Traditional Outfits for your Navratri Festival

As the year comes to a close, two of my favourite things come along – the winters and the Indian festival season. Its time to bring out all that glitter and glamour hiding away in your closet and shake a leg in style for all those festivals that come one after another, as soon as October is here. Starting with the navratri festival, the Indian festival season is a lot more about traditional wear and looks, as much as it is about centuries old rituals and celebrations.

So, as we celebrate this auspicious and exciting nine days of the much-awaited navratri festival, let’s try and do it in all the glamour and glory. I am sure the goddess will approve! But first, let’s find out all about the festival, the celebrations, dandiya nights and why traditional dresses matter a lot. A little bit of background knowledge will make the experience all the more better.

Navratri – Indian Festival:

Navratri is one of the most popular festivals in India. At some places, it may take different names. But from Tamil Nadu to Rajasthan and Bengal to Punjab, the ideas of the festivities largely remain the same. Having said that, no one celebrates the Navratri festival better than the Gujaratis. We’ve got to give it to them – the very identity of Navratri is deeply rooted in the Gujarati tradition of Garba, Dandiya, Chaniya Choli and the scrumptious feast. The nine days of disciplined fasting and prayers that conclude with a great bash on the tenth day/Dussehra is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. With goddess Durga taking centre stage in all the celebrations and worship in every part of the country, the Navratri Festival is especial for the Indian women. And when women are involved, can style be far behind – even if traditional wear is the key element.

Dandiya Nights:

Among the highlights of Navratri festival are the night long dance parties – especially organised in the state of Gujarat and nearby, but soon spreading to almost all corners of the great country. Dandiya nights are much-awaited in almost all major Indian cities these days. These are no mere party nights where you groove to electronic beats and DJ mixes. The Dandiya parties are much more serious and have a long history tracing back to the time of Krishna. Though it is an opportunity to lose yourself to the drum beats and customised Bollywood mixes, the traditional element still remains strong. Garba, for example, is one of the most popular dance forms for this festival time and is played only by women. It is energetic and graceful at the same time. Dandiya on the other hand is fast-paced, exciting and played by everyone. Between the clapping of hands and swish, flick and tap of colourful sticks, what really gives vibrancy to the dandiya music and dances are the multi-hued mirror-worked traditional outfits adorning men, women and children alike.

Traditional outfits for Navratri festival are extravagantly colourful and luxuriously embellished, mostly with mirror work. Do not look back, go all out in your best Dandiya dresses. Nothing can be too much for this celebration of music, dance and colourful days ahead. It’s no surprise that many spend weeks and months putting together their Navratri traditional wear and looks. Everything’s got to be perfect – from the colour, the design, cut and drape to embellishments, accessories and fit. The fit is important because – could you imagine being comfortable dancing in a too-tight or too-loose choli? Secondly, everything’s got to agree with the traditional wear sensibilities, yet no look like it came from your great-grandma’s trunk.

Traditional wear for Navratri Dandiya Nights:

First things first, the trend – traditionally and currently – is to wear a different colour for each of the nine different days. Most of the dandiya night party-goers make sure their ensembles are customised, because most of these events have awards and prizes for the “Best dressed.” So, just the colourful collection won’t do. Experiment with necklines, print or embellishment patterns, surface techniques and accessory coordination.

So, what can you wear for the Navratri Festival to stay traditionally appropriate and still be on the “Best Dressed” radar? Of course, the first choice would be the ever-popular and perfectly appropriate Chaniya Choli. May sound a little too bollywood-ish for those of you who haven’t been aware of this traditional outfit. Well, it’s simply a Gujarati version of a lehenga-choli a long skirt and a fitted blouse that bares your midriff. But don’t worry about the navel-show, a heavy long dupatta goes along with this traditional dress. The skirts got to be voluminous with a circular fall and drape. This is because; you’ll need the free-flowing comfort of generous drape for the fast-paced dance moves. Also, swirls and twists in Garba and Dandiya use that extra bit of aesthetics from the swish of skirts going round and round the dance floor. The choli on the other hand is open to experimentation and customisation – after all, it is always heavily embellished. But before you go all out for the backless versions, the low-cut necks and drawstring details make sure you are comfortable in these while going around in circles, dancing into the night.

Now, for those of you are a bit hesitant towards the traditional wear patented to Navratri Festivities, there’s always the gracefully humble (maybe not so humble) sari to the rescue. Wearing a sari is a sure-shot way to avoid fashion faux pas at any Indian traditional festivals or events. But for the Navratri Festival, make sure you pick out something that is close to the land of Dandiya nights – try a bandhej/bandhini or a lehariya. Try and avoid the brocades and Kanchivaram silks – though the cooler months are here, the energy and excitement of the night can be too suffocating in your fine silks. Also, when I talk about heavy embellishments, I am not necessarily hinting at wedding finery. No.. not zardozi and aari and pearl detailing. Navratri is more about the simple stuff – resham or mirror work and applique or patchwork designs would be idea to add that gorgeous array of colour and at the same time keep it comfortably light for you to enjoy the celebrations without having to be too conscious about your dandiya dress.

Trendy Navratri styles:

Now that you know quite a bit about the Navratri Festival’s backstory and how to choose the perfect traditional outfit for the celebrations, let’s take a look at some trendy Navratri looks for style inspiration.

