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How to Dress in Andhra Pradesh India
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Written by pondripples   

This is advice for a foreign visitor to Andrah Pradesh India who isn't clear on the dress code.  This is geared to making you appropriate in most situations, and follows Hindu, not Muslim dress code. Keep in mind that what's appropriate does vary by context, and fashion can change rapidly, so you should get some local advice if you can. It can be very difficult for a western woman to look appropriate in India with her own clothes, or clothes purchased in her own country.  Winter clothes will cover you enough, but you will get too hot because of the heavy fabrics used. Summer clothes almost always expose too much, and what can be exposed isn't always clear to foreigners.  The midriff and back exposed in a sari look imodest in America, but many Americans would find the notion that you need sleeves, or you must cover your ankles comical.  A common solution for women is to wear Indian women's suits or an equivalent like a dress over pants or leggings.



1. Pants -  Shorts are only appropriate for boys under about 7 years.  It's OK for legs to show when wearing a dohti, but as a foreigner, you might want to stick to cotton pants. Jeans are common, but they are a little too hot for the climate, and not reccomended unless you are used to wearing them in a hot weather already, or are visiting in winter.

2. Shirts - Short sleeve shirts, both button up and t-shirts work.  Shirts with square tails left untucked are practical for the climate.  Shirts tend to be light colored.  Thin undershirts are almost always worn. Polo shirts are quite popular.

3. Shoes -Slip on shoes are most practical.  In offices closed shoes are worn, but everywhere else sandals are popular.


1. Legs - Must be completly covered.  A long skirt with a blouse is only worn by girls up to about age 19.  An older women wearing a skirt and a blouse looks very odd to locals. Floor length dresses, especially cotton ones are not reccomended because they will look like a nightie, to locals. Nighties are worn to sleep in and around the house by women over about 30, but they are not acceptable to go out and about in, something like a bath robe, or plaid pants in America and Europe. Indian nighties look like what an American would call a grannie gown, and closely resemble the calico dresses young girls were wearing in America in the early 80s. Younger women sometimes sleep in knit pants and a t-shirt.  This outfit is also not reccomended for the street. (Update 2014: Very long salwars with long pants barely visible at the ankle have come into fashion for formal wear.  This doesn't necisarily mean you should pack maxi dresses though.  The style is very distinct from any maxi dresses I've seen in America.)

2. Arms - Sleeve length is closely scrutinized the same way skirt length is in western countries.  No sleeves is inappropriate, or at best very informal.  Shirts should not show the shoulder from above.  Tank tops or narrow strap shirts are out of the question. Transparent sleeves are OK.

3. Neckline - Shirts must show no cleavage at all.  To test if a shirt is OK, bend over and look at your navel. If you can see cleavage or underwear, don't take the shirt.

4. Midriff - Showing skin above the waist is only appropriate in a sari, the traditional women's dress for this state.  Don't do it with other clothes.  Exposing the tummy is not OK.

5. Shirt Length - To not be considered sexy and provacative, a shirt has to have tails as long as a western minidress.  You can buy shirts when you arrive, or pack western dresses with a conservative neckline and sleeves to wear as shirts.  There is a practical basis for this custom.  With long shirts, you can wear very light weight pants without worrying about your underwear showing through. Young city women do wear short shirts, but they are not reccomended in small towns, or when visiting older relatives.

6. Big Scarf - The dupatta that comes with a salwar suit is required in most of Andhra for women.  It generally matches the shirt, and wearing the same one every day is not generally done.  The purpose is to obscure the chest, not to keep warm, or look nice. Not wearing one would be almost the equivalent of not wearing a bra in America.  Bring some saftey pins if you aren't used to wearing one.  Keep in mind that when wearing a dupatta you need to bend at the waist to pick things up off the floor if you dont' want the tails down your back to get dirty. This is probably one reason for the high neck lines on shirts. There is talk of them going out of style, but it would probably be best to wear at least a small one until you get a feel for attitudes where you are.

7. Swiming- Unlike America where swimsuits are acceptable in context, here pretty much the same dress code applies when wet.   You might want to avoid swimming altogether, or plan to wade in your clothes if you must swim. If you want to actually be able to swim, you might get away with a rash guard, leggings, and men's long shorts.

8. Jewlery - Gold jewlery is required to look well dressed. People pay more attentiontion to jewlery than clothes.  Bangles, and a necklace with the pendant worn inside the shirt are required for married women.  It's rare to see a woman without ear rings. There is no concept of less is more.  More is more, and costume jewlery is not admired unless it looks like real 18K gold up close. People won't be shy about telling you they don't like your costume jewlery either.

9. Shoes - Slip on sandals are ideal as you will need to take them off.  Feet get dirty easily on the street, so something that can be cleaned is good. You shouldn't take very expensive shoes for everyday wear as you may need to leave them unguarded from time to time.  Heels are admired, but not required for formal occasions.  Avoid sparkly shoes exported from India to your home country.  Exported shoes are usually out of style, and don't look good if they don't appear to have been made to match your outfit.  You are better off with what would be considered classic formal shoes in the west.