Nepal is a diverse country with different ethnic groups, castes, and religions. Each ethnic group has different outfits, cultures, and traditions depending on the geographic location and the lifestyle of their ancestors. For example, the Newars, Tamangs, and Gurungs have different traditional attires, but these are available only in certain parts of Nepal where the communities have lived.
The most common dresses, like the well-known daura suruwal, kurta suruwal, and sari, are outfits that can be found in regular clothing stores all over Nepal.
Daura suruwal is one of the more popular traditional Nepali attire for men. On occasion, it is also referred to as Labeda suruwal and is somewhat similar to the Indian kurta.
Daura is the upper shirt (or kurta), and it has no clasps or buttons. Its design also has religious connotations. The eight strings represent each one of the eight mother goddesses of the Hindu religion. The five folds in the garment fabric (Kallis) are said to represent Buddha’s five qualities and five wisdoms (Tathagatas). Then, the closed neck signifies the snake around Lord Shiva’s neck (Vasuki).
The suruwal part is generally a loose and baggy pair of trousers that fits tightly around the ankles and doesn’t have any religious annotations.
The Brahmin caste mainly wears daura suruwal due to its religious significance. This is also a favored outfit in Nepali marriages, ceremonies, festivities, and other special events.
Dhaka topi or kalo topi is a traditional headwear, part of the national clothing of Nepal, and it is usually paired with the above-mentioned daura suruwal. This topi means headgear and is named after the capital of Bangladesh – Dhaka, from where the raw material for the hats was imported in the past. The topi is viewed as a symbol of national unity and is widely worn in rituals, weddings, and funerals, regardless of the ethnic group.
Dhoti is a substitute for regular trousers worn by men living especially in the southern humid parts of Nepal. They need light comfortable clothing during the high temperatures of the Terai summer, so the dhoti is a long plain piece of fabric wrapped around the hips and tied around the waist.
Gunyo cholo is the most popular women’s dress in Nepal, corresponding to the female counterpart of daura suruwal for men. It is mainly used as an informal dress and consists of a cholo (top blouse) and a sari (skirt-like) accompanied by lots of jewelry.
As a tradition, the gunyo cholo is given to the girl when she’s turning seven or eight, signifying that she’s slowly becoming a woman. It is a typical ceremony held for many Nepalese girls around the country.
The sari is a popular dress of Nepalese women and is similar to the saris worn by Indian women. Sari is a favorite among the ladies and consists of a petticoat, a cropped blouse, and a sari draped around the waist and across the shoulder.
The sari is an elegant dress, often worn with precious jewelry and other ornaments. This is also one of the more standard apparell for festivities and formal occasions.
Perhaps the most widely worn casual wear for Nepalese women, the kurta suruwal is widely seen on the streets of Nepal and in shops. Nepali women wear this dress daily. It consists of loose pants cinched around the ankles, while the upper wear is a blouse made of silk or cotton, collared or collarless, and a draped large scarf as a sign of decency.