What is the difference between Ethnic Wear and Traditional Wear?

See the difference between ethnic wear and traditional wear

When we talk about ethnic wear or traditional wear, we sometimes use these two words in each other’s place without thinking much about it.  But have you thought about the difference between these ethnic wear and traditional wear?

In this article we will be highlighting the differences between the terms Ethnic Wear and Traditional Wear, their historical significance, and much more. 

What is Ethnic Wear in India?

India being the land of different cultures and heritage, has a large variety of traditional and ethnic wear, differing from state to state. 

Ethnic wear in India typically shows the richness of culture and traditional heritage. It also includes a wide range of clothes, which has its own regional identity. Two of the main features of Ethnic wear are amazing craftsmanship and complex designs. 

From the beautiful Kanchivaram Sarees of South India, to the royal Lehengas of North India, Ethnic wear helps in capturing the essence of Indian tradition. 

When we look at the craftsmanship of the ethnic wear, it is pretty evident that the skills used in their making are very complex and intricate. 

Some of the common work that you might see in Ethnic clothing are Embroidery, Zari, and beadwork.

What is Traditional Wear in India?

Now that we know about the Ethnic wear it is important to discuss the term Traditional wear. 

When we talk about traditional wear, it encompasses a wider range of clothing styles of a certain social groups, and communities. 

Traditional wear surpasses regional boundaries by outlining the indian identity. During an important events, religious functions, and ceremonies, people prefer a formal attire which reflects their cultural background.

For example, when we think of men’s indian formal attire, a classic white shirt, and a dhoti comes in mind. 

The appeal of the traditional wear exists in its timeless elegance. Whether its women’s ghagra choli or men’s simple dhoti kurta, it is safe to say that these clothes have stood the test of time. The complex embroidery, detailed patterns, and use of regal fabrics is what makes indian traditional wear elegant and majestic.

Key Differences Between Ethnic Wear and Traditional Wear

Traditional wear and ethnic wear are culturally rich and hold a significant value. However, both of these terms hold different meanings which describe their style, significance, and essence. So, here are some of the key differences between ethnic wear and traidtional wear:

1. Cultural significance

The leading difference between traditional wear and ethnic wear lies in their cultural significance.  Ethnic wear includes clothing that reflects the culture of a particular group or area. It usually has bright colors, special designs, and detailed embroidery.

On the other side, traditional wear includes sticking to the societal norms and rituals, while symbolizing cultural values of the community. 

2. Design and style

The difference in design and style includes another noteworthy variation. Looking at Ethnic wear you are bound to notice a mix of clothing like cotton, silk, chiffon, etc. Other than fabrics, you might also find different embellishments like Zari, Mirror work and complex embroideries. This kind of clothing usually shows versatility, while preserving the authencity of a certain culture. 

On the contrary, traditional wear focuses on sticking to a certain dress codes with selective design patterns. This kind of designs are usually passed through generations as they value a certain community. 

3. Usage and occasion 

Ethnic wear is usually worn during cultural celebrations, formal events, weddings and festivals, as they show the pride and identity of different cultures. As mentioned before, ethnic wear is usually describes as versatile, and its the versatality, which lets people experiment with various styles along wiith maintaining the cultural connection. 

On the other hand, traditional wear is well known for sticking to the traditional practices like rituals, religious ceremonies or certain occasions where you have to wear community appropriate clothes. 

Is saree an ethnic wear or Traditional Wear?

We all know that saree is the most worn garment in India. And believe it or not, there are 15 kinds of sarees that are worn across the country! 

Sarees like Kanjeevaram, bandhani, Banarsi, Chanderi, etc, can all be worn in a different manner while differing in draping style, length, fabrics, and designs. However, this doesn’t change the fact that they are still sarees. Which makes it an Ethnic wear. 

Is Lehenga an ethnic wear or Traditional Wear?

Mostly donned in weddings and major functions, lehenga is a special costume which is worn by women. It consists of a Choli or a bust band, a dupatta, and a lehenga or a flowy skirt. There are a lot of choices and variations, like Anarkali, Ghagra, Pavadai, Chaniya and Lacha, when it comes to lehenga. 

After the arrival of the Mughals, lehenga started to evolve even more as people started wearing Shararas, straight cut, A-line, mermaid cut etc. As the design started to evolve, the fabrics evolved too. Now they were using regal fabrics like velvet, crepe, rayon and satin instead of cotton and silk. 

So, it can be concluded that lehenga falls under the category of Ethnic wear. 

Is Salwar-Kameez an ethnic wear or Traditional Wear?

Salwar-kameez is one of the most common outfits worn by women in North India. The outfit includes a salwar or trousers, a kameez or a long tunic and a matching Dupatta. 

In states like Haryana, Punjab and western UP, there are women who wear them on a daily basis. 

Its arrival in the Indian subcontinent can be traced back to the 13th century with the arrival of Mughals. And just like lehenga, it faced a lot of variations. From padded shoulders and fancy cuts to long sleeves and loose design, salwar kameez evolved to be the most fashionable and comfortable outfit ever. 

So, it can be concluded that Salwar Kameez falls under Ethnic wear.

is Indo-Western Dresses an ethnic wear or Traditional Wear?

It is hard to recall when these two styles started mixing up, but it is said that it started back in the 1970s. 

The good ol’ 70s bought a lot of iconic western wear in India, where middle class Indian women started adopting the style, but with a little twist. They started including prints and patterns into the western wear. 

Cut to today when all of our clothing choices have a touch of Indo western, whether it’s wearing jeans underneath a kurta or adding a blazer to your salwaar kameez. 

It can simply be said that Indo western does not fall into either category as it is a fusion of Indian and western. It falls into the fusion wear or contemporary wear category. 

Is Kurta an ethnic wear or Traditional Wear?

In India kurta is considered to be a staple in Indian wardrobes, as it is worn in literally every state of India. Be it a man or a woman, North Indian or South Indian, everybody is bound to have a kurta hanging in the wardrobe. 

It falls under the ethnic wear category as it is the most versatile piece of clothing. 

The bottom line 

In India, the difference between ethnic and traditional wear is more than just words. It’s a celebration of diversity, showcasing the country’s various cultures and customs. Each piece of clothing carries a story, connecting the past with the present.

As fashion lovers, let’s appreciate India’s diverse clothing styles. Enjoy the timeless charm of traditional wear and the timeless appeal of ethnic wear.

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