“salwar, or shalwar kameez (also spelt shalwar kameez or shalwar qameez), Urdu: شلوار قمیض is the dress worn by both women and men in northern South Asia and Central Asia. It is a unisex dress similar in manner to shirt and pants worn by both women and men in the west. Traditionally, it has been worn in Afghanistan and Punjab (Pakistan and northern India).”
“From the last century, women in southern India have copied this Punjabi dress in place of the sari, the traditional dress of India. Shalwar or salwar (as pronounced in India) are loose pajama-like trousers. The legs are wide at the top, and narrow at the ankle. The kamees is a long shirt or tunic. The side seams (known as the chaak), left open below the waist-line, give the wearer greater freedom of movement.” (wikied)
portrait of a girl from Karachi in narrow salwar & kameez. c. 1870.
I hazily remember the time when I wore my first ever salwar. I was probably around 6 or 7 years old. It was a mustard colored kamees that had small mirrors on it with white salwar pants. I never wanted to take it off. And I mean never. As a child I always loved the cotton, chiffon, silk or georgette chunnis (scarves) that so conveniently came with each salwar. For fun I’d wear the chunnis on my head, or wrapped around my neck, or tied around my waist, or just dance with it, or even run around the house with the chunni blowing in the wind behind me. : )
Dhara wore her first ever salwar at 6 months old. It was part of a special brown paper gift sent by our American friend, Jane. The salwar was a super simple, white, papery cotton — that is, until you washed it and it became a lovely thin, wispy cotton. The salwar was actually meant for a little boy — long sleeved with pants that scrunched up at the heel; however, with a little handiwork, my mom and I were able to turn it into an adorable salwar for a little girl — my little girl.
We chopped off the long sleeves because of the hot summer, and also chopped off the bottom portion of the pants so they didn’t narrow down at the ankle, but rather lay somewhat loose and comfy around the ankle like a pair of airy pajama pants. We then sewed some neat hems, and finally added pearly buttons for a more feminine touch, and feminine it was in the end! I love the sweet white on white embroidery at the neckline and arms.
As you can probably already tell, Dhara loved every minute in her salwar. She somehow knew she was wearing something different and unique. How odd for such a wee one. I also loved every minute of seeing her in it — it somehow brought this warm feeling to my heart to see my halfsy baby celebrate her Indian roots.