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The dupatta scarf is one of the most highly decorated scarf types made of delicate materials and luxurious detailing. The length alone makes it breathable for movement, while allowing for easy pinning to create different looks. It’s more than just a square cloth, with both devout and sentimental meaning. In this article, we dive into the symbolism, design and styling of this diverse cut of fabric!


A brief history of the dupatta scarf

A dupatta is a traditional headscarf (usually worn over the shoulders), within Asian cultures including Indian, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Dupatta is a combination of two Sanskrit words which means two or double (du) and (patta), which means piece of clothing. The earliest remembrance can be dated back to Indus Valley civilization, when they were worn by both men and women. Males mostly wore their scarves to symbolize royalty and were mainly used to cover the upper body area. Over time, the dupatta scarf was geared more towards the seclusion of women within the social hierarchy. Majority of women not only covered their upper with a scarf, they rarely showcased bare legs. The delicate fabric has also been used as a way to show respect for elders within families, while keeping the look of modesty.

 They are also worn while attending religious and celebratory occasions, including weddings. Wives oftentimes wear veils over their faces for years and slowly relaxes their traditions and values, as they become more into the senior positions. Indian fashion, especially the dupatta is no longer seen as a strict traditional accessory, but has been more exposed to the stylish ways they can be worn, while still showing respect to the culture.

Kalamkari Dupatta from Telangana with Buddha Head

Different designs and fabrics of dupattas

The main materials that make up most dupatta scarves are linen, cotton, silk and chiffon. Many scarves have intricate prints and designs including floral, paisley and lines. They are also available in solid colors and tye-dye prints known as Laharia. The most popular printing technique used to create each pattern is block printing. This form of printing allows the fabric to have an embedded design that is sharp and precise. Using this form of printing also allows multiple colors to be printed on the same piece of fabric. This also allows for a scale of sizing when printing florals. Each scarf can be finished with mini flower prints or jumbo florals that are much larger in size. Each scarf design and print is bold in colors including royal blue, purples and green hues. Scarves are often finished at the hem with hanging tassels in matching or multi-colors.

Dupatta from Amritsar Embellished with Gota Patches on Border and Mirrors

Bandhej Dupatta is an elegant style often worn in the state of Rajasthan. This style incorporates embroidery made using a mirror work technique, meant to depict stories. Zarodazi art is also a form of design, specifically made for royal families and powerful religious commanders. Each thread is made of alloy in a silver and gold material, making the fabric more expensive.


Kalamkari dupattas use a different type of fabric and process, where the technique includes hand painting to create designs. There are three type of styles within the kalamkari art, karuppur kalamkari, masulipatnam kalamkari, and sri kalahasti kalamkari.

Dupatta from Gujarat with Brocaded Bootis

How Dupattas are fashionably styled today

Today, the dupatta is still worn during important events including weddings and is also worn as an everyday accessory. The scarf is usually wrapped around the head, covering the throat area as well. Oftentimes, women may pin their scarves in different ways. Since each piece of fabric was once 2 ½ meters and was shortened to 2 meters, the shorter length offers more movement Although they have been shortened, the Khara dupattas remain longer in length and are worn by Hyderabad women, while they are married. The dupatta of a bride is often heavily embellished. The price of a bridal dupatta can range between 100 and 1000 rupees. One of the most unexpected ways a dupatta can be worn is in velvet. Sabyasachi Mulkherjee is a

well-known fashion designer and creator of velvet dupattas specifically curated for items collected by a bride within her trousseau. When wearing a velvet dupatta, it can be very heavy, with light weight fabrics being the best choice for the base of an outfit.


Multicolor Embroidered Phulkari Dupatta from Punjab with Mirrors and Beaded Zari Border

Currently, it’s trendy to wear a dupatta over one arm, to showcase each intricate detail. Or, they can be worn to the side in a cowl style by pinning both ends together. They can be worn with jeans or a long, flared skirt. Matching top and bottom sets are also popular with added gold-tone jewelry. If the overall look is more casual, the dupatta can be worn by wrapping the fabric around the neck once, allowing it to drape open and adding a waist belt.

A dress that has a sweetheart or square neckline and a ruffle hem pairs well with flat slippers and chandelier earrings. To add a touch of romance, a sheer scarf with floral embellishments can be worn around the neck and shoulders.

Brocaded Dupatta from Banaras with Zari-Woven Flowers

An all-over white outfit with linen-style pants and a long tunic is the ideal relaxed look and can be paired with a blue dupatta that has geometric prints and patterns. Open-toe sandals in a thong design are the best fit for shoes. A more elegant look can be achieved by wearing a dupatta across your chest in a sache-like manner along with matching floral print pants and a cropped top (with lace details).

Brocaded Dupatta from Banaras with Marigold Flowers Weave in Zari Thread

Overall, the dupatta is a scarf that has deep rooted religious and cultural meaning. Within the more modern times, they have evolved to become an accessory that can be folded and pinned as an expression of personality and style. The light weight fabric is the main feature that allows an easy wearing experience. When heavier materials are used to create memorable wedding items, the historical passion shines through the most! The dupatta scarf will remain a wardrobe staple for women of all ages, as it continues to move with each moment in time.


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