This post was last updated on December 30th, 2020

“Traditional fashion doesn’t mean to wash off like ashes in a bonfire. But to make the flame stay and burn brighter – our culture alive!”

Do we agree or do we agree? Most of us put on jeans, t-shirts, skirts, joggers, maxi dresses, shorts, whatever! But how do you feel all decked-up at an Indian marriage? Like a prince or a princess!? That Indian ethnic attire has a consequential value in the society that sets you apart. “Let the Indian-ness show! Life is just too short to blend in.”

Traditional clothing of India is a cultural identity and we have plenty! One of these is Ladakhi dresses. Made to protect Ladakhis from harsh weather, the dresses speaks volumes.

Here are the traditional dresses of Ladakh that reflect the centuries-old rich culture and tradition.

1. Goncha and Sulma – Traditional Ladkahi Dress

Commonly known as ‘Kos’ in Ladakh, the Goncha dress is a coat-like robe but is massive to wear. Available in black, burgundy, grey, and earthy tones, Goncha is worn by men of Ladakh. It is made with a combination of velvet, cotton, polyester, and of course, wool to protect from the chill. People of Ladakh wear silk, brocade, and velvet Gonchas during weddings or special occasions, which are imported from Nepal and Bhutan. Skerag, a waistband, made of thick fabric is also worn.

Man and Woman wear Goncha and Sulma

On the other hand, married Ladakhi ladies wear Sulma. This traditional dress of Ladakh is bright in color and is made of brocade, silk, or velvet. Bright colored Skerag is tied around the waist. Sulma is stitched in such a way that it almost looks like a ball gown. It can be paired with a cotton, nylon, or silk blouse. It is a not-so-fitted dress with poofy sleeves.

The local government of Ladakh has made it compulsory for government employees to wear the traditional dresses of Ladakh once a week to preserve the culture of Ladakh.

2. Kos Kar – Nomads wear

Semi-nomadic people living near the Chinese border are called Changpas. It is a tribe in Ladakh that boats different traditions, costumes, and dialects. They can be easily differentiated from the rest because of Kos Kar. It is made of sheep wool and skin turned inside out and protects from severe weather conditions.

Kos Kar (Changpa nomads clothing)

Changpas collect pashmina goats. The world-famous pashmina wool is used to make shawls and other clothing wear. This wool is not used by Changpas and is only exported as raw material to Kashmir.

3. Yogar and Lokpa – Traditional Cape

You must have seen Superman’s and Batman’s cape in your childhood, but nothing matches this traditional cape of Ladakh. Yogar and Lokpa are square in shape and are worn by women around their shoulders.

Yogar and Lokpa a cap for men and women

While Yogar is embroidered with cotton or brocade with rainbow tassels and sheep wool, Lokpa is only created using sheepskin. It helps women with warmth and acts as a cushion to carry heavy loads on the back. Bok, a designer Yogar can also be worn during special occasions.

4. Pabu – Ladakhi Footwear

Shoes, shoes, shoes! You can never have too many! And Ladkahi shoes are incredible. They not only keep your feet warm but are also a fashion statement. These shoes are so unique, something you have seen before.

Pabu - Ladakhi Footwear

Pabu’s are pointy at the toe and are painted with thikma stripes called thikma pabu. The insole is made with jute and the outsole with yak or buffalo’s skin. They are made using Thima fabric, and a dye on wool with a maroon base and colors like black, white, blue, and mustard are used.

5. Tipi – the Hat

Tipi is a traditional hat of Ladakh worn by people of the Buddhist community on special events. People wear this hat on the top portion of the head and a part of the hair is exposed. Tipi or Tibi is made of brocade and can be worn as a statement fashion piece. Women of Ladakh wear bright colored hats while men usually stick to maroon or go monochrome.

Tipi or Tibi Ladakhi Hat

Keeping our Indian traditions alive. One dress at a time!

India has evolved and so does our traditional wear. Even though these beautiful traditional dresses of Ladakh are now just a matter of festivals and performances, people in Ladakh take pride in wearing them. It is their way to pay respects to their ancestors. Which one would you wear?