What is acceptable (for women) to wear in Kerala?

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#1 Jul 26th, 2012, 23:46
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I've read in other parts of the forum and elsewhere on the internet that in general women should dress very modestly in India (no shorts, shoulders always covered), but India's a big place and often in more touristy places Western styles are OK. What about in Kerala? It's not like I usually dress like a hussy (lol) but I'm from a cold country so covering up completely in such hot and humid weather would be really uncomfortable. Please tell me shorts and t-shirt are OK! :/
#2 Jul 27th, 2012, 02:52
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Depends where you are. On the beach at, eg Kovalam --- and a bikini is probably ok. Expect some attention, though.

I expect you'll see foreign tourists wearing shorts and t-shirts, even though I'd advise something a little longer on the legs. I don't see anything wrong with t-shirts. And I don't think there is anything forbidden about shoulders!

I'd say that, even though this is a metro city, in some ways Kerala is less conservative re how the women dress.

For the comfort equation, while uncovered may be cooler, it also gives the sun free access to your skin, and it is full-blast tropical sunshine. The UV will be burning even on a cloudy day. Some covering also acts as a slight deterrent to the mosquitoes. Loosely covered in light fabric may well beat bare skin in the end.
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#3 Dec 27th, 2012, 03:56
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I would like to revive this thread. In March or April next year, me and my family are planning to visit Kerala for the first time. One of my relatives is a very pretty 16-year-old European girl who has never been to India before, and she does not want to wear Indian clothes. She asked me what to wear, but I have no idea what to say, because I have never been to Kerala before and when in India, I always wear Indian clothes myself.

What would be the best thing for her to wear? In Europe she usually wears jeans and T-shirts, but I guess it will be too hot in Kerala in March / April for her to wear jeans. Will she attract unwanted attention wearing e.g. shorts and sleeveless tops?
#4 Dec 27th, 2012, 09:13
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Originally Posted by Mirjam2 View Post ... Will she attract unwanted attention wearing e.g. shorts and sleeveless tops?
Yes.

Loose-fitting slacks and a loose fitting shirt will provide airiness and proterct against too much sun exposure.

As a tourist she will be permitted a great deal of latitude. But as a young women in India she will be subjected to altogether too many unwanted advances even without dressing in a manner that conservative Keralites might find provocative. It will be worse if she is a tourist, worse yet if she is unusually attractive to begin with.

For comparison, consider this:
Kerala Clothing - Traditional Dress of Kerala

Kerala Clothing - SareeMost women wear a saris (a straight piece of cloth draped around the body as a long dress) and short blouses. They place its loose end over the head or shoulder. Wealthy women may wear saris made of silk, with borders of gold thread. Many of the women in urban areas wear pyjamas (full trousers) with a long blouse and a veil. Western style of clothing, like jeans and T-shirts are gaining popularity. Like other Indian women, women in Kerala also wear jewellery, especially earrings and bracelets. Many women also wear a kumkum (round dot) in the middle of the forehead. The kumkum, which is usually prepared from a red or black powder, is considered a mark of beauty.
source

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#5 Dec 27th, 2012, 10:09
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Not at all, people in Kerala are used to receiving a lot of European and American tourist who usually wear shorts and sleeveless, so wear shorts and sleeveless or for that matter anything which makes you comfortable. If you go by traditional costumes your relative will have to wear a saree for which a lot of practice is required as I have felt that Saree is quite a technical dress.
#6 Dec 27th, 2012, 10:39
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depends on where in kerala. beach towns like kovalam and varkala almost anything is acceptable - shorts, skirts, bare shoulders (except when visiting temples), bikinis on the beach. elsewhere, to avoid unnecessary attention, more modest attire would make sense.
#7 Dec 27th, 2012, 13:22
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Originally Posted by hfot2 View Post Kerala Clothing - Traditional Dress of Kerala

Kerala Clothing - Saree Most women wear a saris
Traditional clothing in Kerala seems to be holding up (pun intended?) better among the men than the ladies, with many more wearing vesti/lunghi/mundu there than here.

