Indian Fashion is one of the most decadent, intricate forms of expression and, with summer amongst us, we feel it is appropriate to focus on the marvellous details and evolution of the Kurta. This garment has progressed through time as it has through the fashion calendar and trends. But what is a Kurta and how has it evolved over time?
What is a Kurta?
A kurta is an upper body garment which can be both worn by men and women. It originated in the Indian subcontinent, and there are various forms of the piece. Most of the time, the Kurti and the Kurta get mixed up. However, a Kurti is generally shorter and tighter, whereas Kurtas are longer and looser. Kurtis are more related to Punjabi fashion and are usually only worn by women, whereas men and women can both wear Kurtas. As of late, with merging fashion trends into cultures, the lines have become more blurred, and similar items such as long tunics or palazzos are alike. They have now both become a similar garment and has a fashion crossover.
A Kurta is traditionally worn in Pakistan and India but it is also popular in Nepal and Sri Lanka. It is generally worn with a Dhoti, Paijama, Shalwat, Lungi or even jeans as a more casual, contemporary option. Some may say that the Kurta is similar to the Phiran which is worn in Afghanistan, and the Daura of Nepal.
One of the most common styles of Kurta is the straight cut one. This shirt-like garment falls just above or somewhere below the knee. Although traditionally worn by men, women also wear a straight cut Kurta, which tends to be shorter (this is what is referred to as a Kurti). They can be worn casually, or in a more formal situation, depending on what style is being worn and how it is adapted.
Some other styles button up or are tied by the shoulder seam and have plackets rather than a slit. Some also have an opening which is centred and some may be off-centre. A more traditional form of Kurta does not usually have a collar, although many modern variants may have a stand-up collar. These are referred to by tailors and creators of the garment as a ‘mandarin’ collar. These types of collars can also be seen on Achkans, Sherwanis and Nehru jackets. Other types of Kurta include:
- Bhopali Kurta: A looser, pleated Kurta, which flows like a skirt and is worn with straight Paijama. This style is popular with royalty.
- Kali Kurta: Similar to a frock with many panels, it is made up of geometrical pieces and is worn by both women and men.
- Lucknowi Kurta: Traditionally has overlapping panels.
- Dogri Kurta: Opens at the front and flares out near the hips.
Different regions use the materials of Kurta and style the garment differently. For example, Kurtas in Delhi tend to include wooden beads and are heavy with embroidery, whereas Multani Kurta use crochet designs and local Arjak prints.
As fashion trends are constantly changing so is the Kurta, and over time the way the modern society wears it has also adapted to a newly multicultured world. As crossover in fashion is becoming more predominant, we see Kurtas being worn not just in traditional ways, but on catwalks, in high street and designer labels.
What makes a Kurta a favourite in fashion is its comfort yet effortlessness, as well as it being the perfect choice for almost any occasion. The Kurta can be worn with a skirt underneath, which has been seen by celebrities like Kangana Ranaut and Kareena Kapoor. As jeans are now a huge trend, we can see a Kurta being worn with these or even leggings.
Even though there are always traditions in Indian fashion as we move through transitions of fashion and trends, we are bound to see people adapting this wonderful garment for them. Patterns change, embroidery comes and goes, and pairing with accessories will also differ.