Shalwar kameez

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For the Homeland episode, see Shalwar Kameez (Homeland).
Salwar kameez, from Max Tilke's Oriental Costume, 1922

Shalwar kameez, also spelled salwar kameez or shalwar qameez, is a traditional outfit originating in Central Asia and South Asia and is a generic term used to describe different styles of dress.[1][2] The shalwar kameez can be worn by both men and women, although styles differ by gender. The shalwar and the kameez are two garments[3] which have been combined to form the shalwar kameez outfit.[4]


The shalwar are loose pajama-like trousers. The legs are wide at the top, and narrow at the ankle. The kameez is a long shirt or tunic, often seen with a Western-style collar; however, for female apparel, the term is now loosely applied to collarless or mandarin-collared kurtas. The kameez might be worn with pajamas as well, either for fashion or comfort. Some kameez styles have side seams (known as the chaak), left open below the waist-line, giving the wearer greater freedom of movement.[5]


The kameez can be sewn straight and flat, in an "A" shape design[6] or flowing like a dress: there are a variety of styles. Modern kameez styles are more likely to have European-inspired set-in sleeves. If the tailor's taste or skill are displayed, it will be seen in the shape of the neckline and the decoration of the kameez. Traditionally, the female kameez was a modest article of clothing, but modern versions of the female kameez can be much less modest than traditional versions. The kameez may be cut with a deep neckline, sewn in diaphanous fabrics, or styled in cap-sleeve or sleeveless designs.

The garment was originally popular in Afghanistan and the Punjab region of Pakistan and India[7][8][9] However, the shalwar kameez has now become popular across the sub-continent.[10]

Different forms of Shalwar kameez[edit]

Sindhi girl from Karachi, Sind, in narrow Sindhi suthan and cholo. c. 1870
Balochi male shalwar kameez.Quetta.1867



Khet partug[11] and Perahan tunban (Afghanistan),[12] Dogri suthan and kurta (Jammu) [13] Sindhi suthan and cholo (Sindh),[14] and Phiran, poots and suthan (shalwar) (Kashmir)[15] are some forms of the shalwar kameez.

Anarkali suit[edit]

Another style of the shalwar kameez is the Anarkali suit. The Aarkali suit is a timeless style which has become very popular. The Anarkali suit is made up of a long, frock-style top and features a slim fitted bottom.

Balochi suit[edit]

The Balochi shalwar kameez worn by males in Balochistan (Pakistan) consists of a very baggy shalwar using large lengths of cloth.[16] The kameez is also loose,[17] which traditionally is long with long sleeves [18] The Balochi shalwar kameez is similar to the styles worn in Afghanistan. The present Balochi shalwar kameez replaced the earlier version which consisted of a robe to the ankles and a shalwar using cloth of up to 40 yards.

Punjabi suit[edit]

The traditional shalwar kameez worn in the Punjab region is cut differently to the styles worn in Balochistan and Afghanistan[19] and is known as a "Punjabi suit"[20][21] with the kameez being cut straight and flat with side slits (which is a local development as earlier forms of kameez did not have side slits).[22] The shalwar is wide at the top but fits closely to the legs and is gathered at the ankles.[23] In rural Punjab, the shalwar is still called the suthan which was a different garment popular in previous centuries,[24] alongside the churidar and kameez combination (which is still popular).[25]In Britain,[26][27] South Asian women from the Punjab region have brought the dress to the mainstream, and even high-fashion,[28] appeal.[29] The Punjabi suit is popular in other regions of the subcontinent and also in Afghanistan.[30] The modern Punjabi shalwar kameez is the Patiala salwar.

Photo gallery[edit]

Etymology and history[edit]


The pants, or salvar, are known as salwar in Bengali, salvar in Punjabi: ਸਲਵਾਰ ਕਮੀਜ, salvaar or shalvaar શલવાર કમીઝ in Gujarati, salvaar or shalvar शलवार क़मीज़ in Hindi, and shalvar in Urdu: شلوار قمیض‎.


