Traditional Costumes of Manipur

Indians are good dressers that is not in doubt. However, there is something special about how people of the northeast choose to dress – for hundreds of years, the clothes they choose to wear are always so fashionable. This has given them a reputation across India of having impeccable taste.

Their current fashion sense is a blend of traditional and western tastes, but the designs remains as unique as ever. One of the states in the northeast is Manipur, also known as the ‘Bejewelled land’. 


It is also rich in aesthetic value and the clothes filled with artistic design. All of the iconic fashion wear in India comes from Manipuris, who have been wearing traditional clothes in style.


The Manipur style of clothing prioritizes functionality as well as comfort, so the dresses here are simple. From their sarees to the dresses for men, read on to find out what they are (you can even shop for Manipuri saree here on Stylecaret or physical stores).




This is a cloth that you can use as a shawl, since you can wrap it around your upper body. It does not look like the traditional textiles though, since it lacks bold motifs and bright colours. Instead, it uses soft pastel colours that give it great poise and appeal, while the fabric itself is a semi-transparent wide cloth. The result is apparel that has immense appeal and great craftsmanship.


The version that you can find nowadays is referred to as the Rani Phi, which is a fabric using different motifs, silk threads and modern dyes. You can also experiment with the fabric type and colours, as opposed to the traditional inaphi that used cotton.




These are similar to wrap skirts or sarongs, and are very long (their hem reaches the ankles). However, unlike many sarongs that you will normally find, phaneks are transparent.


They are hand woven using synthetic fabrics, or natural ones such as silk and cotton. You will also get them in block prints, stripes and flat colours. They will not have the usual saree motifs of flowers or bold designs. When you wear them with upper cloth or mini blouse, they are also considered as the northeast version of sarees.


Note that sarees in this region of India are very soft and light to the touch, following the fabric patterns of the other traditional wear of Manipur.


Mayek Naibi


This is similar to the Phanek, and it is usually worn during traditional functions and other special days. On its bottom, you will find very heavy embroidery work, and stud embellishments that have different patterns and designs. This is also a great outfit for bridal wear, as it allows you to flaunt sophistication through traditional wear.


Chin Phi and Lai Phi


You can add these to phanek wear, since they act as extensions. In fact, they are very popular picks for carnivals, weddings, or festivals in general. The Lai Phi is a white cloth that has yellow embroidery, while the Chi Phi is a blouse that you pair with a phanek that is heavily embroidered.




If you go to traditional Manipur weddings, it is highly likely that you will see this cloth as it is the hallmark of all traditional weddings in the region. It is a skirt worn by the bride and shaped in the form of a cylinder, then the bride will stitch the belt, her inner garments, and her blouse.


The skirt will usually come in green, pink or red colours, and it is heavily adorned with the motifs you normally see in sarees. The bride wears it with the inaphi, and a blouse that has very rich fabrics. The potloi itself has geometrical figures throughout its body, and has many adornments of beautiful stones, studs and sequins. The bride will also wear rich jewellery and headband to complete the look.


As for the men, they have several picks too. These include:


Khamen Chapta/Dhoti-Pagri


The men of this region will usually wear dhotis and white kurtas. The dhoti they wear though, is slightly different from the regular dhoti types because it uses Bengali dhoti as inspiration. If the man is going for a special function, they will wear a turban or white pagri instead.


On the other hand, the Khamen Chapta is a limited wear because it was a ceremonial dhoti, and was only worn by the royals. Their designs usually have colour schemes of chocolate brown, deep red, and deep purple, which were printed on the silk cloth background.


Other clothes they would wear are the Zamphie, worn by warriors; and the Ningthoupee that was worn by the king.


The patterns of embroidery


Manipuri dresses usually have heavy embroidery that you do not see on other dresses from other parts of the country, this embroidery is also known as the Akoibi embroidery system, which makes the dresses stand out immediately. These patterns can have any of two designs – snake-like or circular, and they add a sense of elegance to the dresses.


Modern dresses


Manipur, like all regions of India, has gone through changes in its approach to fashion thanks to globalization and the internet. The spread of westernization and Christianity has also made the people more conscious about their fashion choices, so it is common to see skirts, jeans and jackets.


The traditional clothes have also gotten facelifts, such as modern inaphis being paired with trendy skirts today.


The art of weaving


All northern states in India have the skill of handloom weaving, and this applies to Manipur as well. In fact, many families have been weavers for generations.


While the handloom Manipuri fabrics have shifted in their popularity over the years, there is a resurgence in demand today. Many weaving processes are carried out by the women, and they will mainly use cotton, as well as other fabric types like kabrang.


Final thoughts


Manipur, just like its northern neighbour states, is a significant part in terms of the fashion approaches of India itself because of the iconic apparel it has.


This is a sponsored feature.


See Pictures of

1 Textiles of Manipur

2 Saris of Sualkuchi Assam

3 Craft Centres of Arunachal Pradesh

4 IMA Market Imphal or All Women market

5 People of Manipur showcases their clothing

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