Salwars are pleated at the waist and held up by a drawstring or an elastic belt. The pants can be wide and baggy, or they can be quite narrow and made of fabric cut on the bias. In the latter case,they are known as churidars. The kameez is usually cut straight and flat; older kameez use traditional cuts, as shown in the illustration; modern kameez are more likely to have European-inspired set-in sleeves. The tailor's taste and skill are usually displayed not in the overall cut, but in the shape of the neckline and the decoration of the kameez.
When women wear the salwar kameez, they usually wear a long scarf or shawl called a dupatta around the head or neck. For Muslim women, the dupatta is a less stringent alternative to the chador or burqa (see hijab and purdah). For Hindu women (especially those from northern India, where the salwar kameez is most popular), the dupatta is useful when the head must be covered, as in a temple or the presence of elders. For other women, the dupatta is simply a stylish accessory that can be worn over one shoulder or draped around the chest and over both shoulders.
Modern versions of the feminine salwar kameez can be much less modest than traditional versions. The kameez may be cut with a plunging neckline, sewn in diaphanous fabrics, or styled in sleeveless or cap-sleeve designs. The kameez side seams may be split high up to the waistline and, it may be worn with the salwar slung low on the hips. When women wear semi-transparent kameez (mostly as a party dress), they wear a choli or a cropped camisole underneath it.
The Shalwar kameez is sometimes known as "Punjabi suit," in Britain and Canada. In Britain, especially during the last two decades, the garment has been transformed from an everyday garment worn by immigrant South Asian women from the Punjab region to one with mainstream, and even high-fashion, appeal.