Let Shilpa Shetty show you the way to celebrating Navratri in style. Let’s look back at the important elements for a traditional outfit at the Navratri Festival celebrations – Colour, mirror work, grace, comfortable, glitter and tradition. Now, look at the pics and tick away all the requisites. And she is not even in a Chaniya Choli to fulfill all that criteria!

This look is simple to put together, if you know what to put together. First, the sari. Okay, so Mrs. Kundra here might be carrying off a Manish Malhotra or Suneet Verma. But you really don’t designer clothing to get the glamour into your Navratri style file. The best thing to happen would be – you know where to shop and find that perfect combination of vibrance and glimmer. If not, find the vibrance first – a colourful sari is not too hard to find. Just make sure it’s in a lightweight airy comfy fabric like cotton-mix. Now get ready-made border embellishment – it could be sequined lace, brocade studded with stones or simply a long ribbon of mirror-worked border embellishment. These days, it’s easy to find these trimmings at any craft supply store. Now, you can attach this border embellishment onto your simple sari.

Your second task would be to find that gorgeously resham embroidered Rajasthani blouse. If not available by any means, simply go for a vibrantly embroidered blouse – just the sleeves would do too. Add a few mirrors or sequins here and there and your Navratri festival traditional dress is ready. To accessorize the look, either go for chunky copper-toned or black-metal bangles – just for one arm though. Or you can put together a bunch of thin silver bangles. Avoid adding more colour to the ensemble with jewellery, as it can be a overkill and take away all the attention from your sar-blouse. Paint your nails bright though and slip into a comfortable pair of footwear. It you have a slim and trim body like Shilpa and your midriff is planning to give a little peak. add a thin kamarbandh to match the chunky traditional earrings. I don’t know, if you have notice – but there’s an ornamental pin holding Shilpa’s sari pallu together. Now, that’s a style idea to steal.

Simple but Elegant Yellow:

Now, if you do not like to sport a rainbow of colours, Asin’s Navratri traditional outfit should interest you. It’s got all the vibrancy and sparkle mandatory for the Navratri festival celebrations, yet plays it safe with the number of colours incorporated. What has been put together here are two perfectly complementary hues of yellow and pink that divides the body into two halves and adds an illusion of extra height – something that can be useful for the cute shorties among us. You could either copy the traditional wear style as it is – with the sleeveless short choli and a delicate lace dupatta. Or you could trade the little choli for a much matured, three-fourth sleeved, wide necked long blouse with slits up the sides and a low-cut back. In this case, you can pair it up with a heavily embellished dupatta worn in the traditional Gujarati drape style.

Blue and pinks:

traditional and stick to the original Rajasthani outfit

You could go all out traditional and stick to the original Rajasthani outfit – voluminous skirt and waist-length choli with side slits and a bandhini dupatta with shimmering trimmings. Use the drawstrings to your advantage and have them stylishly hanging down your waist and swirling to the dandiya music beats. Some gold jewellery mixed with colourful bangles and beads can take care of the accessorising, while a well-made braid with vibrant hair accessories take care of the styling. Try and get some mehendi on your palms too, to complete the traditional look.

Ruby Red Anarkali:

Ruby Red Anarkali: Aishwarya Rai

If you are not too comfortable in a sari or a lehenga, the ongoing frock-suit/Anarkali trend might seem god-sent to you. Agreed, it’s far from traditional wear for Navratri festivals or maybe a newcomer to dandiya dress ideas, but it’s quite the comfy option when you have to pick out a traditional outfit. Ash, is rocking the ruby red Anarkali suit with dull copper tinted trimmings. The multi-layers and flairs makes sure this outfit does not add to your figure, but can discreetly hide away your problem areas. Also, imaging how pretty it will look when you swirl to dandiya music! Accessorize minimally – a pair of statement earrings and dewy makeup should do.

Orange bling:

Chaniya choli Orange Bli

Want to wear a chaniya choli, but not much of a fan for all the colour? Keep it sober and stylish! Pick out your traditional Navratri outfit in earth colours like browns with a hint of metallic tinge for the glimmer. I love the puff sleeves too – those of you worried about heavy upper arms should be considering this style. The skirt here is made out in tulle (net) fabric, but the heavy border embellishment ensures that graceful fall perfect for the Garba swirls. Get ready for some amazing photographs!

Angrakha Dhoti style:

Finally, let me leave you with something for the fashion-forward style divas among you. Give the men a run a run for their money and the ladies some serious style inspiration with this absolutely androgynous, yet very traditional outfit. Traditionally, the angrakha with dhoti is a Rajasthani men’s outfit. But with the blurring lines of gender in fashion, it’s always okay to take that initiative and try out something new and exciting. The traditional outfit is a combination of tailored dhoti pants with interesting trimmings down the front and a traditional kamari angrakha – which is a flared shirt with cross-over drawstring detailing. I can’t think of anything more comfortable to play dandiya dance in. No need to be jealous of the men anymore! Enjoy comfy modern style with the perfect touch of tradition.

So, what’s your Navratri festival traditional outfit going to be – a saree, chaniya choli or would you experiment with the Anarkali suit or a angrakha-dhoti pants.


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