When I initially conceived of the character Dr. George Darcy, he wasn’t a man I knew well. His personality emerged as I wrote him into the bigger saga, yet one attribute I immediately felt was right for him was in the area of what kind of clothes he wore. Dwelling in India for some 30 years, it was logical to assume the culture may have rubbed off on him. But the truth is I actually wanted him to wear Indian garb to annoy his straight-laced nephew! Whatever the impetus, the eccentricity fit George and required me to research Indian clothing as worn 200 years ago. Strangely, traditional Indian garments then were not hugely varied from today.
Here are a few samples of men’s garments with the definitions of each–
Sherwani – a long coat-like garment; very formal; typically worn over a shalwar kameez; originally worn only by court nobles of India and Pakistan.
Dhoti – a long, rectangular piece of unstitched cloth wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist; the methods of wrapping and knotting vary in style; worn by men only; can be long or short, simple or formal.
Mojari – a leather shoe with a closed, curled toe and open back; created by artisans and highly embellished.
Kameez – a loose tunic, usually with long sleeves and a collar; can be simple in style and fabric, or highly decorated; always worn with additional garments; wide variety of styles for men and women.
Shalwar – loose, pajama-like trousers cut wide at the top and narrow at the ankle; can be baggy or form-fitting; worn with a kameez; traditionally a man’s garment but today can be worn by women.
Churidar pyjama – a garment similar to a salwar but tightly fitted so that the contours of the leg are revealed; the fabric is longer than the wearer’s legs, worn to fall into gathered folds over the legs.
Paijama – also pyjama; loose, lightweight trousers fitted with drawstring waistbands; worn by both sexes.
Kurta – also kurti if short; a loose shirt falling to the knee and without a collar.
Paduka – oldest Indian footwear; essentially a sandal comprised only of a sole and a knob fitting between the big and second toe; multitudes of varieties and forms using every type of material; can be plain or elaborate.
Lungi – a type of men’s loincloth similar to a sarong; a stitched tube tied at the waist; can be short or long; worn by women in some parts of India.
I placed the above images of dhotis and lungis together to show how similar they are. (each can be clicked for a larger view) Both are loose, the material far more than is needed so always tucked at the waist in some fashion. The difference is that a dhoti is not stitched. Like a sari, it is a single length of cloth that is wrapped around the waist, drawn between the legs, and with the end secured into the waist. The lungi is a stitched tube that the wearer steps into like a skirt, the excess fabric then folded before tucking. There are multiple ways to wrap each garment. One clue to guessing whether it is a dhoti or lungi is the decor along the hemline. With a dhoti, you will see the trimming down the length of the body, whereas a lungi’s trimming will remain by the feet (or knees if short).
Here are a couple of YouTube video links for visual comparison–
Examples of dhoti – about a 9-minute video with several styles, the last adding a kameez in a lovely effect.