I never thought that to write about the traditional dress of my own country, Pakistan would be a tough ask. I try to precise in few lines about some distinctive and historic characteristics of the region for you to understand that why traditional clothing in Pakistan is so complicated and perplexed. Today’s Pakistan is the sixth most populous country of the lovely planet having a population of more than 180 million people. One should remember that Pakistan is the country which has tremendous history and magnificent past. Its territories remained the center of the most ancient civilizations; the Sonanians from the ancient Soan valley, the great Indus valley civilization from Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro and the Vedic civilization of Indo-Aryans having their center at the historic city of Multan.
The Persian Achaemenid Empire, the Indo-Greek Empire lead by Alexander the Great and the establishment of the Maurya Empire famous with the names of Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka the Great are one of the earliest and most prominent features of the heritage history of Pakistan. The Medieval period is run by the domination of the Muslim occupation over the region in which Islam spread readily through the preachers and Sufi missionaries. After the Arabs arrival into the region, the continent witnessed many successive Muslim Empires including the Ghaznavid Empire (975–1187 CE), the Ghorid Kingdom, the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526 CE), the Lodi dynasty and the last and the most famous Mughal Empire (1526–1857 CE). After the decline of Mughals in the early eighteenth century , Indian sub-continent was become the colony of the United Kingdom and that particular era is known as the British Raj that lasted between 1858 and 1947.The term can also refer to the period of dominion. Nowadays Pakistan was come into existence in 1947, when Partition of India was taken place.
Pakistani people have the clothing culture enriched with the numerous influences of thousands of years old heritage and let’s say this correctly that traditional dress of Pakistan is the legacy of ancient civilizations. There are many varieties of the ethnic costumes in Pakistan and which mainly include the dresses of Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochis, Pashtuns and Kashmiris.
Shalwar Kameez is the national dress of Pakistan which is equally popular in the region as and one of the traditional dresses for men and women of South Asia. This dress is also worn in some states of Central Asia. Shalwar Kameez or Shalwar Qameez is long attire which normally goes below the knees. For men it is a two piece dress, shalwar (trousers) with Kameez (Long tunic shirt) and for women it is a three piece dress, i-e Shalwar (trousers also known as the pajama), Kameez (top which is also known as kurta) with Duppata (Scarf).
Shalwar Kameez has gone through many variations especially during the last century. In the start of the twentieth century, the women usually wore a short Kameez that was somewhere between the hip and the knee. The Shalwar then was widely flared with a narrow horizontal band at the end. But after 1970’s Shalwar Kameez was introduced with numerous designs and stitched on tremendous patterns. During the summer, Shalwar Kameez is liked in silk and in cool cotton fabric. While in winter Satins and heavy brocade work is applied on Shalwar Kameez.
For men, Shalwar Kameez is wide spread from top to bottom in which the Kameez is kept very loose with full sleeves, cuff from front sleeve part and wide collar with pocket on front left side. The length of Kameez or Kurta is usually up to or more than knee. There are long slits on both sides. Normally it is straight from chest to bottom. There is a strap on front with 3-4 buttons after collar. The Shalwar is wide and long up to feet with wide bottom. The men prefer Shalwar Kameez having pockets on both sides.
Kurta Shalwar is also iconic in Pakistani clothing culture. Kurta normally and traditionally comes in rectangular shape embellished with small moisture wicking breathable fabric pieces in an elegant style. Sleeves are straight to the wrists and are broadly opened. The front and back pieces of a simple kurta are also rectangular. Although Kurta is traditionally collarless dress but in the moderns times it has become in fashion to use Kurta with stand-up collars of the type known to tailors and seamstresses as “mandarin” collars.
Nowadays modern women in Pakistan love to wear a similar form known as “Kurti” over jeans. These Kurtis are made with light material and comparatively shorter than the traditional Kameez.
Waistcoat is a traditional and sleeveless outer garment for Pakistani men having a full vertical opening in the front, which fastens with buttons. Waistcoats are designed in multiple styles and shapes suiting to the dress. In Pakistan, traditionally waist-coats are made with leather and woolen fabrics.
Sherwani is another formal and traditional outfit from Pakistan which is actually a long coat normally in black color and stitched with grace. Nowadays the Pakistani grooms prefer Sherwanis or Achkans over their Kurta or Shirt and the dress is specially designed with intricate embroidery and designs. Sometimes the Sherwani is also accompanied with a wedding turban.
Made from fine leather and embellished with golden and silver threads, beads and sequins on traditional motifs; Khussa is an awesome traditional and handmade footwear from Pakistan. The art and craft of designing Khussa is very old in the Indian sub continent especially in the Punjab region of Pakistan. However, the art reached its zenith when the Mughal emperors (especially Prince Saleem) adopted this traditional footwear and made it part of the royal costume.
