In India, the traditional still takes precedence over modern aspects of society. This is particularly true in Indian households, where many of the old traditions are still practiced. The salwar kameez, for example, is still one of the most common styles of dress worn by Indian women today. It is a traditional set of garments consisting of trousers and a long tunic that have existed for thousands of years.
The salwar kameez is known to have existed for several centuries, dating back to at least the 1100s when India was part of the greater Mughal Empire. While it may have ultimately been developed by Turko-Iranian horse riders and spread throughout Central Asia through invasion and conquest, it is now a popular garment all over many parts of the world. While often associated with Islam, today it is worn by more non Muslims. Styles and colors have changed as aesthetic views evolve, but the basic garment has remained the same and continues to be a large part of Indian fashion today.
Beyond India and Pakistan, it is also the most popular dress in all of central Asia. Over the centuries since its first introduction, various types of the salwar kameez emerged to accommodate different rituals and occasions. For example, there are wedding and summer varieties, as well as different regional varieties such as the Punjabi and Putiala salwar kameez. So even though the basic garment has remained, different styles have been developed to more uniquely reflect the customs of a particular area or people.
Nonetheless, modern styling can often be just as influenced by European design as the old traditions. For example, the typical kameez will have set-in sleeves similar to European shirts and tunics. Designers further change things by typically decorating the kameez using embroidered pattern and other design elements. The modern salwar kameez is a perfect example of how traditional blends with modernity throughout much of Central Asia.
While it may have a long history going back to the time when Europe was still immersed in the barbarity of the Middle Ages, the dress continues to evolve as other elements influence style within the cultures where it is still worn today. While it will certainly continue to be the most popular dress in many parts of the world, one has to wonder what designers will accomplish in years to come as they add their own artistic touches to this timeless garb.