Garments make the base of an outfit, but accessories perfect it and make it stand out. Jewelry, scarves, shawls, and more have helped Indian women distinguish themselves for centuries. The beauty of such accessories is in their versatility. They can be worn in countless ways, with numerous types of garments, from a kurta to a salwar kameez.
One such instrumental accessory is the dupatta. For women, this item of clothing, resembling a long scarf similar to a chunni or chunri, holds both historical and religious significance. It is common to find Indian women of Hindu and Muslim faiths wearing a dupatta.
Throughout this history, the way people wear dupattas has evolved. Beyond India, the dupatta has become prominent among South Asian women.
Most fashion movements come and go in a matter of decades, if not years. Even larger world trends on broader social scales usually only last 30-50 years. Through these times of passing fads, traditional Indian apparel has remained cohesive. Tying it together, along with many other garments, is the Indian dupatta.
Lashkaraa is dedicated to preserving the storied garments which have shaped India. At the same time, we wish to bring a modern update to this fantastic piece of clothing, so read on to learn more.
What Is a Dupatta?
A dupatta resembles a large shawl or scarf and is worn to style various outfits. It’s often worn in a layered or fitted manner, hence its name, which translates to “two strips of cloth.” A dupatta is often several feet long and draped along either the shoulders or head. Even with this focus on the upper body, there are countless ways to wear it.
In some cases, they can be used as religious headwear. Most major world religions have specific instructions for hair care and headwear. Draping a dupatta over the head in places of worship is considered proper behavior for women.
Dupattas come in a variety of styles and can either match or contrast with the rest of an outfit. Depending on the material selected, they can be sheer, matte, or shimmering, though many are at least partially sheer.
They are worn with countless types of traditional Indian dress. Dupatta can be made of various materials, including georgette dupattas, silk dupattas, and chiffon dupattas. Embroidery details like sequins also inform their creation. Lehenga choli, gharara, saree, and phulkari suits may feature the same or similar embroidery to the dupatta you choose to wear.
Dupattas originated as a symbol of modesty in the Indian subcontinent, covering the body while offering uncompromised style. Now, dupattas are more often worn for their beauty as decorative pieces in contemporary culture.
Below, we will explore style and apparel to showcase what a dupatta can be.
The draping style of your dupatta matters. Depending on how you position them, you may need to pin them in place to adjust the drape. This is particularly the case whenever you wish to achieve a pleated look.
The creation process is also important in dupattas. The material may be made using ikat, an Indonesian dyeing technique, or with kalamkari, a specific type of printed fabric. Mirror work is a particularly prominent design for dupattas, as it provides a distinctive sheen.
There are several ways you can wear a dupatta, all of which are wonderful in the proper context. From bridal parties to annual celebrations to daily life, there are new, exciting, and seasoned traditional ways to style a dupatta.
Style1. Classic Upper-Body Drape
For a classic approach to wearing your dupatta, drape it around your torso and upper arms to create a cloak. The fabric of the dupatta should be entirely above the waist, creating a layered figure. This can be especially eye-catching with monocolored base layers and an intricately designed dupatta.
The downside of wearing a shawl is that it may hide any neck jewelry you are wearing — so use this opportunity to highlight rings, wristwear, and earrings.
Style 2. As a Shawl
Here, we present a dupatta that covers the upper body but is styled with an open front. This type of shawl allows you to call attention to the pattern of your dress. It works best with contrasting patterns, as seen with the Navy Blue and Gola Dola Silk Palazzo Suit.
At first glance, the base garment may seem like a full dress due to the elegant embellishments. However, this clever latticed-gold pattern hides a pair of comfy, wide-leg pants. Embroidery on the edge of the dupatta makes way for a subtle blend of golden highlights and splendid navy chiffon.
The boldest statement is made by the body of the Palazzo Suit. A dupatta flanking it serves to add emphasis to an already expressive piece. It’s perfect for when you wish to draw attention and feel glamorous doing so.
Style 3. Over One Shoulder
This creates an asymmetrical look that calls positive attention to any differences between the dupatta and your other clothing. Here, the dupatta goes over one shoulder and partially onto the same arm. Then it should drape below the waist, creating contrast all the way down.
It’s the perfect look for light and medium-weight fabrics, especially if your dupatta features contrasting colors.
The beauty of this method is highlighted in our Red and Orange Teal Peplum Anarkali. The top features tilla work around the neckline and an attached knee-length skirt. The rest of the garment features bursts of subtle patterns scattered throughout and detailed embroidery along the hem and cuffs.
The same scattered pattern is shown on the teal dupatta. Its detailed gold-embroidered hem emphasizes the richness of the teal. The sheer nature of the material allows the warmer fabric of the dress to peek through, making the outfit complete.
This is just one example of how the right dupatta can add a finishing touch to your wardrobe if you choose the right style. In addition, if worn as bridalwear, this outfit has a pleasant connotation for the future couple. Red has connotations of power and good fortune, while green hints toward a healthy new beginning.
Style 4. Pleated, Secured by Belt
This style takes a traditional garment and transforms it into a contemporary style. You will need to wear a garment that features a belt, ideally along the waist.
Prepare and pin your dupatta on one side as if you were going for a single-sided drape. Here, the piece goes securely underneath the belt. The result is a fitted dupatta that sticks closely to the silhouette of the body. Many of Lashkaraa’s contemporary designs use this style, particularly our Burgundy and Light Pink Embroidered Velvet Anarkali.
Detailed zari and tilla work along the hem, cuffs, neckline, and elbows highlight the lush drape and subtle weight of the burgundy velvet. The dupatta is a sheer pink contrast of bright color ending in matching burgundy velvet and gold details. The detail and burgundy color are also seen in the dupatta.
The material, design, and color palette all speak to the traditionalist fashion which has supported Indian women across generations. However, the way these fabrics come together is what pushes them into the realm of modern style.
Style 5. Draped Above the Head
As anyone in a bridal party will tell you, there are countless ways to shape a dupatta around the head. The dupatta may be styled to cover the face or drape behind the head. It can also serve as a religious head covering, much like a yarmulke or turban. Either way, the piece must be pinned to the hair to achieve this look.
Hair alone does not give you much to pin to, but there are ways to make this easier. The easiest way to pin your dupatta to your hair is by tying a bun. The bun gives physical heft to grasp and helps to structurally support the dupatta.
Choosing Your Dupatta
Choosing how to style your dupatta comes down to the style of the piece itself and your personal aesthetics. To a given person, a particular dupatta will look best in a few ways. New fashion conventions, however, allow us to express ourselves while keeping traditional styles close to our hearts.
Lashkaraa includes a dupatta with most of our suits. Apparel from salwar suits to sarees and more can be enhanced with this classic accessory. We also produce traditional and Indo-Western menswear, including sherwanis and kurtas. From the Punjabi to Ghagra areas, we are dedicated to preserving tradition while reaching for a modern touch.
Traditions are valuable and keep us grounded, but they also change over time. The dupatta expresses this better than anything else could.