Styling Indian Wear with Shirts

Today’s Indian ethnic wear styling article slightly overlaps with my Lehenga Mix-Match Trend post, but with a lot more options for you. The pairing of shirts and tops with traditional Indian wear garments has been observed on the ramp in recent fashion weeks and on celebrities too. The choices are innumerable, be it your choice of shirt and top, or drape of the saree, or the choice of skirt underneath. I am sharing some fantastic visual references along with details on how to achieve the look. Keep reading!

wearing top with saree

I have often cited my love for multi-tasking garments in previous posts and it is one of the favorable feature of this Indian wear styling too. As seen in the picture above you can easily wear the same Ka-Sha empire line top with both a-line trousers and a saree. All you need is some imagination and a will to experiment. The saree has been draped in the basic ulta-palla style with a lower side fall, thereby accentuating the top’s pleated design. You can also drape the saree in thin seedha-palla pleats or do a neck wrap with the aanchal.

Shirt with Indian Dress History

This styling option is not new, it has been seen in vintage royal photographs and is also part of certain rural cultures in India. Most of the designs, embroideries and patterns we see on garments have historical or cultural references. I love the Nepalese woman’s styling of a fitted shirt with tribal ornaments and a gathered saree pleating.

How to Style Saree with a Shirt

Let’s start with shirt and top styling options for sarees. Similar to the Ka-Sha saree Payal Pratap has draped an embroidered black saree in a ulta-palla style over a short white shirt. The broad pleating covers most of the shirt making the contrasting white look pleasant. The white on white combination with a tan belt looks urban chic, middle picture. You can use a regular formal shirt with a Kerala gold bordered saree and add a thin brown belt or a traditional gold belt to it. Dev R Nil’s saree draping perfectly emphasizes the embellished shirt. This drape style with shirt is a good option for women with a petite frame.

Saree wearing with Shirt

Anamika Khanna uses a long white shirt for a sporty chic ensmeble with a saree draped on the opposite shoulder to a regular drape. Vaishali’s use of layering with a shirt and waistcoat gives the handloom saree an interesting twist. You just have to scour through your wardrobe, lay articles on each other and find the perfect combination for yourself. I also find Aarti’s use of translucent organza shirt with a bright printed saree both flirtatious and fun.

Saree Styling with Western Top

The picture above shows three top styles you can pair with a saree. The options are not limited to the casual printed tee and hand-loom tops shown above. You can easily pair a saree with an embellished top, a lace blouse or a poly-Georgette kimono top too. Make sure the fabrics of the top and saree don’t clash, for example a lace top will not look nice with a hand-loom saree or a kimono top with an organza saree which in itself looks visually broad. A double layered saree like Shalini James adds fun to an already quirky ensemble and the neck wrap of aanchal in Paromita’s design places the top in emphasis.

Shirts with Couture Skirts

Lehengas with Shirt

Lehenga is the Indian garment most commonly paired with a shirt or top. You could pick a heavily embellished skirt with a plain shirt like Abraham & Thakore and Manish Malhotra, or pick an embellished shirt with a printed lehenga skirt like Sahil Kochhar’s ensemble. A brocade skirt paired with a single coloured top looks as good as a brocade shirt paired with a self printed lehenga skirt. Archana Rao gives the soft netted skirt and bow belt a laid-back approach with the tucked in white shirt. You can also wear a translucent shirt over a regular blouse and lehenga set like Kotwara’s design. I recently paired a casual mustard top with a orange hand-loom lehenga skirt for Diwali, see it here.

Indian Skirt with Top Styling

Lehengas look similarly great when paired with tops. A block coloured boxy top, an embroidered peasant top or a metal embellished top– anything can be paired with an Indian lehenga skirt. Accessories play an important role in styling the shirt with Indian wear, especially when both garments are non-embroidered or too western wear looking. I would advise you to try your outfit along with accessories a few days before an event or outing, this leaves you with ample time to play around with the look and if needed buy suitable accessories.

Dhoti Pant with Shirt Top

The in-trend dhoti pants can’t be left behind when talking about shirt and top pairing with Indian garments. Anita Dongre’s intense mehendi green dhoti looks balanced with the embroidered white shirt. Anamika Khanna’s pairing of a kurti styled top with dhoti like trousers is one of my favorite looks from this post! You could also pair your dhoti trousers with a trapeze top.

Shirt with Kurta Layering

It is difficult to style a kurta, an upper garment in itself, with a shirt or top. But if you play with layering you can use a shirt with a column sleeveless kurta or a flared wrap kurta too. I loved Anju Modi’s four layer ensemble, a skirt with a shirt topped with a straight kurta and finally a draped outer layer.

First delve into your existing ethnic wear cupboard and try finding garments that can be styled with a shirt or top. It is much easier to find shirts and tops in the market rather than finding an Indian wear garment to match a shirt. If you want any help with styling your wardrobe drop me an email. 🙂

Keep experimenting and have fun!



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