North east region of India consists of the seven states- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura- famous by the name of 'seven sisters'. Along with the scenic beauty of northeastern India, its traditional ethnic clothes represent the true spirit of India. Although Indian sarees, lehengas and salwar kameez are the most widely worn dresses in almost whole of India, the vibrant and bright traditional clothing of the people of North East India, in fact, gives an identity to the Asian fashion worldwide. Here is a brief account of women's traditional costumes of each of the seven states of north east India.
Traditional Dresses of Arunachal PradeshThe traditional women dresses of Arunachal Pradesh have vibrant colors and myriad patterns that instantly give a feel of their tribe culture. There are many tribes here and each have a distinct pattern of clothing. The women of Buddhist Monpas tribe wear a jacket above a sleeveless chemise which is tied to their waists with a lengthy and narrow strip of cloth in a rounded manner. They wear a lots of fashion accessories- silver rings, earrings cut from bamboo-bits decorated with beads or turquoises. The women of Hill Miris tribe wear attractive crinoline made from cane rings which does the function of a blouse. The women of Sherdukpen tribe wear a collarless and sleeveless robe like garment that stretches from the shoulders to the knees. They also wear a full-sleeved embroidered jacket and a waist cloth which is known as 'Mushaiks', worn above the robe.
A Naga tribe called Tangsa also lives in Arunachal Pradesh. Women of this tribe wear a very attractive woven petticoat and a linen blouse. They look like the ancient replica of modern Indian skirts and shirts. The Miji women wear an ankle-long white cloak and accessorize it withbig-sized silver earrings and necklaces.
Traditional Dresses of AssamAssam is well known for its gorgeous Assam silk sarees that include Muga sarees and Pat sarees. These handloom sarees are the perfect bridal wear having gold and silver threads embellishment. However, the more traditional dress of Assamese women is the Mekhla Chador- the three piece clothing set which resembles the half saree of South India. It consists of a long skirt type petticoat and a long piece of cloth like saree but not as long as a sari. The finely woven Chador or Chaddar is used just like the pallu part of saree by wrapping it round the Mekhla or the embellished petticoat. A matching blouse accompanies Mekhla Chador. On the occasion of marriages, the brides of Assam also wear 'Riha' or a short cloth like scarves which is mainly used for tying the knot with the bridegroom's shawl during the wedding rituals.
There are many tribes in Assam too. The women of Dimasa tribe wear a skirt-like clothing which is called 'Rigu' and an embellished vest-like attire called 'Rijamphai', sometimes also known as 'Rikhaosa'. A Thai Phake tribal woman wears a striped girdle- the 'Chin' that stretches from waist down to the ankles. She also uses ' Chairchin', a cloth belt to encircle her waist. She wraps her upper body with a long stripped cloth called 'Fanangwait'. The short version of this is worn by the young girls which is known as 'Fafek.' They also wear multicolored blouse called 'Chekhamchum.' Many jewelery accompany these traditional costumes of Assam which include Khopo Phool- an earring having looks of an orchid; Gaam Kharu- a gold polished large-sized silver bangle; Lokaporo- gold or ruby or mina or enamel-plated earring with bird figures; Jethi Poti- a wide band of cloth decorated with tiny medallions and a pendant at the center- they give The women of Assam a decent and beautiful appearance.
Traditional Dresses of ManipurThe easy to wear traditional dress of Manipur consists of a shawl known as Innaphi, a wrap around cloth Phanek and a stiff skirt type clothing called sarong. The Phanek is usually worn with a blouse and an upper cloth which is worn like a mini saree. With the spread of Christianity here, the young Manipuri girls like to wear jeans and tops or shirts. However, they also wear the modified versions of their traditional attire. For example, the Innaphis worn by Manipuri women are much similar to the modern wrap around skirt. The women of Manipur wear different clothes at different festivals. For example, on the occasion of Rasa Leela festivals, they wear the Potlois and Kumins. Koks an Phurits etc. are worn during the dance based festivals. Different tribes of Manipur have their own distinctive dresses like Lmaphie, Saijounba, Ningthoupee and Phiranji. The dress called oirang Phi' is worn like as a saree by many women across India.
