Post marriage attire for women in Nepal

I was talking to one of my good friends on Skype recently. She is happily married with a 4 years old daughter. We have been friends for a long time but as she lives in Nepal and I live here, talking to her is always a treat. Every time we have a conversation we share our personal life and feelings.

I knew she hasn’t been very happy about a few things after her marriage. But recently I found her really happy and alive. I commented to her how glad I was to see her so happy. She told me she is happy because now she is free to wear what she wants. She said she is feeling better about herself now that she has control over her life.

Right then it struck to me that for the first few years after her wedding, she was wearing only Sari and Kurta. So here I am writing about the marriage attire for women in Nepal after marriage.

I have never lived outside of Kathmandu in Nepal. Both my parents are originally from Kathmandu so whatever I am going to write will most probably be the view of city life in Nepal.

In Nepal, for a long time, girls have freedom to wear what they want. I am not talking about low cut short skimpy dress but still they are allowed to wear what they want to a certain extent. I have seen my mum’s photos from her school and college days where she was wearing bell-bottom pants or big floral print t-shirt or beautiful colourful dresses.. Normally people let their daughters wear what they want and these days fashion in Kathmandu is not far behind western cities. So every time I go back to Nepal, I am amazed to see girls wearing low cut dress, short shorts or boob tube dresses and tops. I remember when I was there even halter dresses were not popular. But these days there seems to be not much restriction on what you can wear.

But things turn 180 degrees once the same girl gets married. Let’s take an example of my friend. She was wearing whatever she wanted for the last 20+ years of her life but as soon as she was married, she was forced to wear only Kurta and Sari for 2 years after the wedding. She did want to wear pants and dresses but her MIL and her husband’s immediate family member were against it so she couldn’t do anything about it. It is like my daughter/sister can do anything but if the girl is my DIL or SIL then they have to be seen as a traditional Nepali woman. I know things have changed a lot in the last few years as most of the women work after the marriage as well so they have to wear a uniform or still wear pants as it is more comfortable. But at the same time I have seen many families that didn’t allow their daughter in-laws to wear what she wants but instead says “You are a daughter in law now so you must wear only traditional attire. What will the neighbours says if they see you in pants or dress!” What a double standard.

I know in Nepal not only the in-laws but your own family will expect you to change how you dress, like my mum expected from me once I was married, but I believe society should accept the newlywed woman even if she prefers to wear pants or any other dress than just laying down a rule that married women must wear a Kurta or Sari. If she chooses to wear Sari and Kurta , let her but don’t make it compulsory. I love wearing Sari and Kurta on occasions as I feel very feminine in them but I can’t wear them everyday. For me it is not practical.

I have a cousin who got married recently and changed her dressing style completely after the wedding. I believe it is all expected from you and if you want no conflicts with your new family, girls just follow the rules.

So the normal accepted attire for women after wedding in Nepal are Kurta and Sari with Sindoor(vermilion) on their head, glass chura(glass bangles) on their hands and pote (Glass beads) around their neck. My mum thought I would be wearing pote and chura after the wedding even here in Sydney. The first time I Skyped with her after our return to Sydney, post wedding, she suggested to me that I should either wear chura or pote now onwards. I told her I do wear them when I am wearing Sari or Kurta but I can’t wear them with my pants and dresses. I am sure she is not very happy about it but she does understand my point and hasn’t said anything after that. My MIL on the other hand has never mention anything close to this yet and  I am very glad because I can’t be blunt with her, like I can with my mum, about my reasons for not wearing them here. But the best thing is that she is very understanding.

After the wedding I stayed with my in-laws for 10 days before leaving for our honeymoon. On those 10 days I wore only sari. Mostly it was my choice as I was having fun being a new bride and loving my saris and also it was expected that a woman to look certain way once they are married.

I am not sure how things will be when I go to Nepal again. To start with, I have to live with my in-laws most of the time. I will be visiting my parents but will be expected to spend more time in my husband’s house. So there will be the problem like what I will be allowed to wear or what is accepted of me.

Here in Australia, I wear whatever I want. I haven’t changed my dressing style after my wedding so I am not sure what I am going to do when I go to Nepal. I am sure I can’t wear shorts and short dresses. Normally I used to wear pants with a not too tight t-shirt but I am not sure what will be expected of me. May be I will just wait for now and worry about it when I book my next flight to Kathmandu. But thinking about it sometimes gives me a headache.

I believe that woman should still have the freedom to choose what they want to wear after getting marriage just like before marriage. I am sure we won’t dress like teenagers when we are in our mid 20s. Otherwise if society forces women to dress in a certain way then it might make them unhappy, like my friend, which will affect the relationship with the in-laws. I hope this will change soon so a woman doesn’t feel obligated to do things she really doesn’t want to. I know society changes according to time so I hope Nepali society will change in this aspect soon and will not differentiate between married women and single women in terms of clothing.