Today, Khussa shoes are worn by men and women of all ages at wedding ceremonies, festivals or just as daily footwear. They are made manually. The shape, design, color and material of Khussa shoes vary within different regions but they are equally liked by people of all regions. Khussa is worn with traditional dresses like Shalwar Qameez or Pajama; however, youngsters wear it as casual footwear with jeans as it is trendy, stylish and available in many varieties.
Choori Pajama is the name of this dress in the local language, Urdu in which “CHOORI” denotes as “Churidar” and “Pajama” means “trousers”. Churidar actually means a very tightly fitting pant or trousers which are narrow more quickly, so that contours of the leg are revealed. Churidar Pajamas accentuates the figure and due to this tight fitting the physique is adorably exhibited. Earlier, this dress was called by the British as Moghul breeches, long-drawers, or mosquito drawers.
Churidar Pajama is also the favorite outfit for the women of Pakistan and it is worn by them with a tunic top which is called as Kameez. On the other side, Pakistani Men use Kurta for this purpose. In the most recent years, Churidar pajamas are liked with long shirts and long Dubattas. This dress has also gained significant popularity across Europe and America as many immigrants from the Indian sub-continent have brought this traditional attire along with them to these continents. Churidar Pajama is a splendid variation in the traditional long Shalwar Kameez which has become the most favorite dress among the ladies.
The cultural dresses of Balochistan are called as “phashik” in the Balochi language. The Balochi males who normally belong to the major ethnic communities, Baloch, Pashtoon and Brahvi, all of them wear similar clothes with little divergence. Turban is considered as an integral part of the male dress and they use loose trousers ( Shalwar ) with knee long shirts in their dress. The Baloch woman wears a dress embellished with heavy sleeves and borders. Another prominent part of the woman’s dress is the trio shaped pocket with lots of embroidery. The cultural dresses of Balochistan are prepared with glass and several colored threads. This is not really easy to make such phenomenal dress as it requires lots of hard work and designing.
Ajrak the traditional attire from Sindh , Pakistan is the idiosyncratic cloth used by the locals of Sindh and Southern Punjab as symbol of grace and high esteem. Males use it as turban and Shawl while women use as their Chaddar and Dubatta. It is normally colored with indigo, crimson, white and black patterns. Ajrak the traditional attire from Sindh, Pakistan is made in almost all cities of Sindh. Its usage can be observed in all segments of Sindhi society. It is a prestigious gift often presented to the guests in their honor. The locals also wear Ajrak on mirthful events such as weddings and cultural programs.Sindhi people are also particularly known for their traditional Sindhi cap which is also worn by Saraiki and Baloch people as well. SIndhis feel so much pride in wearing Sindhi cap along with Ajrak. Sindhi cap is normally in cylindrical shape except for a portion cut out in the front to expose the forehead. Sindhi Cap has magnificent embroidery and Shisha work on it and it is made in brilliant colors.
Pashtuns of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa also wear a unique Shalwa Qameez dress which is called Khet partug. The khet is the upper garment which is loose and slightly tightened at the waist and is more like a tunic or a robe, similar to a kameez. The partug is the lower garment which is very loose and full of pleats. In Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa Peshawari Pagri is the integral part of the tribal and rural nobles of their traditional outfit. It includes a cap called kulla and the cloth wrapped around it called lungi. The cloth is much significant in the KPK culture as it a symbol of prestige and great honor for the local people.
Pakol is a traditional cap having round-topped shape and it is so common in KPK where men of every age prefer to wear it. It is basically worn to shelter from the harsh winter conditions and usually made with woolen material.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, the white color pakol is more popular and is sometimes worn with a peacock plume stuck in the folds, like a badge, on the front or the side of the cap. The deep blue and green of the peacock feather, set against the white of the cap, is quite eye catching.
A semi-opened traditional footwear from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which originated from the Provincial capital, Peshawar is called Peshawari Chappal. As the name denotes, it was named after Peshawar. These days the same footwear is equally popular in other territotiies particularly in Punjab where it is worn under Shalwar Qameez. Generally comfortable and in unique design, these days the Pakistani youth love to wear it under jeans as well.
Jinanh Cap is also known as Karakul or Qaraqul hat which remained in the use of Mohammad Ali Jinnah (founder of Pakistan) during his political era. This hat is usually made with the fur of the Qaraqul sheep, often from the fur of aborted lamb fetuses. The cap was worn by many of the early politicians of Pakistan and still in the festive occasions and wedding ceremonies respectable and elder Pakistani men prefer Jinnah cap along with their dresses. It is also a part of the local outfit of the Afghan people living around Kabul.
