Kerala Costumes

Dressing Style

Malayali woman with Kerala Sari and man with MunduSimplicity is the main characteristic of the traditional Kerala attire. But it difficult to find people dressed in traditional attire except on special occasions nowadays. Still they maintain certain simplicity in the selection of their clothing. Like any where else the traditional costume of Kerala is also guided by the climatic and cultural conditions of the region. Clothing for most Keralite’s is quite simple and untailored. Most people wear light, loose attire because of the hot climate.

Dressing Style In Religions

Malayali Muslim GirlHowever, it varies slightly from region to region and members of the various religious groups also dress in different ways. The traditional dress forms are the ‘mundu’ and ‘neriathu’, which is worn by both men and women. The ‘mundu’ forms the lower part of the garment while ‘neriathu’ is for the upper part of the body. The ‘mundu’ is worn around the waist and allowed to touch the feet – that too without the help of any pin, buttons or belt. It is very comfortable during the summer. Usually it is white or cream in color with a colored strip forming the border or ‘kara’. While going out men wear shirt-like apparel along with the ‘mundu’ and a small ‘neriathu’ (which is also known as ‘randaam mundu’ or ‘second mundu’) on their left shoulder. They also smear sandal paste on their chests and forehead. This gives them a dignified look. In addition to this Muslim men wear a cap and wear the ‘mundu’ in a different style from that of Hindus and Christians.

Christian Women

Old Malayali Christian WomenWomen also wear ‘mundu’ in the same style of that of men except for the Christian women, who wear folded in fan-like multiple folds and this portionis hung at the back. On the top of the ‘mundu’ women wear a special kind of  blouse, which covers the navel. The ‘neriathu’ or the upper garment is worn over the blouse with its one end tucked inside the mundu and the remaining long end worn across the front torso. It is worn diagonally fromalong the right hip to the left shoulder resembling the sari. Both ‘mundu and ‘neriathu’ are starched before being draped and are worn with the blouse that matches the color of the border or ‘kara’.  The color of the blouse used to be an indicator of the age and marital status of the woman but not anymore.

Modern Dressing Style

Woman in Modern Dressing StyleThe dress codes and preferences have also changed with the changing trends in fashion and designing. The traditional style is disappearing and men and women are clad in all types of dresses from all over the world. Men have taken to t-shirts, trousers, kurtas and jeans which are more comfortable for the modern living and working styles. Nowadays women of all communities wear the North Indian style churidar. When at home, both men and women wear traditional styles to cope with the hot climate and humidity. The full skirt with long blouse that formed the traditional teenage dress of Malayali girls is fast disappearing so is the half sari that was worn earlier consisted of a full skirt, short blouse and a shawl. With the North Indian style making a large scale invasion, the half sari has simply disappeared. Throughout Kerala, however, Western dress is increasingly becoming the norm, especially among urban and educated.

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