The word `costume` refers to the dress patterns of the people of a particular community. We know that there are different costumes in different countries and nations. It is the costume of a community, which differentiates its people from others. The costumes of the people around the world are wide and varied. India alone has innumerable varieties of costumes. The people of the South of India are easily recognizable from those in the North. The people in the East and West of India have equally varied ways of dressing. However the four states in the South of India namely Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have a common way of dressing.
The people of Kerala are very simple. They are very moderately dressed. They cant be seen wearing tight jeans and top with all make up and different colors on their hair. They give importance in` being decently dressed`. To narrow down and discuss about the costumes of Kerala let us look at its history and culture. The main dress worn by the people of Kerala are mainly traditional in nature. The costumes are guided by the geographical conditions of the region. The traditional dress forms are the `mundu and neriathu`, which is worn by both men and women. The `mundum-neryathum is the extant form of the ancient saree. Women can also be seen wearing sari and blouse. The word `sari` is derived from the Sanskrit word `sati`, which means strip of cloth. In the `mundum neriyathum, the traditional piece is the `mundu` which forms the lower garment while `neriyathu` forms the upper garment. It consists of two pieces of cloth. The `mundu` is worn below the navel and around the hips. It is a hand woven cotton cloth.which is very comfortable during the summer. It is white or cream in color with a colored strip known as border or ` kara`. On going out, men wear `shirt and mundu` with a small `neriyathu` on their shoulder and smear sandal paste on their chests and brows. This gives them a dignified and royal look. In addition to this Muslim men wear a cap. They wear the `mundu` in a different style from that of Hindus and Christians.
Women also wear `mundu` in the same style of that of men except for the Christian women, the `mundu` is folded in fan-like multiple folds and this portion is hung at the back. On the top of the `mundu` women wear a special kind of blouse, which covers the navel. The `neriyathu`, is the upper garment worn over the blouse with its one end tucked inside the mundu and the remaining long end worn across the front torso. It is worn diagonally from along the right hips to the left shoulder resembling the saree. Both the `mundu and neriyathu` is starched before being draped and is worn with the blouse that matches the color of the border or `kara`. It was worn as an everyday costume and on festive occasions people used to wear it with an ornamental `kara` or border which is either golden, copper coated or artificial colored with peacock or temple designs. The color of the blouse is determined by the age and marital status of the woman. Young unmarried girls wear green blouse while married women wear red blouses. During the Keralite festival of Onam, women of all ages wear it and take part in the folk dance called `kaikottikali`.
The `mundum neriyathum` was the traditional costume of Kerala. Now it is becoming an old fashion and is worn by old women of Kerala. Today it is replaced by the `Set-sari`. It also resembles the `mundum neriyathum` with the only difference that it consists of a single piece of cloth. Now the `Set-sari` is worn by Keralite women as a quasi `mundum neriyathum` and known as the `Kerala saree`. Today women wear this sari only on festive occasions like Onam and Kerala day (November 1st).
Today saris are woven in mechanical looms and are made of artificial fibers as polyester, nylon or rayon, which do not require starching or ironing. Everyday costumes of men consist of `dhoti` or `lungi` with or without shirt. Women wear `lungi` with a breast band. Previously, women only wore one draped cloth and exposed their upper body.
With the changing trends in fashion and designing, the dress codes too have changed. The traditional style is disappearing among the people. Today men and women are clad in a variety of dresses. The people have now taken to the northern style of dressing. Men have taken to tea-shirts and trousers imitating Western fashion, which is more comfortable and suited for traveling. Women of all communities wear the North Indian style churidar. At home, both men and women wear revert to the traditional styles to cope with the hot climate and humidity.
Now a days, tradition has lost its value and is considered by the modern generation as an old fashion. People now are in search of `the new` and change according to the recent trends as seen in cinemas and movies. Of course, you have to change but never forget ones tradition and consider it a shame. Wherever you go, you have to uphold your tradition and consider it as a pride, which makes you a unique person, than considering it a shame.