Shalwar kameez is a traditional combination dress worn by women, and in some regions by men, in South Asia, and Central Asia.
Shalwars are trousers that are atypically wide at the waist but which narrow to a cuffed bottom. They are held up by a drawstring or elastic belt, which causes them to become pleated around the waist. The trousers can be wide and baggy, or they can be cut quite narrow, on the bias. Shalwars have been traditionally worn in a wide region which includes Eastern Europe, West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia. The kameez is a long shirt or tunic. The side seams are left open below the waist-line (the opening known as the chaak[note 1]), which gives the wearer greater freedom of movement. The kameez is usually cut straight and flat; older kameez use traditional cuts; modern kameez are more likely to have European-inspired set-in sleeves. The kameez may have a European-style collar, a Mandarin collar, or it may be collarless; in the latter case, its design as a women’s garment is similar to a kurta. The combination garment is sometimes called shalwar kurta, shalwar suit. When women wear the shalwar kameez, they wear a long scarf or shawl called a dupatta around the head or neck. In South Asia, the dupatta is also employed as a form of modesty—although it is made of delicate material, it obscures the upper body’s contours by passing over the shoulders. For Muslim women, the dupatta is a less stringent alternative to the burqa (see hijab); for Sikh and Hindu women, the dupatta is useful when the head must be covered, as in a temple or the presence of elders. Everywhere in South Asia, modern versions of the attire have evolved; the shalwars are worn lower down on the waist, the kameez have a shorter length, with higher splits, lower necklines, and backlines, and with cropped sleeves or without sleeves.