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. The shalwar kameez can be worn by both men and women, although styles differ by gender. The shalwar and the kameez are two garments which have been combined to form the shalwar kameez outfit.
- 1 Description
- 2 Styles
- 3 Different forms of Shalwar kameez
- 3.1 Afghanistan suits
- 3.2 Pashtun suits
- 3.3 Anarkali suit
- 3.4 Balochi suits
- 3.5 Dogri kurta and suthan
- 3.6 Phiran, poots and suthan (shalwar)
- 3.7 Punjabi suit
- 3.8 Patiala salwar
- 3.9 Pothohari suit
- 3.10 Punjabi suthan suit
- 3.11 Sindhi suits
- 4 Etymology and history
- 5 English spelling
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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.
The kameez can be sewn straight and flat, in an "A" shape design 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, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab region of Pakistan and India However, the shalwar kameez has now become popular across the sub-continent.
Different forms of Shalwar kameez
The following are some of the styles of shalwar kameez.
Man in Afghan clothing: Perahan tunban
Afghan kids wearing traditional clothes in Kabul
Traditional Khet partug. (Traditional loose Afghan shalwar)
As a chiefly rural and nomadic population, the Pashtun dress is typically made from light linens, and are loose fitting for ease of movement. The Pashtun dress includes local forms of the shalwar kameez, which are differently made for males and females. The traditional male dress includes the Khet partug and Perahan wa tunban. Males usually wear kufi, Peshawari cap, turban, sindhi cap or pakul as traditional headgear. The traditional female dress is the Firaq partūg. Women typically wear solid-coloured trousers, a long kamīs shirt with a belt. Sometimes they will wear an encompassing burqa over this outfit or a tsādar on their head.
Peshawari shalwar suit
The traditional dress of Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan is the khalqa (gown) which opens at the front or shirt which does not open at the front, and the Peshawari shalwar which is very loose down to the ankles. The Peshawari shalwar can be used with a number of upper garments and is part of the clothing of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Another style of the shalwar kameez is the Anarkali suit named after the court dancer from Lahore. 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. This style of suit links South Asia with the women's Firaq partug (frock and shalwar) of northwestern Pakistan and Afghanistan and to the traditional women's clothing of parts of Central Asia. It also links to the Punjab region where the Anarkali suit is similar to the anga and the Peshwaz worn in Jammu.
Men's Balochi suit
The Balochi shalwar kameez worn by males in Balochistan (Pakistan) consists of a very baggy shalwar using large lengths of cloth. The kameez is also loose, which traditionally is long with long sleeves  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.
Women's Balochi Suit
The female Balochi suit consists of the head scarf, long dress and a shalwar.
The outfit in Jammu is the Dogri kurta and suthan. When the tight part of the suthan, up to the knees, has multiple close fitting folds, the suthan is referred to as Dogri pants or suthan, in Jammu and churidar suthan in the Punjab region and Himachal Pradesh.
Punjab Hills 1895. Kulu woman in churidar suthan. Himachal Pradesh.
A man from Srinagar wearing Phiran
The traditional shalwar kameez worn in the Punjab region is cut differently to the styles worn in Balochistan and Afghanistan and is known as a "Punjabi suit" 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). The shalwar is wide at the top but fits closely to the legs and is gathered at the ankles. The Punjabi shalwar is also cut straight and gathered at the ankles with a loose band reinforced with coarse material. In rural Punjab, the shalwar is still called the suthan which is a different garment that was popular in previous centuries, alongside the churidar and kameez combination (which is still popular). In Britain, South Asian women from the Punjab region have brought the dress to the mainstream, and even high-fashion, appeal. The Punjabi suit is popular in other regions of the subcontinent, such as Mumbai, Sindh and Bangladesh. It is also popular in Afghanistan, where it is called the Punjabi.
Miss Pooja of the Punjab region in a Punjabi suit
Another style of the Punjabi suit is the use of the shalwar which hails from the Pothohar region of Punjab, Pakistan and is known as the Pothohari shalwar. The Pothohari shalwar retains the wideness of the older Punjabi suthan and also has some folds. The kameez is also wide. The head scarf is traditionally large, similar to the chador or Phulkari that was used throughout the plains of the Punjab region.
Punjabi suthan suit
An older variety of shalwar kameez of the Punjab region is the Punjabi suthan and kurta suit. The Punjabi suthan is a local variation of the ancient svasthana tight fitting trousers which have been used in the Punjab region since the ancient period and was worn with the tunic called varbana which was tight fitting.
The Punjabi suthan is arranged in plaits and uses large amounts of material (traditionally coloured cotton with vertical silk lines, called sussi) of up to 20 yards hanging in innumerable folds. The suthan ends at the ankles with a tight band which distinguishes the suthan from a shalwar. The modern equivalent of the loose Punjabi suthan are the cowl pants and dhoti shalwars which have many folds.
Some versions of the Punjabi suthan tighten from the knees down to the ankles (a remnant of the svasthana). If a tight band is not used, the ends of the suthan fit closely around the ankles. The Jodhpuri breeches devised during the 1870s by the Sir Pratap Singh of Jodhpur offer a striking slim line resemblance to the centuries old tight Punjabi suthan, albeit the churidar is cited as its source.
The kurta is a remnant of the 11th century A.D. female kurtaka which was a shirt extending to the middle of the body and had side slits worn in parts of north India which has remained a traditional garment for women in Punjab, albeit longer than the kurtaka. The suthan was traditionally worn with a long kurta but can also be worn with a short kurti or frocks. Modern versions of the kurta can be knee length. The head scarf is also traditionally long but again, modern versions are shorter.
Ancient svasthana and varbana outfit worn during Gupta Empire, the basis of the Punjabi suthan suit
Nawab Muhammad Of Bahawalpur (1868-1900) wearing a loose suthan
Sindhi kancha shalwar suit
The traditional Sindhi shalwar, also called kancha, are wide pantaloons which are wide down the legs and are also wide at the ankles. The Sindhi shalwar is plaited at the waist. The kancha shalwar is traditionally worn with either the Sindhi cholo (blouse) by women, or a knee length robe which flairs out, by men.
Sindhi suthan suits
Etymology and history
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.
Shalwar (with Kabuli sandals).
19th century Algerian woman wearing the traditional pants which inspired 'harem pants'.
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 Djellaba or Jellabiya.
Musicians in Egypt wearing (urban) gellabiya
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 or Qamis.
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