Garments cut like the kameez are known in many cultures. According to Dorothy Burnham, of the Royal Ontario Museum, the "seamless shirt," woven in one piece on warp-weighted looms, was superseded in early Roman times by cloth woven on vertical looms and carefully pieced so as not to waste any cloth. 10th century cotton shirts recovered from the Egyptian desert are cut much like the kameez or the contemporary Egyptian jellabah or galabia.[31]

English spelling[edit]

Transliterations starting from Punjabi often render the sibilant sound at the start of salwar/shalwar as an "s". Transliterations starting from Urdu, Lahnda, Persian, Pashto, Turkish languages use "sh". Both spellings are found in common English usage. The shalwar spelling seems to be most common in Canada and the United Kingdom, and is the preferred spelling in the Oxford English Dictionary. Salwar is the spelling most commonly used in India. The word kameez is also spelled with a Q, as in Qameez.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dialogue Today, Volume 6, Issues 3-4 (1992)
  2. ^ Ross Howard (2014) Kafiristan
  3. ^ Jordan, Jeannine (2010) On the Heels of an Organist
  4. ^ Mumford, Gwilym (26.10.2014) The Guardian:Homeland recap: season four, episode three – Shalwar Kameez [1]
  5. ^ Unquiet Pasts: Risk Society, Lived Cultural Heritage, Re-Designing Reflexivity - Stephanie Koerner, Ian Russell - Google Books. 2010-08-16. Retrieved 2012-06-14. 
  6. ^ Padmavati, B(2009) Techniques Of Drafting And Pattern MakingGarments For Kids And Adolescents [2]
  7. ^ Condra, Jill (2013) Encyclopedia of National Dress: Traditional Clothing Around the World [3]
  8. ^ Social Science a Textbook in History for Class IX as per New Syllabus
  9. ^ Sumath, G.J (2007) Elements of Fashion and Apparel Design
  10. ^ Rutnagur, Sorabji. M (1996) The Indian Textile Journal, Volume 106, Issues 9-12 [4]
  11. ^ R. T. I. (Richard Thomas Incledon) Ridgway (1997) Pashtoons: History, Culture & Traditions [5]
  12. ^ CultureGrams, Volume 1 (2004)
  13. ^ D. N. Saraf (1987) Arts and Crafts, Jammu and Kashmir: Land, People, Culture [6]
  14. ^ 1998 provincial census report of Sindh
  15. ^ S. And Sahgal, Malik Gettingahead In Social Studies:, Book 3
  16. ^ Baloch Culture.Net[7]
  17. ^ Nadiem, Ihsan. H. [(2007) Balochistan: land, history, people [8]
  18. ^[9] but now can also be knee length.
  19. ^ Jānmahmad (1982) The Baloch cultural heritage
  20. ^ Tannaaz Irani (2014) The Armchair Critic: Chafes and Chuckles
  21. ^ Marwaha, Pritpal (2012) Shakahaari: The Vegetarian Gourmet Fine, Authentic Indian Vegetarian Cuisine [10]
  22. ^ Mohsen Saeidi Madani (1993)Impact Of Hindu Culture On Muslims [11]
  23. ^ Kumar, Raj (2006) Paintings and Lifestyles of Jammu Region: From 17th to 19th Century A.D [12]
  24. ^ Panjab University Research Bulletin: Arts, Volume 13, Issue 1 - Volume 14, Issue (1982) [13]
  25. ^ Mohinder Singh Randhawa. (1960) Punjab: Itihas, Kala, Sahit, te Sabiachar aad.Bhasha Vibhag, Punjab, Patiala.
  26. ^ Breidenbach, Pál & Zcaronupanov 2004 Quote: "And in Bubby Mahil’s fashion store in London, white socialites and young British Asians shop for the Punjabi suits".
  27. ^ Walton-Roberts & Pratt 2005. Quote: "Meena owns a successful textile design and fashion business in the Punjab, designing and selling high-end salwar kameez (Punjabi suits) ..."[context?]
  28. ^ Sheikh, Ibriz (27.05.2015) 'Dress over pants': Rest of the world finally catches on to Shalwar kameez trend [14]
  29. ^ Bachu 2004
  30. ^ Culture and Customs of Afghanistan By Hafizullah Emadi
  31. ^ Burnham, Dorothy. 1973. Cut My Cote, Royal Ontario Museum. p. 10.


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