I spent so much time stressing over what I was going to pack and wear during my time in India before I even arrived! I spent hours searching through social media and the internet looking for answers as to what to wear. It is hard as a female to do the right thing in a country that doesn’t have the same values towards females as anywhere else you have been!
I had never been to a country like India before, you read about so many horror stories on the internet about female travellers and how men treat women, so I wanted to be prepared, the last thing I wanted was to offend anyone or receive unwanted attention.
I bought a whole new wardrobe over the space of a few weeks before my trip, I bought long dresses, scarves, cardigans, jeans, little did I know it was all unnecessary and I wouldn’t actually end up wearing half of it! Admittedly when I first arrived I wouldn’t go outside unless my shoulders and legs were covered and I suffered badly in the heat but it made me feel more comfortable walking through the streets. But the more I went out the more women I would see wearing a more modern style of clothing, even wearing shorts or sleeveless tops, this seemed to relax me and make me feel more open to wearing what I wanted.
So I stopped wearing my scarves and cardigans to cover my shoulders, I stopped suffering in my jeans and it really was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. The thing is, in India they will stare at you if you are not local, no matter what you’re wearing so you may as well just wear what you feel comfortable in, they did not feel offended as I first thought, actually nothing changed regardless of what I wore.
Now when I visit a temple I do resort back to covering myself up, just out of respect plus there are some temples that won’t allow you inside unless you have complied with their dress code off being covered. Some even provide headwear to cover your head, although I always take a scarf with me just to be safe. Water parks are another thing I worried about, because if the women cover themselves just to leave the house then what do they wear at a water park? The answer? Their clothes! Goa is the only place I visited throughout my trip around India where a bikini/swimsuit is allowed to be worn in public! Anywhere else, the women wear their clothes, shorts and a t-shirt are acceptable but nothing less.
If you go to any shopping malls or retail outlets anywhere in India you will see that they mostly sell the same clothes you can buy in your home country and in the larger city centres in places like Mumbai or Delhi the women actually wear the clothes, but just a five minute walk out of the city centre and the fashion is completely different, everywhere you look it is beautiful sarees, gorgeous skirts and dresses decorated so delicately you will never see one the same!
That goes for the females anyway, the men don’t dress too differently to the rest of the world, jeans t-shirts shorts shirts, occasionally you may see a male wearing traditional clothing but 9 times out of 10 they are wearing jeans and a t-shirt, even in the temples it seems there are no rules for them to follow unlike the women.