The Story Behind Pakistan Fashion

Reflection of Society

Dresses and styles reflect the culture, outlook, values and indeed the evolution of a society over time. Pakistan is no different.

Embracing our inner divas, that is the conversation today – fashion. I am going to give you a glimpse into the Pakistan fashion and style. My focus as we peak is only on the dresses as the entire fashion scene here is just too wide to cover in one post. To understand Pakistan fashion, it is important for me to take you on an historical and cultural tour.

Pakistan Fashion In History

pakistan fashion
Pakistan Designs (Source: pinterest.com)

Pakistan is geographically in South East Asia bordered by India, Afghanistan and Iran by land. However, it is not just a land connection but more about cultural connection when it comes to fashion. Present day Pakistan forms part of the land that was once joined and called the Indo-Pak subcontinent. The land has been a favorite invasion route of many conquerors for thousands of years, resulting in the introduction of foreign cultures, dresses and values fusing into local ones.

Pakistan fashion, as they stand today, is a healthy fusion of Afghan, Persian and local cultures That gives Pakistani dresses a special richness that makes them quite exotic. With the local culture, religious considerations and cross-cultural borrowing, the result has been even more elegance to our dresses.

What Makes Pakistani Dresses Unique

Like the architecture of Indo-Pak subcontinent, Pakistan fashion, particularly the dresses, is a unique blend of the foreign influence, happily married to our local traditions coloured by religious overtones. The selection of fabric and colors is amazingly adorned with innumerable hand embroidery. With time and the entry of even more talented local fashion designers, a fresh dimension of modernity has been added to the traditional.

Cultural Division in Pakistan Fashion

Culturally, Pakistan is divided into four distinct zones with defined variations reflected in local dresses as well. They are generally the four major provinces of Pakistan (the equivalent of states in USA). The cultural differences are pronounced in zonal languages, living styles, appearances, festivals and of course dresses.

Popular Dresses in Pakistan Fashion

Let us now turn to the different types of dresses preferred in Pakistan today.

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Informal Dresses

pakistan fashion
National Dress of Pakistan (Source: pinterest.com)

The most popular informal and national dress of Pakistan is Shalwar Kameez. It is the traditional dress of choice for men and women alike. Kameez, in the case of men, is a long shirt (up to knees) in a variety of colors (mostly white and lighter colors) and fabric, while the shalwar is a very loose pant. There are many more variations in cut, style, fitting and colors for women. An added piece, in the case of women, is DUPATTA (a piece of cloth to cover head and front of women).

The styles in shalwar and kameez are very much fashion-oriented and change usually on half-yearly or yearly basis. Shirts may get shorter (way up the knee-length) and so does the shalwar. The style of dupatta may also change.

Major brands launch their winter and summer collections in retail outlets at affordable prices for working class women. Price range for a decent shalwar kameez suit for women falls between PKR 4000 – 8000 (US$40-80).

The range of colors and prints for women are amazing since Pakistani textile industry is well-developed and local brands offer a huge range for summer and winter clothing separately. In local malls, the most visited outlets are the ones offering unstitched or ready to wear apparel. It is not very unusual for affluent Pakistani women to go for a complete overhaul of their wardrobes on a seasonal basis.

Recently, it has become a trend to exclusively offer a ready-to-wear informal line for men as well. Certain well-known brands now regularly offer well-designed informal shalwar kurta and kameez for men as well. Jeans and T-shirts are still not very common among women for cultural reasons although it is pretty popular among young male Pakistanis.

Formal Wear In Pakistan Fashion

Pakistan fashion
Bridal Dresses (Source: kataween.com – free download)

Like anywhere else in the world, festivities such as weddings, are taken as a special occasion to display wealth and social status in form of expensive exotic dresses. Perhaps in no other culture in the world, as in Pakistan fashion, has so much attention been paid to the details of dresses. Preparations for the bridal dresses start months in advance.

More popular dresses in bridal wear include Lehenga, Saree, Gharara, Sharara, Kurta Pajama, Shalwar Kameez and trouser suits. All these styles carry exquisite embroideries; gold and stone work and rated highly by their expensive handwork. A wedding dress may cost anything between US$400-5000.

Pakistan Fashion Scene

The fashion scene is alive and kicking in Pakistan. Designers present their collections in Winter, Fall and Spring. However, high-fashion is the domain of élite, remaining beyond the buying power of the ordinary Pakistani men and women.

Pakistan fashion shows are not as common as in other regional countries and modeling is not a profession of choice for most young Pakistani women. This again is due to cultural, social and religious reasons.

At this time, the Pakistan fashion scene does not affect the normal wearing patterns of masses in Pakistan as it is still considered an indulgence of rich and modern (a phrase used in a negative spirit). However, the situation is likely to change in the not-so distant future as the number of working class Pakistani women is exponentially increasing. The buying power of working class Pakistani woman is helping to shape the our fashion scene. More and more middle class designers are appearing with reasonably priced lines, attracting more and more working class woman who need decent but modestly priced clothing line for their day-to-day wearing.


