Kurta and Kurti from Hindustani, meaning  the Persian ‘collarles shirt’

These are the  loose, long shirts, worn extensively by men ( kurta ) and women ( kurti) throughout India, Srilanka, Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan. They are simple, unfitted and collarless, slip-over tops that usually open at the front. The construction and decoration can be very simple, not much more than squares of fabric, perhaps with easement arm gussets that are either  left undecorated or finished with embroidery, pin tucks and top stitching.

Kurtas are versatile and can be worn  traditionally  over long loose fitting trousers- panama,  or churidars-  tight fitting over-long leggings style that wrinkle,  or dhoties- loin cloths. Kurtas are also the top part of shalwar kameez.

The ease with which the kurta can be worn and dressed up or down  has made this an internationally recognised shape of clothing, and most of us whether we area aware of it or not have something of the kurta in our wardrobes. Embraced by the western world  as simplified, long  shirts, to wear – on it’s own, as a long shirt or dress perhaps belted, over leggings, wide trousers or jeans,or over baggy trousers that come in tight to the ankles,  or as nightwear,

Kurta fabrics are always comfortable to wear; really fine good quality cotton for summer, wool for winter and northern climes, and of course khadi.

When kurta/ kurti wear out the embroidered parts can be re-used for cushions or edgings.


In some ways the kurta is not so very different from the European peasant smock – an everyday, versatile form,work over baggy trousers,  simply designed and made from home spun materials, usually left plain but equally might be edged with lace or embroidered if the owner so wished.


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