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26 responses to “Post marriage attire for women in Nepal

  1. Yes, I agree. I really like your blog and your cultural insights on Nepal. I have been to Nepal twice now and I really love it. I think I will be back many times! Are you living in Nepal?

    • I think so many cultures in Nepal were started by male to have control over woman. Some things are definitely due for change. I am living in Sydney Australia but will be going to Nepal at the end of this year 🙂

  2. While I think the Sari and Kurta are beautiful, I agree with you whole heartedly that women should be free to wear what makes them comfortable. I don’t believe it is right for others to impose such rules. I often take it for granted that I live in a society that allows such freedoms, but when I visit places such as Nepal, it serves as a reminder that women in other parts of the world do not have the same rights and freedom! Thank you for the cultural insight and for speaking about your beliefs on the subject! Great post!

    • Thank you Jenny. I think society have double standard. One for man and other for woman. It is always sad to see woman being manipulated by society in the name of tradition and culture.

  3. I love sari and Kurta as well but I don’t want to be obligated to wear them.
    What do you wear normally when you are in Nepal?

    • Normally I m wear western style. Sometimes if we go to friends ( most older peoples) the I m wear Kurta. Just if I want.
      Till now never I worn a asari. I don’t know how can I wear, and my better half isent a help….hahahahah

  4. Difficult topic.
    When I was last time with my better half in his village in Khotang, just I saw women in tratitional chlothes. In Kathmandu outside from the central city, for exemple in Basundhara 99% woman wearing sari or kurta. In Thamel lot of woman wearing western style.

    I know nepali society is different, but why have to wearing traditional style only woman after her married? I think its a long way till is emancipation for woman and man.
    But I can understand you doupt in relation with the parents of you hushband.
    If I m in Nepal together with my boyfriends family nowbody expects to wearing sari or kurta for me.
    If they would expects that for me, then I would a big problem.
    I like traditional clothes too, but I want to make my decsision by myself, when I want wearing.
    But let me say……..woman look like so nice in sari and kurta…

  5. I am excited about things like sindoor, pote and chura.. and like you said, sari excites me now because I seldom wear it. Even occasions come up pretty rarely where I would get to adorn myself in a sari, but you are so right about the newly wed/DIL perspective. They expect women to suddenly subside even in behaviour not only in dressing. It is like shutting off a woman’s character. It is not only ridiculous but its also biased. We never find men changing anything! I would also say its about mentality of a crowd. You go back to a rural village, wearing a tight fitting kurta or skinny jeans would be offensive 😐

    When are you going back to Nepal M? and why ?

    • I know it is always women who are expected to change and men never have to.

      I am sure you will look gorgeous in sari with pote, sindoor and chura.

      I am not planning to go back any time soon but I was thinking what I have to do when I do one day.

  6. Enlightening and fascinating post, and thank you for sharing. This is such a different culture, and as a feminist, have my view of things. Bottom line is I like to support the right of other women to make their own choices, even if the choices aren’t ones I’d make.

    While we have no issues with dress here, gender discrimination still exists. We have a presidential candidate who dropped out (Bachmann) and the staffer for another suggested it was inappropriate for a woman to run for office. How ridiculous. So we work for change here still.

    In the end, I hope it works out for you exactly the way you wish it to work.

    • Everywhere in the world, it looks like man tries to proverb that they are superior to woman. The worst part is that many women support these men. (How sad!!)

      I am bit scared about my situation as I am not sure what to expect. I have super understanding in-laws but they live in a society where there are many expectations from DIL/SIL.

      • I can imagine. Do you know of any women who have followed a different path there, and if so, how did it work for her/them?

        • One of my cousins is very lucky as she got the most wonderful MIL who treats her as her own daughter and allows her to do what she wants which includes what she has freedom of wearing what she wants. So she is still wearing the same clothes she used to wear before marriage.
          The funny thing is she is getting lot of pressure from her maternal grandparents and maternal uncles and aunties to change her style. They are saying “Just because your MIL law is ok doesn’t mean it is ok in society for you to dress like that”. So far she hasn’t listen and she has been married for more than a year now. I believe everyone knows by now that she will not listen to them so they have stopped bothering her. I support her fully for taking control of the life but it is not easy as this for everyone.

    • I am a Man and i disagree with you on this. Reason Bachmann dropped out was, she was not capable enough to get enough votes to win. Hilary Clinton, or Sarah Palin would not have got enough hype had they not been women. Everywhere, priorities are given to female and not male. BTW there are 50% (or slightly more than 50%) female voters in America, what has stopped them to elect a female leader.

      Truth is more men advocate for women’s right compared to women. Women are hypocrites when it comes to equality. They talk all day about how they should be equal as men and at the end of the day they want their male partners to be more capable, dominating, stronger, higher income than them. Its always a double standard.

      Don’t, get me wrong, I view women as no different than men, its just the double standard by women that I hate.

