Fashion in India is as ancient as human civilization. It has been interwoven with Indian’s rich culture, history and different regions. What we are seeing now is a collection of decades of knowledge passed on from generation to generation of different fashion trends that have evolved.
In ancient India, clothes were mainly made from locally grown cotton during the Indus Valley Civilization. People from the rich and affluent communities wore clothes -like the sari worn by women- made from imported silk, while the rest wore clothes made from local fabrics. Women wore knee-length skirts with bangles, necklaces, earrings anklets, rings etc. made from silver, copper, gold and stones like turquoise, quartz etc. The men draped on turbans on their heads while Kings and priest put on robes. Men also loved to adorn themselves with jewellery just like their women.
During the Vedic period, women wrapped themselves with a single cloth over their shoulder similar to clothes worn by the Iranian and Greek women. A lower pleated garment (paridhana) was wrapped around their waist with a belt (mekhala) and a shawl fabric the shoulders (uttariya). Pravana was the garment worn underneath during the cold seasons. Both men and women wore these clothes. The only difference was the size and style of wearing.
This era brought about stitching of garments which denoted royalty. Clothes could now be cut and sworn into beautiful garments. Women mostly went for the saree which was a long piece of cloth that women wrapped around their body. Later on, the Choli was introduced which was a blouse that covered the upper part of a woman’s body. The nobles and the courtiers had their own special costume which was a long sleeved brocaded tunic. The Kings donned on a blue block printed antiriya made of closely woven silk. The antiriya was draped around the men’s hips and between their legs. It then flowed from the waist down to the ankles.
During this era, men kept beautiful long curly hair which they decorated with a headgear. The women beautified their hair with jewelled hair bands, ringlets or chaplets of flowers or pearls. Weaving and embroidery became well known in this era. The saree or sari and muslin cloth were embroiled with gold or pearls that were worn by the rich and affluent in the society.
By the end of the dynasty eras, Indian fashion had gone through major changes that can still be seen in the fashion industry today.
During the Mughal Empire, the king Akbar influenced the way people dress with his distinct style of dressing. It was a combination of the Hindu and Muslim culture and arts. He dressed in a simple turban with a gemstone, a long kurta with a jacket which can be seen in the Sherwani designs. He donned fine jewellery in form of pearl strings, heavy rings that symbolized his royal status and an emerald embellished waistband.
His wife Jodha had exquisite taste in fashion from her royal attires like the lehenga choli to her fine taste in jewellery that still inspires bridal fashion designers today.
Post-independent Indian fashion
Indian fashion has evolved to leave a distinctive mark on the world of fashion throughout the world. Even the traditional clothes like the sari, ghagra choli or dhoti still remain popular in the modern fashion scene. Indian fashion is most famous for its intricate embroidery designs on the dresses, saris, skirts, shirts or shorts that have also incorporated western fashion. Ritu Kumar an Indian designer and textile print expert revived hand-block printing in Bengal where she used the zardozi embroidery – used in the Mughal era on royal costumes- on her garments.
This revived the embroidery art that has now become the trademark in Indian fashion, especially in designing wedding gowns. This paved way to NGO’s coming in to help revive the tie-dye, weaving, embroidery and printing techniques that had been long forgotten.
In the 1960s Bollywood became the trendsetter in fashion till to date. Later in the ‘50s, western culture was incorporated in Indian cinema that was displayed through the change of clothes worn by the actors/actresses. Indian fashion designers are now coming up with clothes that have a modern, chic and stylish look.
With the liberalization of the Indian economy, the Indian fashion industry has experienced tremendous growth both in the domestic market and internationally. Indian designs are now sort after in western countries than before. Some of the traditional clothes have been modernized to suit the modern market.
- The saree is the most loved and well-known Indian design. It is simple, elegant and can be worn by old and young women alike. A saree can be worn to different occasions from weddings, casual, formal, or traditional ceremonies.
- The kurti can be worn as a dress and accessorized with jewellery, a belt and flat shoes if you are going for a formal look or pair it with a lehenga to give it that stylish, sophisticated edge. There are different dresses with a modern design at stylecaret that you can check out.
- Lehenga is a beautiful skirt that is embroidered, printed and beaded to give you that elegant look whenever you wear it. When paired with a choli blouse, you get a chic outfit you can dress to any event.
- The sherwani jacket is embellished and embroidered to give you that authentic Indian look with a western touch. This is a favourite jacket loved by men.
- Pallazo pants are traditional Indian pants that have a flared bottom. Fashion designers have come up with different designs that give it that sophisticated look.
Indian fashion remains a force to reckon with in the fashion industry around the world. With its rich history and culture, Indian designs have stood the test of time and have evolved to take the fashion world by storm. Thanks to its unique patterns and high-quality material.
Even as the world changes and westernization spreads, the saree, kurti, lehenga and many others traditional Indian designs are still relevant and being worn.