Womens Casual dresses from India, has undoubtedly become a strong factor contributing towards the apparel growth in the women sector. Casual dresses are currently high in demand in the export market, with fashion trends changing, mainly in Europe. Indian manufacturers for womens casual dresses seized upon the opportunity to the surge in demand and moved to low end models due to slow recovery of the global economic recession. This segment showed consistent performance, even though other products were on decline from India. In spite of the slow economy in US, their exports grew by 14.35% in the period January-April 2010. This has been attributed to certain key factors, such as the wide variety of fabrics available in India, design development capabilities of the Indian makers and the price levels of the dresses, especially for the Summer/Spring season. The shift in focus for low-end models was driven by the high rise in grey cotton prices, which saw an increase of nearly 40% in late 2009 and first few months of 2010 and to earn better profit margin. Besides, the slow recovery in terms of less demand still threatens the industry and makers are forced to positioning themselves towards low cost models.

This segment of the Indian apparel industry got a boost, when in April 2010; the government of India stopped the export of raw cotton, as it was ruining the domestic manufacturing. India is the worlds second-largest cotton grower and a major supplier to China. When the raw cotton prices rose by nearly 40%, Indian industry was impacted drastically). Now China, the worlds largest cotton user, faces an imminent cotton shortage. However, there are mixed reactions of manufacturers over this issue. Some players are of the opinion that the ban in April came in late as the summer/spring 2010-2011 orders had already been executed. They are also apprehensive about this measure taken by the government, which to them seems to be merely an eye wash but nonetheless, its implementation is still in the nascent stage and we can hope that the ban is expected to impact the garment industry in the coming months and makers anticipate that the prices of cotton may come down to the same level as it existed two years before.

The fabric base for womens casual dresses is mainly cotton, rayon, cambric, viscose, chiffon/georgette and polyester in vibrant prints of paisley, flowers, abstract designs, small prints, tie & dye etc. In response to the rising demand of low priced casual dresses, and in the face of new challenges, Indian manufacturers/exporters have opted for newer variety of fabric constructions, textures and blends. Instead of higher percentage of cotton, georgette/chiffon, the blended fabrics have higher percentage of polyester, viscose and rayon for example. These moves are aimed at creating more basics designs for big buyers with higher volumes. In some cases, if there is not much change in the fabric construction as the fall and cut of the dress is the most integral part for bias cuts and reversible designs in sheer fabrics, then makers manipulate with stitching details.

The designs of womens dresses in India are an amalgamation of fashion, designs (traditional and classic), quality and craftsmanship. The collections are more for the European taste, at present as most of the exporters are catering to this continent.

New designs for the casual range lays emphasis on ruffles and frills, smocking, tiers (layers), gathers and flared bottom part. Waist bands or drawstring on the waists have become an essential accentuation of the dresses, having varying width and carrying different embellishments or trims. Necklines are predominantly V shape, with strap shoulders, falling shoulders, halters etc. Empire line or the Princess line with flared sleeves are also quite popular. Some dresses have short puff sleeves but mostly the trend is for sleeveless cuts. Floral and bold prints are deeply penetrating the dress segment globally. Themes are more of romance, pretty look in rosy colors like pinks, yellow and beige, purple and the new denim look.

There are some makers, who are producing plain and basic dresses in cotton voile, cambric, viscose and polyester. Fabric construction is plain basic yarns, though the dresses carry trendy cuts, with spaghetti straps, drop shoulder, strapless, button down dresses, halters, scoop neckline, mini and mid thigh, banded waist, pleats, smocks and pin tucks.

Exporters like retailers have more advantage to raise prices for upscale and formal wear items as that involves more skilled design workmanship, higher value additions and richer fabric choices, which fetch better prices and higher profit margins for the type of work involved.

Makers in India are offering casual dresses for a price range of 4.0 to 20.0 $, mainly depending upon the style cuts, pattern designs, fabric choice and consumption and value additions. Dresses falling in the low-end slab of 4.0-6.0 $ are made in cotton blends, voile, viscose, rayon, knits, with short, knee lengths, sleeveless, strap shoulders, plain or prints, layered, frills, minimal embellishments; 6.0 -8.0 $ as the midrange category has dresses in cotton blends, polyester, voile, viscose, rayon, knits, short knee lengths, sleeveless, strap shoulders, V neckline, halters, round necks, plain or floral prints, multi tiered, frills, waist bands, crochet, embroidery, with some embellishments of bead and sequins and the 8.0-18.0-20.0 $ category offers dresses made of 100% cotton, viscose, poly chiffon/georgette, voile, viscose, knits 20s & 40s, floral/geometrics/tribal/animal/human figures prints, bias cut, A line, layered, reversible, multi tiered, frills, ruffles, smocks, pleats, pin tucks, short sleeves, sleeveless, halters, noodle strap, single shoulder strap, embroidery & embellishments. Women's casual dresses made in India are mainly hot and chic and romantic in themes. Embroideries and embellishments are little less in demand for casuals in the stated price slabs.

Price remains to be stable or may fall by 0% to 5% in the next few months, depending upon the effective implementation of the cotton ban of exports and good cotton crop, which is anticipated by the growers.

Suppliers are improving on design capability as the biggest focus of their R & D improvement. They are focused on print designs for exclusive models, such as Ikat prints, dots, full floral and haphazard floral, new techniques in cuts and patterns like pin tucks, ruffles, frills, pleats and bias and reversible cuts. In a move to face the stiff competition from other countries, many players have set up in house printing, stitching, embroidery and finishing units to carry out the manufacturing operations, at the same time ensuring good quality of the products.

The products reach out to global clientele in USA, Europe (both EU and non-EU countries), Canada, Japan, Australia and few Latin countries added in the list lately. North India, with Delhi & NCR regions and Jaipur is the leader among the manufacturing centers of garments, when it concerns the ladies wear. The complex workmanship used in these regions is unmatched and unbeatable in prices also. A single dress made in North India, can have multiple processes, including hand embroidery, ornamental work with studs, bead & sequin, patch work, stitch detailing, washes, over dyeing etc.

The forecast for the summer/spring 2011-2012 womens casual dresses is predicted to move in a positive note, as dresses will be the strongest category next season. Volumes are going up as international buyers believe in spending less for more volumes. Global warming has also shown its impact on apparel industry, as there is more demand for summer wear and womens summer wear dresses have received a high boost as a matter of fact. However, although the market is expanding, competition from neighbouring countries, environment issues and quality norms getting stringent, raw material prices are shooting up high, labour and power problems have become acute, which has forced the overall cost of garment to increase, affecting Indias competitiveness.Till yet, prices in US have not increased, only the value addition and quality has changed. To give heather look to a product by using fiber dyed heather-yarn, however the back up plan followed by many exporters is to use dyed poly cotton yarn, which can give the same look. Indian manufacturers are also working with brands which have global operations.

Suppliers are optimistic of good demand as well as control of cotton prices, accompanied with its smooth supply also. But, some of them have raised their fears over the rupee depreciation, rising inflation, poor infrastructure and competition from China in spite of the ban and other neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. These factors seem to still plague the garment industry as a whole.