Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 30th 2015 Contents 22
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, May 30, 2015
As the nation celebrates Indian Arrival Day, we reflect on the
various types of clothing which our ancestors brought to our
Indian fashion has definitely evolved through the years. Tradition-
ally, the Indian woman had to keep almost her entire body covered but
with the Western influence, that has changed. As a result clothing
styles have changed. The East Indians introduced to this country
clothing such as the sari, choli, kurtah, orhni, salwar kameez, garara,
dupatta, gangri, pagri, and dhoti.
The Sari, which many are familiar with, is an unstitched length of
fabric (up to nine yards) with a decorated end section wrapped in a
wide variety of styles. The sari can be draped in various styles which
include: the traditional Bengali style, the Gujarati, the Maharashtrian
and the Madrasi style.
The Shalwar (Salwar Kameez) is also popular here in Trinidad and
Tobago. It is a knee-length dress worn over tight fitting trousers and
dupatta. This is the second most popular dress in most parts of India
with the dupatta being a long veil. The Gangri is a long, full skirt reach-
ing down to the ankles. The Choli is a short blouse worn with the sari
and the orhni is a veil which covers the upper part of the body.
For men, the most popular pieces of clothing which the Indians
brought and are still worn today are: the dhoti, lungi and kurta. The
dhoti is a six yard long rectangular piece of unstitched white cloth,
which is wrapped around the waist and between the legs. A dhoti can
be worn in a variety of ways. Different names are given according to
the style. A dhoti is usually complemented with a kurta top but in
southern parts of India it is worn mostly with a shirt. In Bengal, a
dhoti is worn pleated, almost touching the ankles and tucked at the
centre back. The style is such that the other end is well folded and can
be held in the right hand. In some parts of Maharashtra, men still wear
the traditional dhoti, which is worn shorter than the way Bengalis
wear it. A white kurta and a Nehru cap complete the look of the typi-
cal Maharashtrian man.
The Lungi is a piece of cloth sewn in a circle and worn around the
waist. Besides India, lungis are popular in several communities across
Asia, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is considered to
be a very comfortable garment among males in regions where condi-
tions make it impossible and uncomfortable for the men to wear
trousers all the time.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters also brought their unique style of
clothing to the West Indies. While the women wore the traditional In-
dian saris, they were required to dress modestly by wearing more
loose-fitting clothing that did not cling to their bodies. They were also
required to cover their head. The Muslim women wear the hijab as a
symbol of modesty and privacy, as it covers the head and chest. Simi-
larly, there is also the niqab, which is a veil for the face that leaves the
area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate
eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf. The burka is an-
other type; it is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the
entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through. Typi-
cally, a burka is composed of many yards of light material pleated
around a cap that fits over the top of the head or a scarf over the face.
The men however, wore a Thobe, a long robe. The top is usually tai-
lored like a shirt, but it is ankle-length and loose. The thobe is usually
white but may be found in other colours. The men also wear a topi on
Over time however, traditional clothing styles gradually changed.
These changes in the styles worn by Indians reflect their contact with
other cultures. Women are able to dress differently since they have
become more liberal. With fashion on the rise and the Western influ-
ence designers are altering most of the traditional forms of dressing.
The conservative style of dressing has changed to a more revealing
one. The choli (tops) became shorter and the gangri (skirts) are now
worn below the navel, exposing more skin. A more Western style has
been adopted in wrapping the saris also. Dhotis are no longer only
white in colour -- there are now various colours with patterns on the
Muslim women have also adopted modern ways of wearing their
hijabs. Today, hijabs are colourful, printed and plain. Styles include the
Arabian hijab fashion, the Abaya hijab fashion and the knotted hijab.
In Trinidad and Tobago today, the traditional form of dressing which
our East Indian forefathers brought still exist but only to a certain ex-
tent, mainly among traditional families. Most people have adopted the
Western form of dressing as is portrayed in the media. However, we
are seeing more Indian clothing throughout the country and this could
be as a result of the popular Indian Expos making the once high priced
clothing more accessible and affordable. Almost every individual in our
multi-cultural society owns an Indian outfit and wears it on traditional
Indian holidays such as Divali, Eid and Indian Arrival Day. There is no
doubt that Indian attire has evolved through the years becoming more
daring and more popular.
Photos by Edison Boodoosingh
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