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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Why is the Indian Sari an all-weather gear? Clothing insulation of Sari, Salwar-Kurti, Pancha, Lungi, and Dhoti


Barring a few reports on the clothing insulation of sari and salwar-Kurti, little is known about the other traditional ensembles men use in South Asia and beyond. To accurately account for the thermal insulation on the human body, simulation studies necessitate insulation on various body parts. This study reports the segmental level insulation of 52 traditional ensembles of both genders recorded in a climate chamber.


Indian garments are worn as ensembles. We focused on the drape, as traditional ensembles offer great opportunities for thermal adaptation through changing drape. We researched on 41 sari ensembles, four salwar-kurti and seven men’s’ ensembles, such as dhoti, pancha and lungi. More than the material, drape has a significant effect on the clothing insulation. For the same pieces of garments, the clo value of the ensemble varied by as much as 3.1 to 32 %, through changing drape in saris, the lower values being associated with lighter saris. A similar trend but somewhat lower variation was noticed in men’s’ ensembles. This makes the sari an all weather ensemble. Interestingly in the pancha ensemble, men can achieve 47% reduction in the clo value with minor variations. The adaptation possibility in traditional ensembles is enormous.

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