 7:47 am

    I agree with the previous poster. The top two outfits will invite a lot of stares. Be sure to cover your shoulders, and wear long skirts, ankle length is probably best. For visiting religious sites, bring a scarf you can wear on your head, or purchase one there. And don’t forget your sunglasses!

  • 3. Samina  |  February 10th, 2009 at 7:48 am

    My recommendation as a native: as the article suggests, stay conservative. The further you move out of city centers, the more conservative you should be. I’d recommend pants or past the knee skirts if you must.

    Also, things are RIDICULOUSLY cheap to have made in India: from jackets to shirts to pants, you could turn out and entire wardrobe on a dime if you can find a good “darzi” (seamstress). However if you choose this route, and really this is my recommendation in all transaction situations: try to get a native to do the bargaining for you. If you’re from the west, or are simply of Indian origin and have a western accent, you can expect to be charged nearly double. If you’re on your own and have to barter yourself, try producing 75% of the asking price (ie. “but I only have 600 rupees on me!”); you’ll probably be able to cut yourself a better deal.

    Finally, this isn’t fashion related at all but: try and avoid drinking the water at all costs! Even as ice: after a weak or so, the impurities in the water will catch up with you.

    Anyway, sorry for going on and on but I’ve gone ‘back home’ too many times, haha. Best of luck!

  • 4. Rachel  |  February 10th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Having recently been to this part of India, I agree with the other posters that the clothing shown is more appropriate for fancy hotels and shopping malls in large cities.

    Skirts should definitely be knee length or longer, and shoulders should be covered (t-shirts are fine). Wear slip on shoes or sandals if visiting temples and historic sites.

  • 5. Rachel  |  February 10th, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Also, I forgot to mention, definitely plan to check out the stores Fab India and Anokhi, where you can buy inexpensive clothing that is appropriate to the weather and the culture. And it even looks good back home too! They have stores in both Delhi and Jaipur.

  • 6. josie  |  February 10th, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    as samina said, when you going to city wear some thing fashionable & chic!! if u dnt people will stare at u.. but if u r going to remote villages in delhi ( even though i dont y u want got to villages when there alot of romantic places in india you could go for your honeymoon) wear conservite clothes.
    don’t forget sunscreen &hat ! i heard its really hot in india know..

  • 7. Trisha  |  February 11th, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Great tips, everybody!

    And like Colleen and Samina suggested, leave room in your suitcase for everything that you’re going to buy — from the silks to the fabulous tunics, jackets, shirts, pants, and dresses that you can have custom made for you.

  • 8. Lauren  |  February 11th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Thanks everyone for your great comments. This has really helped me figure out what I need to bring. Thanks again!

  • 9. Cheryl  |  July 12th, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    What about clothes to wear in the northeast like Assam and Nagaland during the hot summer months.

  • 10. katlyn bennett  |  May 22nd, 2011 at 8:45 am

    whoi cares if you wear a bikini to india or a mini-skirt???????? wear what you like-its not as if youre ever gonna see them again anyway. when i go to india next spring, of course im bringing a bikini and several tubetops!

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