Shalwar – A daily outfit of Indian Women

Shalwar kameez, also spelled salwar kameez or shalwar qameez, is a traditional outfit originating in the Indian Subcontinent. It is a generic term used to describe different styles of dress. The shalwar kameez can be worn by both men and women, but styles differ by gender. The shalwar (pantaloons/drawers) and the kameez (body shirt) are two garments combined to form the shalwar kameez. Now a day’s Shalwar Kameez became an essential ladieswear in South Asia, especially in India, Pakistan and other countries.


The Shalwar are a form of baggy trousers and the kameez or qamis is a shirt of varying length. Garments cut like the kameez are known in many cultures. According to Dorothy Burnham, of the Royal Ontario Museum, the “seamless shirt,” woven in one piece on warp-weighted looms, was superseded in early Roman times by cloth woven on vertical looms and carefully pieced so as not to waste any cloth. 10th century cotton shirts recovered from the Egyptian desert are cut much like the kameez or the contemporary Egyptian Djellaba or Jellabiye. The word kameez is originally an Arabic word and is therefore also spelt with a Q, as in Qameez or Qamis.


The shalwar are loose pajama -like trousers. The legs are wide at the top, and narrow at the ankle. The kameez is a long shirt or tunic, often seen with a Western-style collar; however, for female apparel, the term is now loosely applied to collarless or mandarin collared kurtas . The kameez might be worn with pajamas as well, either for fashion or comfort. Some kameez styles have side seams (known as the chaak), left open below the waist-line, giving the wearer greater freedom of movement.

The kameez can be sewn straight and flat, in an “A” shape design or flowing like a dress: there are a variety of styles. Modern kameez styles are more likely to have European-inspired set-in sleeves. If the tailor’s taste or skills are displayed, it will be seen in the shape of the neckline and the decoration of the kameez. The kameez may be cut with a deep neckline, sewn in diaphanous fabrics, or styled in cap-sleeve or sleeveless designs.

There are many styles of shalwar like the Peshawari shalwar, Balochi shalwar, Sindhi choreno and the Punjabi shalwar.

Although various regions of South Asia wear the outfit in its various forms, the outfit was originally only popular on a wide scale in Afghanistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the Punjab region of Pakistan and India.  However, the shalwar kameez has now become popular across South Asia.

Different forms of Shalwar Kameez

Anarkali suit

The shalwar kameez known as the Anarkali Suit is named after the court dancer from Lahore. The Anarkali suit is a timeless style which has become very popular. The Anarkali suit is made up of a long, frock-style top and features a slim fitted bottom. This style of suit links South Asia with the women’s Firaq Purtaq (frock and shalwar) of northwestern Pakistan and Afghanistan and to the traditional women’s Central Asian Clothing of parts of Central Asia. It also links to the Punjab region where the Anarkali suit is similar to the anga and the Peshwaz worn in Jammu.

Afghanistan suits

The styles of shalwar kameez worn in Afghanistan include the Khet partug, Perahan tunban and Firaq partug. Perahan tunban worn by most Pashtun males in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pashtun suits

As a chiefly rural and nomadic population, the Pashtun dress is typically made from light linens, and are loose fitting for ease of movement. The Pashtun dress includes local forms of the shalwar kameez, which are differently made for males and females. The traditional male dress includes the Khet partug and Perahan wa tunban. Males usually wear kufi, Peshawari cap, turban, sindhi cap or pakul as traditional headgear. The traditional female dress is the Firaq partūg. Women typically wear solid-coloured trousers, a long kamīs shirt with a belt. Sometimes they will wear an encompassing burqa over this outfit or a tsādar on their head.

Peshawari shalwar suit

The traditional dress of Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan is the khalqa (gown) which opens at the front or shirt which does not open at the front, and the Peshawari shalwar which is very loose down to the ankles. The Peshawari shalwar can be used with a number of upper garments and is part of the clothing of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Balochi suits

Men’s Balochi suit

The clothing of Balochistan, Pakistan includes the shalwar kameez which when worn by males consists of a very baggy shalwar using large lengths of cloth. The kameez is also loose, which traditionally is long with long sleeves. The Balochi shalwar kameez is similar to the styles worn in Afghanistan. The present Balochi shalwar kameez replaced the earlier version which consisted of a robe to the ankles and a shalwar using cloth of up to 40 yards.

Women’s Balochi Suit

The female Balochi suit consists of the head scarf, long dress and a shalwar.

Punjabi suits

The traditional shalwar kameez worn in the Punjab region is cut differently to the styles worn in Balochistan and Afghanistan and is known as a “Punjabi suit” with the kameez being cut straight and flat with side slits (which is a local development as earlier forms of kameez did not have side slits). The shalwar is wide at the top but fits closely to the legs and is gathered at the ankles. The Punjabi shalwar is also cut straight and gathered at the ankles with a loose band reinforced with coarse material. In rural Punjab, the shalwar is still called the suthan which is a different garment that was popular in previous centuries, alongside the churidar and kameez combination (which is still popular). In Britain South Asian women from the Punjab region have brought the dress to the mainstream, and even high-fashion, appeal. The Punjabi suit is popular in other regions of South Asia, such as Mumbai and Sindh. Punjabi suits are also popular among young women in Bangladesh and are especially popular amongst school girls in India. The outfit is also popular in Afghanistan, where it is called the Punjabi.

There are lots of other varieties of Shalwar Suits available in various location of South Asia. The availability depends on the origin, life style, daily work and other factors. But the most important part of this dress, It became a very essential wear to the female of this region for various benefits of the same. We in Art Hut, are continuously trying to innovate more creative and fashionable dresses in a pocket friendly prices. We have created cotton based shalwar with variety of stitch work in vibrant colour. Your support and inspiration will smooth our future.

To check more collection of art hut, please click here.


One thought on “Shalwar – A daily outfit of Indian Women

Comments are closed.