India is one of the most vibrant, and exceptional places on the planet. One needs only to walk the streets of any major city, to catch a glimpse of this country’s joy de Vivre. And when it comes to cultural exports, this subcontinent does not lack. From the country’s culinary tradition to its incredible library of films. India is one of the most dominant cultural forces in the global sphere. This also extends to its clothing. India has a rich history of clothing innovation through fashion and formal wear. Along with its incredible history of fashion. India also holds the distinction of being one of the most fashion-forward places on the planet. This makes India unique in the fact that it has a firm eye on the future, without sacrificing its exaltation of the past. This is a topic that I find fascinating. So much so in fact, that I wanted to create this guide on some of the fun facts surrounding Indian clothing and dressmaking. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the qualities that make Indian clothing stand out from the rest!
1. Need Some Nehru?
When most people think of an Indian man in traditional dress. They picture a jacket with buttons and a specific kind of collar. This is a collar that has extra fabric, but not so much that it folds over. This is called a Nehru jacket. A Nehru jacket is typically used for more formal occasions, but there are casual examples as well. This jacket features a mandarin collar and has been in use since the late 40s when prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru came into power in India. This brought the Nehru jacket into the public consciousness in India, but what broke the garment globally; was its adoption by The Beatles and other psychedelic rock acts of the 60s. Because of this many young kids of the baby boomer generation found themselves rocking the Nehru jacket. Which in my opinion is pretty groovy!
2. Say Hello To The Saree
A saree is one of the most prominent kinds of Indian dresses. It consists of three pieces. The choli, the skirt, and the dupatta. The choli is what westerners would consider a blouse. You wear it as the top half of your saree and is usually more plain so that it provides an accent to the dupatta. The dupatta is the drapery piece of the saree. The dupatta is one larger piece of fabric that is meant to be draped over the entire rest of the outfit. This is usually the most ornate part of the dress due to it being the outermost layer of the dress. In a more modern style saree, the dupatta is pre-sewn. Giving the dress a more rigid look, yet a purposeful look. The last piece of the saree I want to mention is the skirt. This is a semi-ornate piece that is usually floor length. Many modern saree, like to play with the length of the skirt but traditionally it is longer. This interplay between tradition and innovation is what keeps the saree as a vital piece of women’s fashion.
3. The Anarkali Suit
The Anarkali suit, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting types of Indian fashion. The dress consists of a frontal frock-like blouse that delves seamlessly into the skirt. This northern Indian dress seems to take a lot of cues from traditional western dressmaking. It can be found in a variety of styles and lengths. But traditionally it is a floor-length skirt that is meant to be worn with heels. This is one of the more modern looks in India that still feels at home with most other kinds of formal wear.
The dress-making traditions of India, are some of the most varied and interesting on the planet. They stem from a long, incredible tradition of fabric weaving, and dying that dates back thousands of years. And when you see just some of the amazing and interesting looks that come from Indian clothing. It is easy to see why people have such profound respect for its craft. From the ornate and elegant saree, which has been in the public consciousness for centuries. To the Nehru jacket, which exudes quiet and secure masculinity. The clothing traditions of India are firmly in place. But the miraculous part of this tradition is that historical precedent is only half of the story. One only needs to look at both the modern street styles of the younger generation and the effortless elegance of the Anarkali suit to see that Indian fashion is still evolving. This makes the Indian fashion world a haven for creativity. As not only does the fashion world nurture its traditional methods. It nurtures innovation as well. To me, this is what makes Indian clothing so interesting, and what keeps it a dominating force in the fashion world!