Contributor
Neelma Tashfeen

This introduction to Pakistan fashion by Neelma Tashfeen is part of our ongoing effort to introduce and familiarise our readers to the lives of women around the world. Neelma is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Neelma lives in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her most recent post was our closing piece in a series on prostitution, “Pakistan Taboo: Palace or Prison.”  She can be contacted at tashfeenneelma@gmail.com

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54 thoughts on “The Story Behind Pakistan Fashion

  1. […] In a world increasingly divided along religious, cultural, racial and other lines, through the post “The Story Behind Pakistan Fashion,” we sought to bring us closer on a lighter, prettier note: “Like the architecture of Indo-Pak […]

  2. I love and admire the fabrics and everything it stands for

    1. Ms Claudette

      Glad that you like it Eileen! 🙂

  3. I honestly love the pakistan fashion…I do have a few Indian outfits that are pretty similar to pakistan dresses. So chic and modest!

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, I really like that about them not to mention the embroidery! 🙂

  4. It’s great to know about the fashion in other cultures. Their outfits look very traditional, yet they are modern, too.

    1. Ms Claudette

      They are all that plus beautiful! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  5. These fashions are amazing – thank you for sharing

    1. Ms Claudette

      And thank you for visiting! 🙂

    2. Ms Claudette

      You are most welcome! We are glad that you liked! 🙂

  6. That is very interesting. I was always curious about other cultures and the way they dress.

    1. Ms Claudette

      I am so glad that you enjoyed! 🙂

  7. they are known for dressing up conservative and I have no problem with that at all.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Neither do I. To each his/her own! 🙂

  8. I would love to visit Pakistan. I do think the fashion is pretty.

    1. Ms Claudette

      We could all got together! 🙂

  9. dltolley

    Love this! And I love those fashions. They always look so elegant and feminine!

    1. Ms Claudette

      They do, don’t they? Thanks for the comment D! 🙂

  10. very interesting designs and something that every pakistan would be proud of.

    1. Ms Claudette

      They indeed are. Thank you for your visit! 🙂

  11. I always think that it is interesting to explore new cultures and step into their shoes momentarily.

  12. I love their dresses! I wonder where I could find them here? Thanks for a beautiful post 🙂

    1. Ms Claudette

      I am sure you can – it would be up to you, I would imagine. I am going to get one, they are too beautiful not to. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  13. These are all awesome dress. I really love the colors. Thank you for sharing.

  14. victoria

    I love this post. I don’t have any idea at the pakistan fashion. so glad you share it

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you so much Victoria. Glad you liked. 🙂

  15. Kristi

    I do like the intricate fabrics. The colors are very nice!

    1. Ms Claudette

      Here I go again – “Me too!” 🙂 Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  16. I’ve always found this kind of thing to be fascinating. I have a collection of small dolls dressed in cultural wear from individual countries and I think that’s why I love reading about it.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Really? Do post a picture of your dolls one day – soon! 🙂

  17. Angie@chasingmyhalo

    I learned so much about Pakistan fashion, and it’s very interesting. The colors are so brilliant!

    1. Ms Claudette

      We are so glad that you found it informative! Thank you so much for visiting! 🙂

  18. I’ve always thought that their pieces were SO beautiful! And they also look super comfy…

    1. Ms Claudette

      I have never worn once of these particular outfits, but I have had similar and they are indeed comfy and you feel as if you are gliding. Very elegant. Thanks for stopping by Kristen.

  19. Thank you for sharing. Love that this site shares posts from various women and perspectives.

    1. Ms Claudette

      That is part of our uniqueness. I very much want to demonstrate more than tolerance but an intentional living and growing as a community. Thank you so much for visiting. 🙂

  20. Beautiful outfits! Thank you for sharing this evolution

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are very welcome! Thank you for spending the time to read and visit. 🙂

  21. such great colors, such great freedom and such diversity in fashion

    1. Ms Claudette

      Isn’t it just? I am about to send Neelma my measurement to get something made for me! 🙂

  22. Such pretty clothes they wear.I love the bright colors.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Me too! I love colours!

  23. Wow the Bridal dress is incredibly beautiful! I love the colourful embroidery!

    1. Ms Claudette

      Tonight, all I am seeing to all the comments is “Me too,” because I love the handwork and the colours! LOL 🙂

  24. I really loved learning about fashion in another country!

    1. Ms Claudette

      I am glad you liked that we did something a little different but still in keeping with our basic focus – women. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  25. Elizabeth O.

    What I love about your fashion is that it’s traditional yet modern, unlike all the clothes we have available today, which is all modern with no more hint of what it was like before. I sure love those formal dresses! They are so beautiful! The colors are awesome too.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Here I go again – “Me too!” LOL. I so agree with you Elizabeth! When I read Neelma’s post it was really pleased me to learn the history. 🙂

  26. the bridal dress is gorgeous! also, i just wanted to share that i really enjoy reading your posts but multiple pop up boxes are a bit annoying. i don’t want to sound rude but just wanted to give some feedback on the fact that the pop up boxes disrupt my reading.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you for the feedback Michelle. As a blogger yourself, you would appreciate that while some people find the pop-ups annoying – and we do keep them at a minimum here – it is one of the few tools open to us to grow our lists, etc. I really do appreciate your feedback but just like commercials on television, pop-ups and other advertising, list building methods help us grow. No offense taken by the way. 🙂

  27. Claudette, You just shared my Fav Fashion at this point in time. Paul brought me some real gorgeous prints, Saris, pats and tops outfits I am literally waiting for the winter p[arty season t come so I can be gorgeous In my Pakistan Fashion 🙂

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, I did see that on your site that he was in India!!! Girl, I envy you! 🙂

  28. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I feel thankful that I can dress however I want!

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, that is a great feeling. It is also interesting to see the changes along with the intricacies of styles around the world. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

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