Indian culture is more modest and conservative compared to other countries; wearing a bikini is less common and not always approved by society.
However, there are exceptions to the rule, and with modern-day online shopping, more Indian women are trying out their first bikinis.
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History of the Bikini
To understand the significance of the bikini, we have to look at its history.
The bikini was first created in 1946 by French designer Jacques Heim and became available in the United States in 1947. At first, Americas were shocked by such a scandalous piece of clothing, and wearing bikinis in public was even outlawed in certain cities.
In 1953 actress Brigitte Bardot wore a bikini to the Cannes Film Festival, and the style became more popular.
In 1961, an American ad for a weight loss salon coined the term ‘bikini body’, where only certain fit, ‘attractive’ bodies should wear a bikini, and for those who didn’t have this body, it was something to achieve and aspire to.
From the 1960s on, the bikini quickly became a popular item in many countries, with swimming pools and beaches full of women wearing bikinis.
Find modern bikinis here.
The Bikini in Bollywood
The first actress to wear a bikini in India was star Sharmila Tagore in 1967 in the film An Evening in Paris. All though society was shocked, there were no public protests.
Other Bollywood actresses soon followed, wearing their bikinis, and today, many actresses dawn a bikini as another part of their costume.
All though many Indians watch these films, very few wear a bikini themselves in regular life and such actresses are seen as not following a life of modesty or virtue.
Social Norms in India
India in comparison to other countries is much more modest and conservative. As young girls, women are conditioned to dress ‘appropriately’ and that their virtue is tied to their modesty.
Women’s character and ability are often judged by what they wear and are chastised if what they are wearing is too risque or skimpy.
In a sexually repressed nation, women are blamed for encouraging sexual attention while men and boys are rarely held accountable for objectifying woman and their clothing.
Learn more about Indian clothing norms.
There are no written rules regarding what to wear, but many Western style clothing are not accepted and are seen as immoral in India.
India has its definition of the perfect ‘bikini body’ which entails a fit, slim body that is a lighter shade. Achieving lighter skin is a cultural practice for many women, with many different products available that promise to lighten your skin.
Find more Indian clothes here.
All though there is no official dress code, there are unspoken cultural and societal boundaries and values in India. Both men and women generally wear modest clothing that covers much of their bodies, including for sports and swimming.
Learn more about common clothes worn in India.
Learn more about Indian fashion.
So Do Indian Women Wear Bikinis?
Progress is still being made today. A small group of Indian women are starting to wear bikinis on holidays, at resorts, and in their homes. For some, it is about embracing their body as it is, curves, shade, stretch marks, and all.
For others, it is about not letting conservative voices dictate what they wear. It is an act of rebellion against body shaming and against conforming to oppressive cultural norms.
Online shopping and the diversity of brands has made it easier and more accessible for the woman to look at bikinis online. They have the freedom to comfortably and discreetly purchase bikinis from the privacy of their own home.
Learn whether you can wear bikinis in other countries.
Can I Wear A Bikini In India?
Wear your bikini if you chose to, however, be aware of the morality policing within Indian society and the unwanted judgment, attention, and even harassment you might receive.
In some areas such as Gao, society is much more progressive and many women are wearing bikinis on their beaches while other areas such as Panjim remain very conservative and restricted in what they wear.
Find bikinis here.
What Can I Do?
You can understand that India’s culture may be very different than your own but still respect their ways. You can also be aware of what areas are more progressive and more used to women wearing bikinis.
What Should I Not Do?
Don’t stare or take pictures of others that wear a bikini, regardless of their body type, scars, or any other aspect. Wearing a bikini should be a celebration of one’s body, and in an ideal world, everyone would support a show of self-expression and confidence.
What Precautions Should I Take While Traveling There?
The best thing you can do beforehand is to research beaches that are around more progressive areas and have a lot of tourists.
For other more conservative areas, see what others are wearing on the beach first to judge if wearing a bikini is common or not.
If you do decide to wear a bikini, be aware that others may stare at you (in shock or judgment) and you may have people taking pictures of you or even making harsh comments.
When in doubt, bring a coverup or clothes to wear over so you can change if need be.
Check out other travel tips here.
What Are My Options For Beachwear?
There are a variety of different options for beachwear depending on your comfort level and location.
Check out these beachwear brands.
If you do choose to wear a bikini, you still have a wide variety of options. For more coverage, opt for a high waist and a crop top style top. Also, make sure to bring a large hat or a cover-up for protection from the sun and in case you get too cold.
Take a look at these bikini options.
Slightly More Modest
For something slightly more modest than a bikini, try a one-piece bathing suit or a bikini top with a pair of shorts.
Try out these one-piece bathing suits.
For full coverage that won’t overheat you, try a maxi dress or summer romper. Pair with a cute pair of sandals and you are ready for the beach.
Check out these maxi dresses.
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