Traditional Dresses of MeghalayaMeghalaya is the home to the three famous hill tribes of India- Khasi, Jaintias and Garos . The traditional costume of Garo women consists of Jainsen, which is an unstitched garment woven from mulberry silk and wrapped around the body. The splendid Endi silk shawls are one of their costumes which is liked all over India for their finesse and warmth. In rural areas, the Garo women drape a short cloth around their waists which is called the 'Eking'. When they go out of their homes, they use its longer version. A Garo woman also wears blouse and an unstitched 'lungi' like cloth which is known as 'Dakmanda.' It is fastened around the waist. It has a six to ten inch broad borders decorated with attractive motifs or floral patterns.
The traditional costume of the Khasi women consists of a Jainsen which touches the ankles and a blouse above that. A khasi woman ties the edges of 'tap-moh khlieh' which is a checkered cotton shawl, round her neck or pin it up at the shoulders. It performs as an apron. On festive occasions, she also wears 'Ka Jainsem Dhara'- a long piece of Assam Muga silk. A senior khasi woman wear a strip of woolen cloth called 'Jainkup'.
The women of Jaintia tribe wears a velvet blouse along with a sarong called 'Thoh Khyrwang' which is wrapped around the waist. A long Assam Muga silk cloth is tied round shoulders which flows down to the ankles. A Jaintia woman covers her head with a head accessory which is a cloth-piece with checks called 'Kyrshah'. Women of all the tribes of Meghalaya love to wear ornaments made of gold and silver.
Traditional Dresses of MizoramThere are many traditional dresses of Mizo women. The most favorite and common among them is the Puan, which is veru similar to a Churidar Kurta with three pieces- a legging, a top clothing and a head cloth which resembles dupattas. On the occasion of weddings and other festivals, the Mizo women wear 'Puanchei'. It has many varieties such as `Chapchar Kut`, `Mim Kut` and `Pawl Kut`. Puanchei has two parts- a straight long skirt type clothing and a shirt or top that is worn above it. They are traditionally bright in color with checkered patterns. The headdress, worn during dances, is the most attractive feature of this Mizo Lusei dress. This headgear is made of a coronal which is built from brass and colored cane. There are porcupine quills on this head dress and upper edges of these quills are added with green wing-feathers of the common parrot. Some very attractive blouses are also worn by the women of Mizoram such as Kawrchei and Ngotekherh. They are usually worn along with `Puanchei` while performing various Mizo dances.
Traditional Dresses of NagalandThe traditional shawls are the most prominent as well as popular traditional clothing of Nagaland. The women of Aos clan of Nagaland wear a skirt- one and a quarter metre long. Around 2/3 of the skirt length is draped around the waist and the outer edge is used for securing the dress. These skirts are of varied types and differ according to villages and clans. Some of the popular types of Ao skirts include Azu jangnup su- with red and yellow-black stripes; Ngami su- the fish tail skirt; and Yongzujangau- the cucumber seed skirt which is woven in red threads on a black base. The women of Angami clan mostly wear a plain blue cloth and a white cloth with black marginal bands of varying breadth . They can also be seen in men`s garment. Casually, these Angami women wear a petticoat called neikhro, a sleeveless top called vatchi, and a white skirt called pfemhou. The vibrant colors and patterns are the distinctive characteristics of the Naga women's clothing.
Traditional Dresses of TripuraThe women of the tribes of Tripura like those of Khakloo, the Halam, the Lushei and the Kuki-Chin tribes are excellent weavers which also reflect in the clothing that they wear. The women of Tripura, more particularly of the Khakloo tribe wear 'Rinai' which is a very long and broad piece of cloth draped around the waist and which reaches the knees. A comparatively short cloth called 'Risa' is for upper body which contains beautiful embroidery. More recently, the young Tripura women like to wear blouses in place of Risa but on the occasion of weddings, it is mandatory for them to wear Risa. These women of Tripura also love to wear different fashion accessories, particularly beads and coin strands around their necks.
The women of the Lushei tribe wear a dark blue cotton fabric similar to a skirt or petticoat. It is wrapped around the waist and is held securely by a corset of brass wire or string. The traditional costumes of the Kuki-Chin women contain patterns which look like the hide of snakes. These dresses are known by different names like Thangang, Saipi-khup, Ponmongvom, and Khamtang. Historically these clothes were worn by women of aristocratic families.