What to Wear: India

What to Wear: India

Viet is about to head off to Indian on a charitable mission:

I am going to Northern India near the Himalayas for 5 weeks in June-July and wondered if you had any suggestions on a practical but comfortable and stylish outfit? I am volunteering with some health clinics over there and doing some independent travel. Weather will be mild 60F-70F but rainy. Only rules would include staying very modest to respect cultural norms.

A trip to India is the perfect opportunity to play with bright colors and dashes of sparkles. Here’s my recommendation for Viet when she’s exploring:

Tunic – In versatile chambray from Anthropologie.
Sweater – A bright cover-up for cooler evenings.
Leggings – Basic black leggings are comfortable for a range of temperatures. Make sure they are nice and opaque for modesty.
Sunglasses – Perfect for a Himalayan adventure.
Necklace – Yellow beads with a bright blue accent.
Bracelet – Turquoise and gold bangles.
Sandals – Strappy blue sandals with green and pink jewels. Switch out for a pair of converse sneakers when it rains.
Journal – A yellow leather journal perfect for recording your travels.

Bon voyage Viet!

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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Elizabeth at 2:51 pm

    Outfit is very cute and comfy. Having been to India several times, the only advice I would give is to bring close toed shoes. Not to be too graphic, but toilets are often a hole in the ground over which a lady squats. Also, there except in large cities there are many animals roaming about.

    That being said, India is a magical country of beautiful landscapes and traditions.

  2. Cayenne at 6:13 pm

    strangely enough, i'm wearing almost this outfit today (in southern california)-swap in skinny espresso fine whale corduroy pants. leggings make it a bit more casual and weekend appropriate, and i'll be trying your version soon. thanks for the ideas.

  3. Jamie at 7:46 pm

    I've spent most of the past two years in India and I second Elizabeth's comment about closed toe shoes. I'd also advise bringing cheap flip flops to wear indoors (floors are always dusty and you don't want to crawl in bed with black feet.)

    I also avoid too many v-necked or low cut shirts. What is perfectly modest in the US will get you a number of looks in India – and sometimes it is safer and more comfortable to blend in.

  4. J Squared at 9:05 pm

    I also found a scarf extremely helpful to help cover up while traveling in India. I definitely second the closed-toe shoe idea. Things can get quite dusty. Happy travels!

  5. michelle at 9:47 pm

    I agree with everyone else on the closed toe shoes. I think that knit leggings could get stretched out of shape very quickly if you're doing hand laundry or even sending them out to be laundered. Kurtas (tunics), shawls, and sandals can all be purchased inexpensively in India to wear during the trip and to bring home as souvenirs! Definitely check out Fabindia if you're near one.

  6. VIET at 4:27 am

    Thanks, Emily! And thanks to everyone else for the suggestions. Definitely a great inspirational jumping off point on what to pack 🙂

  7. Anonymous at 9:35 pm

    Hi, I have a toe in both countries India and the US, having spent almost 20 years in one, 10 years in the other! 🙂 So here are a few suggestions:
    – Loose is the name of the game, more than fully covered. Both for your own comfort given the weather, and to avoid getting the top to toe look from men sizing you up.
    So regarding the outfit you suggested, I would not recommend the black tights, but instead loose pants. Even better, a long flowy skirt. That would be both modest and comfortable. Skintight clothes do tend to attract stares from the wrong kind of men and you want to try to be low profile.
    – Color is very popular, so put away your grays and blacks and take out your brightest spring designs, prints and colors. Everyone in India wears bright colors. It's ok to wear bright colors with other bright colors!
    – Closed toed, but very comfortable shoes that are good to walk in on uneven or hard surfaces. Sandals which air your feet a little even while mostly covering your foot, are a good idea too. I dont ever take my heels.
    – Clothes are inexpensive in India. So you dont need to take along too many. Once you get there, you may want to buy a scarf or two, or a tunic. Travel light!
    – I second Jamie's advice to bring cheap flip flops for indoor use, and to blend in.
    – This might just be me, but I prefer natural fibers (cotton mainly) as they allow my body to sweat and breathe! Cotton blends are ok too but definitely stay away from the polyester-modals!
    – Again this might just be me but I dont believe in buying fake or goldEN jewellery if its not gold or precious metal/stone. As a tourist, you dont want to be wearing golden-looking bangles because it might make you a target for thieves. Plus what's the value of that fake stuff anyway?
    If you want to wear jewellery, keep it real and keep it small. Not fake and large. 🙂 e.g. small gold stud earrings, ok. Large chunky bracelet or cuff that's fake gold? OK for the US, but no for India.

  8. SamGirl at 9:38 pm

    I was the previous 'anonymous' poster. Just wanted to add, good for you for volunteering with health clinics! You set an example to us all. 🙂 Hope you have a great time there.

  9. Rebecca at 2:50 pm

    I worked at a clinic in Bhopal, India last summer. Closed-toe shoes are a must as well as flip flops for inside/bathrooms.

    You may want to consider getting a salwar kameez set made while you're there. They are very inexpensive and comfortable and you will lessen unwanted attention from men. The scarf is even good for covering your mouth in an auto rickshaw if you get overwhelmed by the exhaust!

    Try to dress as conservatively as possible. Anything we may think as appropriate eg. sleeveless shirts, ankles showing can be seen as provocative in India and it is really best to just suck it up and cover up. At least in the part of India I was in.

    Oh, and it's good to bring a dark pair of sunglasses- good for when beggars or shop salespeople start to get too persistent!

    You'll have an amazing time! Have fun!