      • American politic aside (as I am not expert on it), I think there are still lots of discrimination for female in this world. I want the world to see woman as equal. I don’t want priorities for women (I think that is discrimination) .Just treat women as a person with same rights, responsibilities and with respect .That is all I am asking for. Doctor is a doctor, male or female shouldn’t matter but I often hear the term Lady doctor and Woman pilot. The worst part is women are still underpaid in the same job doing the same hours and same work.

        No matter how hard women tried to be independent and hardworking, society (which includes both male and female) always demoralised her in every possible opportunity. For example it is classified CRUEL if a mother goes back to work after a month of having a baby but most of the time father will go back to work much sooner and still there is no problem. How come these mothers are branded unkind and unloving and career focused while male has free pass to be loving dad .

        There may be some women who have double standard but men are equally responsible in this society to create the discrimination against women.

        • Well why do you see whole bunch of girls in Nursing school and not in Engineering school? Its not just someone else discriminating against girls/women all the time. Lot of times its about how women view themselves. Its about how they make their career choices.

          Certain things are given by nature. Like only women are able to give birth to a child. So its obvious that they need some extra rest plus they have some extra responsibilities for the child until certain age. Well if both husband and wife can afford to quit work and stay home, then its fine, but most of the time they can’t afford that.

          I understand that there is discrimination in developing countries like Nepal. But why do women chose to be ‘not-equal’ to their opposites even in Developed countries like Australia or USA? For example, I was joking with my girlfriend the other day that maybe she should go to my home and ask for my hand for marriage instead of me doing it to her. She didn’t even like the joke and said, “Some things are better just the way they are.” So I guess this double standard will continue to exist.

        • Btw, my original reply was for nelle’s comment on American politics and not the dressing habit you were talking about.

        • I think women are still not very confident in developed country yet so I know what you mean. But society plays a great role on making women think that they are not capable yet to do lots of things.

          I liked the idea of girl’s family asking a hand in marriage instead of boy’s family :). I have to admit, you are very open minded.

          Even though mine is love marriage, there was this ceremony conducted before the wedding when our family got introduced for the first time. In that event, his family asked my hand in marriage just as a ritual from my parents. Imagine both families horrified expression if I was asking for his hand instead.

          I know it is not suitable in Nepal in that context yet (I will love to see that change in Nepal) but still I hate it that women are the one who have to leave her house to go and live with her husband’s family .It changes her life upside down while men normally have very few changes in their life even after being married.

        • nice post!
          but I totally agree with nepalidwag!!
          some things are in women’s “DNA” that define the way they live. No matter where a woman comes from, a level of insecurity is always there.

          A friend of mine (native Austrian), left her job, career, and country and went to china for a year, only bcuz her boyfriend found a wonderful job there. This kind of typical sacrifice looks marvelous only if done from the part of woman and in most cases, by nature, woman can do it for her man and for her family. (regardless of the nationality and society).
          Likewise, it looks much beautiful, graceful, and respectful by nature, if a new mother keeps her baby into top most priority than any other business. (even animals do the same, so i consider, it’s God’s will).

          As the blogger mentioned that she was in saari for 10 days after her wedding cuz it was “funlike”. That means it was her choice. All women make their own choice, make their destiny and draw a way towards their own destiny.
          More precisely, in an advanced society of Kathmandu, I don’t believe in discrimination, unless You yourself being a woman admit it, accept it, have a guilt consciousness, and keep dwelling on it!!

          • Thank you for reading my blog. no matter how much we disagree , there are definitely discrimination against women in our society.If you go to villages in Nepal, we will be able to see that openly and most of the time, women has no choice but live with it. If a woman want to do anything with her wish, that is fine but sometimes they are forced into the situation which is what I am against.

  7. Gabby and I have nominated you for “The Genuine Blogger Award” 🙂 Congrats! Hugs, Gabby and Autumn

  8. I like to see Sari as an attire, but it seems to be disappearing fast from the daily life. It has become ornamental only for special occasions.

    • Sari is attire in most South Asian country and in Nepal it is national dress. I may not be the right person to say this as I haven’t been wearing it everyday but it is not easy to wear. I am not comfortable wearing it especially if I have to run or do something in hurry, it tends to get in the way. Even my mum who is wearing Sari for 30+ years, says that she is more comfortable in Kurta than in Sari. I am sure sari is here to stay but I was just making a point that it shouldn’t be compulsory. Women need to have freedom to pick. 🙂 . In Nepal , still more than 50% of women were Sari everyday .

  9. What a cultural insight!!! Women are suppressed in too many countries, we are entitled to freedom too. You are such an inspiration!!
    Andrea xoxo

    • I believe Nepali people are really forward in many things especially in city but then there are few things like this which I wanted them to change. Things are lot better than before but still more changes are required .Thanks for dropping by Andrea,

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