indian fashion image by Inhumane Productions from

The Punjabi suit, also known as a salwar kameez, is especially popular in Pakistan and northern India. Usually made of cotton or silk, salwar kameez is a comfortable alternative to the more formal sari. The suit consists of a salwar—a pant with an elastic or drawstring waistband—and a kameez, a hip or knee-length tunic. The salwar can be baggy, slim, straight or even loose in the thigh-to-knee area, then taper to the ankle. The kameez can have sleeves of any length and has an open seam from the waist to the hem on each side to facilitate movement.

The Salwar

Measure the waist and stomach while sitting and relaxed, and the hips and thighs where they are widest. Measure the rise--the total depth from the seat of a chair to the waist--while sitting. Measure the crotch length from the front of the waist through the crotch to the back of the waist. Measure the inseam from the ankle to the crotch, and the outseam from the waist to the ankle along the outside of the leg.

Draw a pattern for each piece on a large sheet of paper or a newspaper. Draw a horizontal line that is as long as half of the total waist or hip measurement, whichever is larger, plus 4 inches for seam allowances, which are usually 5/8 of an inch for each seam. If the front crotch measurement is different than the back crotch, slant your waistband line down slightly for either front or back, whichever is shorter. Draw a vertical line from the midpoint of the waistband line to the ankle as long as your outseam measurement plus 2 inches.

Draw another horizontal line at the bottom of the leg line. Mark the crotch seam by measuring down the center from the bottom waistband line the length of the rise measurement plus 1 inch. Draw the bottom of the crotch seam by drawing a straight line down the pattern perpendicular to the horizontal line as long as the widest part of the thigh plus 3 inches. Draw a curve from the outside of the thigh measurement line to the waistband line at the top of the drawstring casing. The crotch curve should be slightly fuller at the front or back, depending on which measurement is longer.

Draw the vertical inseam lines from the ends of the crotch seams to the line at the bottom of each leg. Taper the legs as desired from the crotch to the ankle, taking care to leave room in the thigh and knee area for freedom of movement.

Determine how much fabric is needed by measuring from the waist to the floor and adding an extra 8 inches for the drawstring casing at the waist and the hems at the bottom. If the pants will have an elastic waist, add 2 inches. Select fabric that is at least twice as wide as the largest torso (waist or hip) measurement plus at least 4 inches from selvage to selvage (the finished edges of the fabric). Buy enough fabric to accommodate the total distance from the waist to the ankle (either front or back, whichever is longer) plus an extra 8 inches.

Fold the fabric in half lengthwise with the right sides together. Pin the folded fabric together at the top and bottom corners. Pin the pattern to the fabric parallel to the edges of the pattern. Cut the fabric with pinking shears (scissors with zigzag notched blades) to prevent raveling or fraying of the fabric edges.

Pin the left and right front crotch seam edges together with the right side of the fabric together. Insert the pins 2 or 3 inches apart at right angles to the edges of the fabric.

Stitch each crotch-to-waist seam 5/8 inch inside the edge, using a standard machine stitch of 10 to 12 stitches per inch. Pin and stitch each outseam from waist to bottom of the leg. Leave a small opening at the top of the front seam to run the drawstring or elastic through its casing or leave the drawstring opening in one outseam to minimize bulkiness at the abdomen. Pin and stitch the front inseam to the back inseam starting from one leg bottom up through the crotch. Carefully feed the fabric through the sewing machine to avoid bunching. Continue sewing down the inseam from the crotch to the bottom of the other leg. Remove all pins.

Try on the salwar inside out. Mark and pin the leg hems and the elastic or drawstring casing at the waist. Mark and pin any adjustments. Remove the garment and finish stitching the hems, waistband casing and adjustment seams. Turn under the top of the waistband and fold the casing down on the inside and pin it in place. Thread the draw string or elastic through the waistband casing from the front- or side-seam opening,

The Kameez

Measure the length from the top of the shoulder to the desired length plus 3 inches for seam allowance and hem. Measure around the bust line or chest and add 2 inches for fullness and seam allowances. Measure the waist and hip widths plus 2 inches. Measure the shoulder-to-shoulder width across the back. Measure the desired sleeve width plus 1 1/2 inches for seam allowance. Measure the sleeve length from the top of the shoulder to the desired sleeve hem plus 2 inches.

Make a pattern for a T-tunic kameez with the pattern paper. Measure vertically down the top left corner of the paper to the shoulder-to-bottom length, and label it “A.” Draw a horizontal line from “A” that is one quarter as long as the hip or waist measurement (whichever is greater) plus seam and fullness allowances and label it “Line 1.” Measure horizontally across the top of the paper from the top left corner to a length half as long as the combination of the sleeve length plus hem and the shoulder width, and label it “B.” Draw a vertical line from “B” that is as long as the sleeve width plus seam allowance and label it “Line B.” Draw a horizontal line from the end of line B straight to the left edge of the page and label it “Line C.” Draw a vertical line straight up to the top of the page and label it “Line D.” Label the intersection of the two lines “Underarm.”

Erase the lines from the Underarm intersection to the top and from the Underarm to the left edge. A slight inward curve of line D at the waistline area will give a more fitted look and will flatter feminine waists. A curve from line C to line D instead of the angular intersection will give the Underarm area a looser fit. Measure the wearer’s head circumference and draw a curve or a “V” at the top left corner for the neck opening that will accommodate the wearer’s head. Cut out the pattern along the lines.

Purchase 60-inch wide fabric in a color or print that matches or coordinates with the fabric for the salwar. Purchase enough fabric to fit the measurement of the length of the tunic plus the seam and fullness allowances.

Fold the fabric in half. Pin the pattern to the fabric. Be sure that any border print of the fabric is in the desired places. Cut out the fabric, forming the front of the garment. Pin the pattern to the fold again being careful to line up any border prints to match the front panel. Cut out the pattern except for the neck opening, where you should cut a shallow curve. This is the back of the garment.

Pin the shoulder seams of the front and back together, with the fabric inside out. Stitch the shoulder seams. Pin and stitch the side seams starting at the sleeve ends and stitching through the Underarm down to the bottom hem. Hem the sleeves and the bottom edge. Turn the neck opening under and hem it. Finish the neck, sleeve ends and bottom with a strip of embroidered tape or other decorative trim.


Fabric can be 45, 54 or 60 inches wide. The 60-inch width is often the most economical choice. Wash and dry the fabric before cutting and sewing to ensure that it is preshrunk. If the fabric has a decorative print with a definite top and bottom, add extra inches to your measurement to accommodate the pattern of the print. Sewing patterns for workout pants or scrubs can be used for the salwar and patterns for tunics or scrub tops can be used for the kameez.


Cut and sew a mock-up of your garment out of inexpensive, light-colored plain fabric before cutting into more expensive material.

About the Author

Dee Shneiderman

Dee Shneiderman, former librarian and paralegal, has been writing for 40+ years. Published in Compute! Magazine, she helped found The Crescent Review literary magazine. Owner of Frugal-Foto Photography, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Master of Library Science and a North Carolina Truck Driver Training certificate.