Cultural Dresses

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Cultural Dresses,
Published in Khyber.ORG on Monday, November 11 2002 (

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Cultural Dresses

Publishing Date: Monday, November 11 2002

Cotton and wool are the main material used in clothes and these are woven and dyed and made into garments by each family or group.

Women wear the Chadri or Burqa, which covers a woman from head to foot with a latticed slit for the eyes, is made of cotton in shades of blue, brown, black. In the rural parts, women working on the land dispense with this, but cover themselves in the presence of strangers with a shawl or chadar. The style of chadar varies from region to region, but typically it is a white shawl. The most shawl variation appears in Swabi where two different types are worn .. and all depends on which part of Swabi the women belongs to. The styles are red dots on white, green dots on yellow. The women near Pakistan's border wear long, full trousers, often red in colour, with a loose, long-sleeved tunic dress, rather like the kameez, together with a draped headscarf. This is the basis of many of the women's costumes and the tunic varies in length and design. In the northern areas striped material is used, often dyed red from madder or in shades of blue and brown. Loose sleeveless, hip-length jackets are worn in full-length striped coat for warmth. Although purdah is an essential part of Pashtun culture, purdah is not observed by young girls and old women.

A discinct clothing pattern is used by the Ghilzai and Kochis. The dresses are large skirt like gowns extending below the knees. These gowns are quite heavy to wear and are heavily embroidered. The gowns are accompanied with baggy trousers. Traditionally, this had been the normal dress for women but urbanization and change in lifestyles saw a shift towards other forms of clothing.

A shawl from Swabi

A variation of Burqa adopted in Punjab (Dera Ghazi Khan)

A qizilbash woman with her veil (James Rattray, 1842 Lithography)

A group of Kochi women with their traditional dresses.

The men wear a thigh-length or knee length, long-sleeved shirt which is belted at the waist with a skirt effect to the lower half. It is called the 'khat' or 'qamees'. A sleeveless waistcoat is worn over the shirt and there are loose fitting white trousers. The waistcoat is made typically of wool, and may have embroidery patterns.

Another form of dress that can be worn of top is the long-sleeved, ankle-length 'chupan'. This is a long coat made in wool, often white in colour and worn by in the winter season. The chupan is worn over loosely fitting jackets and trousers, or is wrapped round the body like a cloak. There is also a similar type of coat which is made in stripes of darkish colours.

The footwear or paizar also varies from region to region. Perhaps the most popular form is the Charsadda chapli. Hand-made in the small town of Charsadda, the foot-wear is not only used locally but exported world-wide. The typical chapli would be made of leather with a black or dark red tan. Traditional footwear for women is called "Kapayi" which are flat soled.

The Khat Partoog

A Waistcoat with golden laced embroidery

The chopan popularized by President Hamid Karzai

The Charsadda Chapli

The Panjaydar Chapli

The Kapayi for Women

In the winter, thick woolen, hand-knitted stockings are worn with leather boots. Children and adults wear sandals or a form of boot as protection against the rough mountainous ground or earth. The hide comes from the Yak, which is found throughout the highlands of central Asia. In the cities, the open toe sandals is very common and sometimes shoes with up-pointed toes are seen.

There are various forms of headgear which include the large turbans with a long end hanging down the back, neat around astrakhan hats, woolen knitted hats and large fur sheepskin hats.

Afghan men wear a variety of turbans, and the colours, material, length and style of tying changes from region to region. In fact it is possible to identify a pashtun by the type of turban he is wearing. The main variants of the turban are the lungee, patkay, shamla, and qola. The colors can range from brown, white, black, military green, grey, or light blue. Usually the colors are separated by a thin line of a gradient. The turban is seen as a sign of respect, and special care is taken in tying it, as well as its safe keeping. Turbans wore with a cap are called Kola and those whose one end flows over the left shoulder, and its other end is hidden in the layers is called a lungee. If the other end is also visible as a small structure over the head, this is called the shamla. A turban wore in an ad-hoc manner is a patkay.

Two turbans twined together

The jet black Kandahari turban

Different colours of Turbans identifying Ahmadzai Wazirs from Waziristan.

From Khost

Turban with Jalalabad style Kola

(Right) Turban wore by Nek Muhammad; a former militant commander, wearing a turban which is longer then the normal length. Longer length turbans are layered much closer together.

In some regions, the turban is replaced by more convenient forms of head coverings, for instance the Pakol, also known as the chitrali cap. It is a woollen cap worn by men, and appears mostly in white, black, shades of brown and gray. The patches of wool are called Chitrai Patti. The best chitrali pati are those from Garam Chashma, where the cloth is treated with extremely hot, naturally available water with high trace of sulphur. However, the cost of the process has opened up to other sources. The biggest center for Pakol outside Chitral is the chitrali bazar in Peshawar. The Pakol's rose to fame with the Afghan war against russians, when frequent pictures of the Tajik commander Ahmad Shah Masood appeared in media bearing the hat.

Different variants to the Pakol exist also. The most noticeable are the ones with peacock flumes and the Waziri pakol's. The peacock flumes are stuck into the folds and are usually worn by people from Gilgit Baltistan, and the Kalash tribes. While the original pakol has a flat leaf, the Waziri pakol's are more round and much wider. This style is indigenous to Waziristan only.

Pakol with peacock flume.

Men preparing Chitrali Pati at Garam Chashma, Chitral. The water used is naturally available hot springs and is extremely hot.

Cultural Dresses,
Published in Khyber.ORG on Monday, November 11 2002 (