Bright hues of the boldest reds, fiery oranges, glowing pink and brilliant blues, all come in spectacular harmony against the backdrop of sand dunes, temples and exquisite palaces. Vivid colored sarees, stacks of jewelries and beautiful embroideries are the cultural dress code of the state; they reflect the spirits, charms and warmth of the Rajasthanis women.
So what do we ladies pack when we’re planning to trip to this very vibrant side of world? Here I will give you some tips about what worked for me during my two weeks trip all around Rajasthan.
Think about these three things: Comfort, Style, and Appropriate.
Your choices of clothing can dictate how you are perceived. Dressing conservatively is recommended to remain respectful and reduce attention from locals (read more about safety for women in India).
You might see women of all ages and sizes wearing their sari with exposed cleavage, midriff and back; but one thing for sure, they knees and shoulders are always covered. So leave the shorts, mini skirts or tube tops at home (unless you’re traveling to Goa and other coastal destinations in India), and cover your tank tops and bare shoulders with a scarf.
Avoid anything too tight or figure hugging that reveal your shape, particularly in the more rural areas. Because, besides it will invite suggestive stares, it’s pretty damn hot here in the summer. The weather in Rajasthan can be extremely hot so wear loose and flowing clothes covering most of your body parts to avoid sunburns from daily exposures to the flaming sun.
Choose light, airy material like linen or soft cotton for utmost comfort. Don’t carry anything that wrinkles easily. Or if you really have to bring that beautiful colorful silk kaftan, carry a travel steamer (You can get yours on Amazon or Tokopedia.)
Earthy colors (white, beige, gray, terracotta, brown) are both safe and stylish choices for daily wear. Before I left, I researched everywhere online for some fashion tips and almost every blog suggested me to wear mostly black because your clothes tend to get dirty. Sure if you want to look boring on your photos or stick out like a sore thumb in the midst of Rajasthan’s brilliant colors, or you happen to be one very clumsy person and tend to spill red curry all over your clothes, then by all means.
In addition to earthy colors, embrace the brighter colors as well like deep reds, orange or yellow. If the idea of wearing a colorful outfit from head to toe sounds too much for you, try to incorporate them in smaller details like your bags or scarves.
Tips on wearing head to toe colors: Stick to the complementary colors. This is one lesson that I can’t always stress enough during teaching in fashion photography class. Complementary colors are colors directly opposite each other in the color spectrum wheel, such as red and green or blue and orange. A combination of complementary color will always produce a harmonious combination. That’s why I packed orange dresses for Jodhpur, the Blue City, and lots of greens for Jaipur the Pink city.
What to pack:
1. Light shirt / blouses
I am so inspired by how classy and regal EVERY Rajasthani men look with their simple white kurta+dhoti set and colorful pagari/pagdi (turban). White or beige cotton shirts or kurtas are comfortable to wear in hot weather and will transform your look to a more dressed up while still keeping it casual. They are also easy to wash and dry quickly.
2. Loose fitting trousers
I brought 2 loose fitting trousers on my trip, one beige and one creme. They are so light and they went well with every top.
3. Long wrap skirts / palazzo
I am perpetually inspired by the Banjara women (the nomadic tribe from northwestern India, who proudly refer to themselves as gypsies) that I met on this trip with their bohemian charm, graceful dances, enchanting smile and vivid, sparkly lehengas. The sounds of bangles clinks and the soft ruffle sounds of their crepe skirts as they swiftly move, like a folk song drifting in the ancient Thar desert.
Lehenga is a form of traditional maxi skirt. It is pleated/gathered and secured at the waist and flares at the bottom and usually come in beautiful embroideries or even mirror beads embellishments.
However if this kind of lehengas is too costume-ish for you, then you can opt for the more low-key Ghagra, another type of maxi skirts dedicated more for daily wear. They’re usually made of cotton and don’t have heavy work done on them. You can find them practically everywhere from the street stalls to designer stores. I found this gorgeous white Ghagra in Jagat Nikhar in Udaipur, and you can find my curated selection of lehengas on my vintage shop, Alska Trove.
If you’re not into skirts, get a pair of wide culottes/palazzo for the same flare effect. I love this indigo handblock print palazzo also from Mao Mao. Pair your skirts or palazzo with the abovementioned white shirt and you’re good to go.
4. Cotton dresses/kurta
Midi/maxi length cotton dresses/tunics/kurtas are very popular in Rajasthan and you can either pack them before the trip or, even better, buy them when you’re here. You’ll be spoilt by choices; from embroideries, beads, handblock prints, to every color in the color wheel.
Rajasthan is one of the places in this world where you can wear as much jewelries as you want and get away with it. Seriously, you can wear the kind of stuff that makes you dreadfully overdressed in most other places. I’m not talking about stacking your precious diamonds on your neck and fingers; but rather the traditional statement jewelries that the local women adorn themselves in daily basis. From brass to silver and gold, precious stones, heirlooms, headdress, necklaces, bangles and feet rings, every Rajasthani woman looks regal and ravishing with these beautiful ornaments adding charm to their vibrant personality.
Jewelries shop are scattered around Rajasthan and we only could handle ourselves not to buy anything on the first week. Then we came into this one shop in Udaipur on the second week and went crazy. You can opt to shop in India or better yet, browse for Alska’s curated selection of Indian/bohemian jewelries.
Comfortable shoes / sandals
Anything made of canvas or fabric will be dirty, especially if you add the desert town Jaisalmer to your itinerary. Actually any material will get dirty, but it’s so much easier cleaning leather from all the accumulated dust. Also please please please leave the high heels at home.
I suggest to keep one pair of closed toes shoes for hiking in dust or mud-covered grounds, and one pair of sandals to roam around the city. I opt for my Free People AS-98 slouchy leather boots (I got so many question about these babies and unfortunately they are sold out since a few years back) and my trusty pair of Birkenstocks, the comfiest pair of sandals I’ve ever owned in my life.
Keep in mind that on visiting religious sites, you have to take your shoes off and leave them on the entrance. Don’t worry, when you’re done, your shoes should be fine waiting for you outside along with hundred other pairs. Just keep that in mind before you got all paranoid about leaving your prided pair of Yeezys and can’t enjoy the visit in the end.
Scarves are KEY. You use them to cover your face when the sun is burning you (the amount of SPF you slather in the morning will be pretty much useless if you expose your face to the sun all day.), you use them to cover your hair and shoulder when you enter a worship or religious sites, and they also come in handy on windy nights. You can bring one or two scarves with you but you will also encounter tons of stores selling everything from beautiful silk and cotton scarves to warmer pashminas all along your trip. Too tempting.
So there they are! I hope this post will inspire you on choosing what to pack for your memorable holiday in Rajasthan. Remember that don’t sacrifice comfort for style but do put a bit of an extra effort for that beautiful instagram photo! Kisses!9