From blue jeans to Kanchipuram sarees: The South Indian woman's go to wardrobe

Are you convinced your overflowing wardrobe has nothing you can wear? This is for you!
From blue jeans to Kanchipuram sarees: The South Indian woman's go to wardrobe
From blue jeans to Kanchipuram sarees: The South Indian woman's go to wardrobe
Written by:

Deepa Harishankar

At least once a week, we stare at our wardrobe and tell ourselves that we have nothing, absolutely NOTHING to wear for the day. This, despite being urban Indian women who have a wide range of options to pick from - Western, desi (let's not get into all the different kinds of desi that are there), fusion, and just plain bizarre. 

But whom are we kidding? When you absolutely need THE perfect dress to wear, you find your creativity evaporating as quickly as water on a tar road in the Chennai summer.

The confusion is real. And millions of women, from fashionistas to scrubs wearing doctors, relate to this. That’s when a cheat-sheet for wardrobe essentials comes in handy.  


While the colourful and oh-so-comfortable nightie is the national costume of South Indian women, UNESCO has declared blue jeans to be the best for women's bottomwear (why not?). 

But it is still quite an ordeal to get a good pair of jeans. Why? A friend in the fashion industry once made this observation that South Indian women are genetically inclined to have wide hips. But while South Indian movies cannot obsess with those hips enough, many retail brands in India stock up on jeans that are too narrow for the average frame of the South Indian woman.

Here's a tip: however much the pair of jeans you fell in love with accentuate your long legs, do not buy them if they are loose around the waist. As women, we're told to "adjust" with everything...not the jeans too!

If you are looking for a denim staple, stick to the blue-black spectrum and you will never be out of options. And stock up on comfortable T-shirts!


Leggings have been disparaged enough by Tamil magazines. But leggings and jeggings have got everything women need. They are washing machine friendly. They go with shirts, long tunics and even with certain dresses. They needn’t be ironed. And they give a streamlined look to your bottom half.


It’s great to see that women in Indian metros are embracing the dress. There are classic black dresses that never let you down. Then, there is the dosai meets crêpe version where our prized handlooms are making a comeback in the form of shift dresses. If you love handlooms, get a dress made out of Ikat, Kalamkari or Ajrakh fabric. Unlike black silk dresses that scream stiff upper lip, your Ajrakh dresses are very versatile.


The kurta is the sartorial equivalent of the potato. Saambar, fries, curry/kari/poriyal, Spanish omelette, mashed, baked, boiled, kofta, paratha, kurma/khorma. When your mind is blank, you reach for that potato and chop it first, decide on the menu next. Similarly, the kurta can be worn for any occasion or non occasion, from weddings to airplane journeys. The simple printed kurta is the unanimous choice of lakhs of office going women today. And it’s no surprise. They can be worn with jeans, salwars or leggings.


You can never strike a sorry figure in a saree. And if you don’t want to buy sarees and it's not your go to outfit, there is always your mother’s wardrobe to borrow from. Invest in a couple of stylish blouses in neutral colours and you can wear them with any saree. For example, one good gold brocade blouse can be paired with most Kanchipuram sarees. A crisp and traditional cotton saree can be worn for an ethnic day at work or for a 3 hour Carnatic concert. 


Most sensible women, when quizzed on wardrobe essentials, start with great emphasis on what’s worn underneath. So, never make the mistake of settling when you shop for your delicates. The wrong bras can kill your overall appearance. And with more and more online platforms selling their brands aggressively in India, you are spoilt for choice.

Women have a love-hate relationship with heels. Quite understandably! Wear a shimmery Mysore silk or a little black dress with heels and your hawtness factor goes up several notches. But wearing those heels for a long time is an entirely different kind of killer experience if you choose a particularly vengeful pair. A pointy stiletto is as risky as Russian roulette while platform heels are a safe bet.  


While most office goers who lug around laptops every day have switched to backpacks, our wish list does have a special place for bags. A formal black bag is the perfect accessory for an interview. An evening of cocktails with your friends? Where’s that clutch that holds your keys, cards and change? A tote bag is perfect if you want space and style.

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