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When you are invited to a Diwali party or bought tickets to attend a Diwali celebration for the first time, you wonder about what to wear to a Diwali event, and whether there is a dress code. This post addresses these questions for Diwali parties or celebrations in US college towns.



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Dress Up for Diwali

Indians are known for being very fashionable and up-to-date on the newest trends. Thus, when celebrating the Festival of Lights, it’s a great opportunity to dress up in the newest trend. This means that you can do just that, dress up. However, when there is still time enough to order something special, checkout the latest Bollywood designs and styles. Sure, shararas and gararas are the only things in Indian traditional fashion that can never go out of fashion.


What to Wear at Diwali as a Woman

Most Indian women wear sarees. Only a few of them dress in kurtis, salwar kameez, anarkali suit or lehengas. It’s rare to see one of them wearing a head-to-toe western outfit. Non-Indian women wear something along the lines of a fancy dinner party or an upscale restaurant. Some wear traditional Indian clothes mixed with western items like a global trend inspired Indian embroidered blouse with skinnies outfit or wear a fancy panjeree. Once in a while, you see one in a saree.



women wearing ethnic clothes for the festival of lights
Women celebrating the festival of lights


fashion blogger in panjeree
Burgundy silk with gold hand painted embellishment panjeree, Very Fine Dance Sport Shoes sandals



young dancers in traditional gowns
Another region’s traditional dance presented by young Fairbanksans in bold color lehengas and sherwani



What to Wear at Diwali as a Man

At Diwali parties in college towns, most men wear casual party outfits. However, you can see Indian men or men married with an Indian woman wearing everything from a plain western jeans and shirt look over Indo Western outfits to traditional Indian looks from various regions. You can see men in sherwani, kurta pajamas or a Jodhpuri suit, and occasionally a Nehru jacket.


Indian man in embellished turquoise schewani golden pants
Indian man in shewani



a young couple and older woman in traditional clothes from the sub continent
My friends and I in traditional clothing



When in Doubt, Wear Something New

It’s a tradition to wear something new. Doing so is related to Diwali indicating the beginning of a new year. Thus, you don’t want to wear something that has old (painful) memories of the past. In other words dressing in new clothing has some symbolic. It’s a nice gesture to commemorate this tradition when you attend Diwali. When you follow my blog already for a while, this tradition once stressed me out what to wear for Diwali. I had nothing new and my friends expected me to attend in traditional clothing.


Stylist tip: You can wear festive western attire as well.



Be Creative to Make It Work (DIY)

Sarees are always appropriate. Use an A-line maxi skirt as base to wrap the saree. There are many youTube videos illustrating how to wrap a saree. When you are invited you most likely can ask your friend to help you.

Alternatively, you can easily buy 6 yards of sari fabric and hem the sides. When you can’t sew a blouse, wear a cropped top or halftee underneath.

Finally, accessorize with multiple necklaces and bangles. Make two big arm parties of pieces (favorably in gold hues) that match with the outfit.


Nicole of High Latitude Style donning a royal blue sari at the Fairbanks Diwali party
Wearing a saree with a haftee. I styled the look with a statement belt and ethnic style jewelry. I added my metal bag – a find on a market in Morocco in the late 1980s.




Can I Wear Black on Diwali?

Diwali is about fun and happiness. Therefore, would it be inappropriate to wear black, which is associated with mourning in many western cultures? Diwali is a special, auspicious event. Black is a special festive color. Go for traditional wear, if possible.


Stylist’s tip: Black is the most suitable color to wear on Diwali.


style blogger in black sequin embroidered saree with accessories
Munaz style wrapped embroidered saree accessorized with Indian style belt, pendant necklace, short necklace, three multi-color bangles on each wrist, multi-color earrings


two women wearing sarees
Women in embroidered sarees



Where Can I Buy Indian Outfits?

Browse thrift stores. They often have ethnic clothing around these traditional holidays. Also you can find great pieces in stores specialized in Asian products of all kinds. StyleWe is a site where young designers sell their collections. Occasionally, there are Indian/Bollywood inspired clothes. The advantage is that these pieces can be worn beyond Diwali.


Don’t let the right outfit be a random thing. Learn what to wear when with my style recipe book How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy my book now.


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Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2022 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Love the way you style the sarees- so beautiful!

  2. Wow! Such exquisite and ornate outfits. Truly beautiful xo