A Glimpse at the History of Traditional Pakistani Dresses – Shireen Lakdawala
Skip to content

A Glimpse at the History of Traditional Pakistani Dresses

Culture and fashion are essential in each country's history and civilisation. Both are intricately linked in Pakistan. We've put up this quick tutorial to help you understand Pakistani fashion.

The history of Pakistani clothing is colourful and fascinating. This history provides a terrific learning experience and explains all you need to know about why Pakistani fashion is where it is now. As you can see, this fashion history in Pakistan depicts the culture, philosophies, and development of the Pakistani people throughout time.


According to historical finds, Pakistani dresses date back over 7,000 years to the Bronze Age. During the Indus Valley Civilization period, cotton was initially farmed circa 3,000 BC in the Indus River Valley, which is now present-day Pakistan.

Pakistan's geostrategic position also influenced its fashion and culture. The nation is bounded on the east by India, on the west by Iran, on the northwest by Afghanistan, on the northeast by China, and on the south by the Arabian Sea. Throughout history, the Pak country has been a vital link for commerce and civilisation. However, this has also made it a preferred invasion path for other governments throughout the years.

Various foreign civilisations have invaded, occupied, and settled in Pakistan, including Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Aryans, Dravidians, Greeks, White Huns, and various Eurasian tribes, among others. In addition, religious issues have influenced fashion choices in Pakistan. This has meant the nation's marriage of different cultures, with fashion mostly a mix of Afghan and Persian features. This cultural mingling, as well as religious connotations, explains why Pakistani clothing seems strange.


Until the end of the 13th century, the Doab was under constant Mongol domination. In the 16th century, the Mughals acquired authority and governed most of India and Pakistan. As early as 1303, the area (present-day Pakistan) was sacked. The Mughals (who were Turkic-Mongol Muslims) established Islam in South Asia. But, in addition to propagating their religion, the Mughals also propagated Persian arts and culture. Today, the bulk of Pakistani attire blends traditional and Mughal traditions, demonstrating this cultural impact.

The Mughal period in South Asia is possibly the single most significant era in Pakistani fashion history. This may be observed in current Pakistani clothes ranging from the Pakistani Shalwar Kameez, the national garment, to the lehenga, turban, churidar pyjamas, and so on. Many of these clothes may be traced back to the Mughal Empire. However, they have developed through time.


The Shalwar Kameez was brought to the Indo-Pak subcontinent with the entrance of Muslims into South Asia in the 12th century. When the Mughals took control of the province in the 16th century, the clothing, along with various other elements of Persian art and culture, had infiltrated the region. The Anarkali Shalwar Kameez is the oldest known version of Shalwar Kameez.

Mujra dancers, courtesans who were often allowed into the Mughal palace to amuse the king with Mujra dance moves, were the first to wear the Anarkali. The outfit was initially known as the Mujra dress, but once Lady Anarkali (the famed Mughal courtesan) died, it was renamed after her. The Shalwar Kameez has withstood centuries of change and adaptation to remain the most popular choice of clothing for both men and women in Pakistan today. The Pakistani shalwar is long and straight, often worn with shalwar or churidar trousers.

Pakistani ladies wear them with a dupatta shawl as a head covering. The dress is comfortable and allows for maximum mobility. This comfort and easiness may explain why, after all these years, it has remained Pakistan's national dress.


Pakistan's social and political trajectory was considerably different at the start of the twentieth century. The Mughal Empire started to fall apart in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1858, the British had ousted Emperor Bahadur Shah II, the twentieth and last Mughal Emperor of India, officially ending the Mughal dynasty's rule.

From 1858 until 1947, when India and Pakistan gained independence, the British Raj dominated the Indian subcontinent. As predicted, these historical events influenced people's culture and attire. As of the twentieth century, the fashion choices in this region primarily reflect Indian cultures and customs.

Sarees, ghagras, and shalwars commanded the scene in the early 1900s. However, with separation and independence, the Pakistani fashion industry yearned for its own identity apart from its mostly Indian influence. Around the mid-twentieth century, Pakistani fashion grew more open and sophisticated. Dresses got shorter due to Western influence, and half-calf pants and bell bottoms became increasingly popular.

Long shirts grew increasingly popular at the close of the twentieth century.

However, at the end of the twentieth century, half sleeves were back in style, with ladies cutting their hair in bob cuts. Pakistani ladies today have their own distinct fashion identity. Wide-leg trousers, cigarette pants, jeans, and tights appeared alongside the traditional shalwar kameez. Modern Pakistani design represents the progressiveness, cultural subtleties, and variety of this 200 million-person nation. Pakistani ladies today have their own distinct fashion identity.

Thanks for subscribing!

This email has been registered!

Shop the look

Choose Options

Edit Option
Back In Stock Notification
this is just a warning


Shopping Cart
0 items