What to wear: Mumbai

Some of these will not apply to you if you are a man. Also, I am tall, pale, fair-haired and busty; and my suggestions are coloured by that. You may be more or less sensitive to staring than I am; but I’d preface all of the below by saying a) you are likely to be stared at, and b) India is a highly conservative country.  Cultural considerations aside; Mumbai is hot, dirty, and crowded.

In no particular order:

  • a lightweight, fairly voluminous scarf. Useful for covering up cleavage, covering your head, putting between you and a dirty seat, and generally as a bit of a security blanket. You don’t really want pure cotton as it will get too damp. Something polycotton would be ideal. I have bought a few nice scarves from the Indian site Done By None (prompt COD service in India).
  • Flat shoes. Many pairs of flat or low-heeled shoes, especially sandals. They should have soles and heels with a little grip. If I see a woman wearing high heels in Mumbai, I know she’s only walking to meet her driver. You’ll be more comfortable in something that breathes a little, whether because of holes or fabric. Pavement (where it exists) is bumpy. Streets are dusty (or wet). There is a lot of shit.
  • A long skirt, or long pants. I don’t wear anything that isn’t below the knee. If you fit standard sizes, you can buy pants or shalwar kameez easily and cheaply once you get here. Make sure you don’t buy a sari petticoat and wear it as a skirt (tip from this article at Enjoying India, which has a lot of other good advice).  I often wear a long polycotton knit skirt. Maxi skirts in general can be more comfortable than pants when it is very hot and humid.
  • Sunglasses. Sunglasses help you to avoid eye contact. Sometimes, leaving harassment out of it, you just want to hide a little. Sunglasses (ideally reflective) help.
  • Loose, long tunic tops. 
  • Dri-fit or other wicking fabric tops. (Even if buying something from Nike smites at your former student activist heart). Mumbai is sweaty. I find cotton t-shirts a bit damp, especially if I am at the gym or working out at home.
  • Bras. Particularly if you are an unusual size, stock up before you come. Not a huge range here, and ordering things online from overseas is likely to mean a visit to customs to retrieve the parcel (if you are lucky enough that it actually appears).
  • A light raincoat or poncho, if you will be here during monsoon. Particularly on crowded streets, umbrellas can be a bit of a hassle to manage. Or bring a small umbrella. You will need one with you all the time if you are here during monsoon.

What not to wear:

  • Anything tight, sleeveless, strappy, or above the knee. 
  • Anything so delicate it can’t survive a stain or a wash.
  • This should be obvious, but anything that, shall we say, co-opts sincerely held religious beliefs into kitsch. Leave your Krishna t-shirts at home.

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