The traditional dress of Azad Kashmir or traditional dress of Jammu & Kashmir is unique in the whole Indian Sub-Continent as it comes from various cultural backgrounds. Pheran is a long loose shirt which hangs down below the knees along with a white turban tied on a skull cap, a close-fitting trousers and lace less shoes called Gurgabi.
The traditional dress of Jammu & Kashmir also includes the delicate Cashmere wool products and Kashmiri Shawls. These Shawls are popular in the world for the elegant material and exotic embroidery applied on them. The most precious of them are the Shawls prepared with Pashmina Wool and Shahtoosh wool.
The women of South Asia are specially known for using glamorous and traditional wedding dresses in the world. The wedding dresses are entirely different and more colorful than the wedding dresses worn by the women of the rest of the world. We’ll tell you about a unique and sparkling wedding dress in this article which is called as “Lehenga Choli”. This dress is also known with other names as “Ghagra Choli” or “Chaniya Choli”.
A perfect wedding wear is a dream of a Pakistani girl on her marriage day because the wedding rites in Pakistan carry a special significance. The preparation of the formal dresses for this festive occasion is a very extraordinary tradition. The Pakistani bride desires it to be charming and memorable as she wants to look stunning throughout the ceremony.
The wedding dress for the brides varies in styles and desigs from traditional bridal ware to modern designs or fusion of both. Most bridal dresses are custom made. The fabric, design, colors, stitching, embroidery, jewelry, shoes, make up etc. are all designed to match and complement one another.
Formal bridal dresses in Pakistan include Lehenga, Gharara, Sharara, Shalwar Kameez, Kurta Pajama,Trouser Suit, and Saree etc. Some of the wedding attires like Ghararas and Lehengas are very popular in Indo Pak region. Gharrara was originated in the Indian city, Lucknow during the era of Nawabs. At that time it was considered a typical elite dress used by women of upper class. Nowadays these dresses are used by the brides on their wedding days which not only reflect the rich cultural tradition but also add peerless charm in their look.
The Lehenga is actually a large piece of cloth worn around the waist as a skirt with a head covering, called Odhani or Dubatta. Similarly the other cloth is “Choli” which is actually a bodice. In the past, “Lehenga” used in Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli dress was a narrow outfit tied around the waist. But with the passage of time Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli passed through many variations in its design and it was made more convenient for the wearer. Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli is being worn by the brides in different reddish shades for many centuries. Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli are normally prepared with heavy embroideries and spectacular designs. A bride gets ready in pure eastern shy style and mostly wears Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli on her wedding day. This dress truly reflects the byzantine and sensational customs of South Asian marriage culture.
In Punjab, mostly in villages, the Punjabi women also wear a lacha which is actually a long form of blouse, normally covering the entire stomach and back but also is a little below the hips. In Pakistan, now the modern fashion designers have introduced new Lacha designs, particularly for brides in which it is in opened form in front and paired with typical lehnga flapper and thus it looks so cultural and magnificent.
In the rural areas of Punjab, Dhoti is very common both in Pakistani men and women. It is actually baggy trousers normally prepared with light weight cotton fabric and tied around the waists. Dhoti is quite similar to Lungi and Sarong but having slight variation in its knots and tying. Along with dhoti, an extra piece of cloth is also used by the cultivators, shepherds and farmers who carry the same on one shoulder to use it as a towel. Nowadays the fashion designers have introduced Dhoti Shalwar Suits having pure traditional look and style and are becoming so popular in the younger generation.
One should remember that in Pakistan in every region there is strong tradition of Pakistani women to use jewelry along with their outfits. Particularly on the wedding occasions, jewelry is specially prepared for the bride as her life-time asset and adornment by her parents. Gold is very symbolic as the ornaments of gold are also given by the groom’s side as a gift to the bride. A lot of jewelry is handed down from generation to generation. Jewelry in Pakistan is usually made with 22 carat gold as against the 14 or 18 carat used in other parts of the world.
The traditional jewelry in Pakistan is prepared in different styles as in exquisite Polki pattern having origins from Mughal era, phenomenal Meenakari style having designs like floral crafting and peacock feathers and also in centuries old magnificent Kandan style. Earrings, nose pins, bracelets, necklaces, jhumkay, bangles (Karay) and lots of other stuff are considered as an integral part of the traditional dress of women in Pakistan. You can enjoy the fascination of the Pakistani traditional dress by participating in the wedding ceremonies where men and women both are normally dressed up in their traditional style.
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