One of the most recognisable traditional pieces of clothing for men from India is the Kurta. Also called a tunic for men, this is a loosely fitted top that features long sleeves and is usually of a length until the knees of the wearer.
The Kurta is a very versatile style that can either be brightly coloured or be in subtle and elegant colours. Elegant colours like cream and white are classics, while blue, green, red, yellow kurtas are considered to be more modern and stylish. Pick an elegant colour for formal events, while opt for vibrant colours for either casual or semi-casual occasions.
The front placket is usually buttoned for either three-fourth of the length or for half the length of the placket. Buttons in a casual style of kurta might be fixed to the kurta, and for formal and elaborate kurta, the buttons can be attached like cuff-links. Elaborate detached buttons can be made from gold, silver or even encrusted with diamonds or other precious stones. For weddings, grooms usually would sport buttons that are elaborate and often encrusted.
A kurta’s collar is normally either a round collar or a stand-up collar. Just because the collar might be a round collar, does not mean that it is not elaborate or stylish – far from it! The collar might feature embroidered detailing around the neck. Beaded detailing on the collar is common for special occasion kurtas – like kurtas for grooms or for special guests at a wedding. Stand-up collars are usually detailed with embroidery on the collar and around the neck and on the shoulders.
The front placket of the kurta and the sleeves can be embroidered. The level of detailing and embroidery depends on the occasion for which the kurta is being used and can vary from a few patterns to extremely elaborate and detailed.
A traditional style kurta is usually long and is until the knees. If one refers to the drawings and paintings of royals from years gone by, the length of kurtas can be seen to be until the ankles of the wearer. This is still common for some styles, but is not very popular. Shorter kurtas that finish just above the waist have become popular as casual outfits. These short kurtas are normally worn by a younger generation and might be made from very simple materials and be bright and vibrant in colour, even featuring printed patterns.
Kurtas are a versatile garment and can be made in a variety of materials. Cotton kurtas are comfortable and perfect for warm and humid weather conditions. Silk kurtas are considered more luxurious and usually worn for formal or important events. Kurtas can also be made from a host of other materials like jute, cotton-silk blends and even linen. Quilted kurtas could be an interesting choice for colder weather, and they can lend a very regal look if detailed without too much embellishment. Elegant accompaniments like a shawl in a contrasting colour can finish the look very elegantly.
A dupatta or shawl can be used to complement the kurta and to finish the look. The dupatta is usually contrasting in colour and in a different fabric. The dupatta is either thrown over the shoulder or can even be coiled around the neck loosely. While mostly aesthetic in purpose, the dupatta can also be functional in case it’s cashmere and the weather turns chilly!
A trendy look can be to wear a kurta over jeans and traditional footwear. This is an easy to carry off look that is very casual but can combine elements of the east and the west. For a traditional and formal look, combine the kurta with matching salwars (or pants).