Expect a pretty girl showing more skin than people are used to seeing to be stared at. But yes, much of Kerala is very used to tourists, and the grave warning tone of women's-dress threads of just a few years ago now seems rather quaint.
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but I guess it will be too hot in Kerala in March / April for her to wear jeans.
People do wear jeans, but ...every day is going to be like a London heatwave, with added humidity. If you can remember a London heatwave ... Maybe, these days, UK uses that term for any day that it isn't actually raining
#8 Dec 27th, 2012, 15:48
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jeans are the worst choice for kerala's climate. loose cotton clothes are best. what would the 16 year old wear in europe for summer? that's what she should bring with her.
#9 Dec 28th, 2012, 01:44
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#9
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Originally Posted by anar View Post what would the 16 year old wear in europe for summer? that's what she should bring with her.
Well, where we live, it does not get very hot in the summer so jeans are usually fine. In case of a 'London heatwave' , she would wear shorts, sleeveless tops and miniskirts, which I guess are not so practical and not appropriate in Kerala (except for maybe near the beach?).

I am really grateful for all the answers. Will talk to my relative, and also make a last attempt to convince her to try a nice shalwar kameez .
#10 Dec 28th, 2012, 03:39
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I just noticed what I posted back at the beginning of the thread. When she feels that sun beating down on her skin, she may well want to cover it --- and, if not, then don't forget the sunblock.

I also said that I don't think shoulders are frowned upon. I don't think there is anything wrong with sleeveless. as long as it is not really-revealing sleeveless. A lot of Indian clothes come without sleeves, not to mention the increasing acceptance of Western dress anyway. some salwar kameez come sleeveless, with optional sleeves the tailor can stitch on for you.
#11 Dec 28th, 2012, 07:08
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I think you are fine with sleeveless. I had a few Salwar Kameezes made when I arrived and they were sleveless. Only once did my bare arms make me feel awkward,and that was in Jodphur. I felt some disapproving stares from some women,seeing that I was wearing an Sk I assumed it must have been my bare arms It was so comfortable in the heat to wear a loose fitting cotton Sk
#12 Dec 31st, 2012, 15:00
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A young Indian tourist her age would be wearing jeans and a t-shirt/top.
If she feels too uncomfortable in jeans she could wear cotton trousers or capris.

Sleeves/sleeveless doesnt matter unless you travel to very remote places - which a normal tourist would not.

No need to insist on wearing SKs. Most girls her age would not be wearing an SK on holiday(unless from a very traditional family).
#13 Dec 31st, 2012, 17:23
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#13
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Originally Posted by Mirjam2 View Post Will talk to my relative, and also make a last attempt to convince her to try a nice shalwar kameez .
Maybe suggest a pair of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harem_pants (in Kerala called fisherman's pants). Probably much more acceptable for a 16 year old non-Indian than an SK. These are available outside India, and you can get a pair in, for instance, Kashmiri shops in Kerala for a few hundred rupees. There are many Kashmiri shops in Fort Kochi. Stylish and airy, and versatile, i.e. useful outside India.

You can get really nice tops in FabIndia, which has branches in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam.
#14 Jan 3rd, 2013, 02:12
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#14
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Originally Posted by nayan View Post No need to insist on wearing SKs. Most girls her age would not be wearing an SK on holiday(unless from a very traditional family).
Good point. Actually, when I read your comment, I remembered I was travelling on a train in India a few years ago and started chatting to a group of teenage girls who were going to Manali for holiday. They all wore Western clothes, and asked me why did I wear SK when it was 'only for old people' . I have always been old fashioned...
#15 Jan 3rd, 2013, 03:12
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#15
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Originally Posted by goddess75 View Post I think you are fine with sleeveless. I had a few Salwar Kameezes made when I arrived and they were sleveless. Only once did my bare arms make me feel awkward,and that was in Jodphur. I felt some disapproving stares from some women,seeing that I was wearing an Sk I assumed it must have been my bare arms It was so comfortable in the heat to wear a loose fitting cotton Sk
it's very easy to misread the way someone looks at you. there are some who feel a foreigner should "look foreign" i.e. wear non-indian clothes. i have witnessed locals bursting out in laughter at the sight of a lungi-clad westerner. all very confusing if you are a foreigner trying to do the "right thing". ultimately, you have to please yourself - it's your holiday, after all.
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