Two girls placing oil lamps on the roof of their house to illuminate it on the on the occasion of Diwali, November 1956.

Happy Deepavali!

(Source: photodivision.gov.in)

Her eyes speak of innocence… her bindi expresses her charm. Shingar made from the best ingredients in colours to match your every mood. Advertisement in Eve’s Annual, 1978. 

To finish up with the 1980s, a look at liquid kumkum that was probably last used extensively in the 1980s. Certainly Shingar, now more than 50 years old as a brand, has never updated its packaging which featured an early 1980s Swaroop Sampat (pic 1).

Apart from cylindrical bottles with different coloured liquids (Shingar came in more than one colour) you also had the carousel sort of container (pic 2). Patterns like in pic 2 could be easily created with a set of liquids.

By the 1990s the stick on bindi packets were the bindis of choice. The liquids are still around but like powders before them they have had their day.

(Source: vintageindianclothing)

A speciality are her shawls handprinted to match both sarees and ‘salwar kameez’ outfit. Nalini’s creations are both practical and colourful, and suit all age groups. Fashion Industry Survey, 1990.

While sari emporiums and showrooms like Nalli and Kala Niketan have been around since the mid 20th century, designer sarees and Indian wear boutiques seem like a trend that started in the 1980s.

Nalini Sarees was set up in the mid 1970s but the 1980s seem to have been a boom period for the store. Elsewhere there were stores like Shilpi, Bandhej and brands that started life at Hauz Khaz (e.g. Ogaan). Generally almost all had a craft revival tag. 

Plus there was Ensemble and Rohit Khosla. And Shahab Durazi's evening separates of 1989-I can't be sure of this but probably a first for Indian Western couture wear.

India’s unsung darzees and weavers of course remained:)

PostScript: This December 1982 cover also refers to the textile strike of 1982 which marked the end of Mumbai’s mills.

(Source: nalinisarees.com)

While the boutique-owners kept the aesthetic aspect but dismissed veiling as an old-fashioned custom, the villagers dismissed the lehnga and bodice as old-fashioned, but maintained veiling. Fashion Fables of an Urban Village, Clothing Matters, Emma Tarlo.

For Kamaladevi the regeneration of India’s craft traditions was part of a regeneration of the aesthetic life…..Pupul's vision was different. For her crafts and hand-weaves were an endangered species to be sought out and cultivated. Of a Certain Age, Gopal Gandhi.

"Never wear Japanese costume if you talk broken English"- Okakura Tenshin to his son travelling abroad.

What constitutes “Indian” or “traditional’ clothing was much discussed at least since the last decades of the 19th century.  So the maharani in a French chiffon sari felt it as much Indian as Amrita Shergil dismissing such “queer tastes” for hand woven saris.  That cloth itself is traditional - natural in a country with a long and rich history of weaving - is seen in the Swadeshi movement, the rise of khadi in the decades before independence, the prescribed clothing for our political classes or in the artistic costumes of Santiniketan and Kalakshetra. By and large though, up until the 1960s, for the upper middle classes new materials like chiffons and nylons were coveted but employed in Indian styles and drapes.

By the 1980s the polyester explosion meant that such styles were accessible to everyone and were in the process of supplanting the coarse woven cottons most of India’s poor wore. India’s upper middle class now gravitated towards “ethnic chic” (a somewhat contradictory term apparently coined by Indian journos) thus reinforcing social hierarchy.  Though Handloom House and State Emporiums had existed for awhile - craft revival having been a state policy since the 1950s - the 1980s was a period where every other city boutique had traditional weaves.  The sari drape was no longer as casual as the 1970s, Smita Patil’s look in Umbartha was a typical 1980s drape with the pleats/folds bunched at the shoulder. Often weaves and embroideries crossed paths. A mirrorwork blouse was matched with a Bengal sari or a leheriya dupatta with chikankari salwar-kameez.  

Apart from the weaves, the rustic-urban look was coveted.  Tarlo’s book details the contradictions of Hauz-Khas where in the late 1980s village clothes were sold in a village setting for urban consumers. Shisha (mirrorwork) and “oxidised” silver tribal jewellery were both popular amongst upper middle class women. And of course artists - any art house movie from the period is likely to feature both.  Apart from the round bindi which became ubiquitous in this decade, painted design bindis were common. All of these as the extract from Tarlo’s book shows were in the process of being discarded by villagers who were more likely to covet symbols of modernity like a polyester sari, a bra, a shiny stick-on bindi or a cardigan.

The commoditisation of the weave, the rustic and the tribal was natural in a decade which started with the Festival of India (Pupul Jayakar, referred to in the quotes, was behind the festival).  Partly there is a hierarchy of tastes at work. But I also find it hard to be negative about it, it is also part of a history of Indian aesthetics which constantly shifts but is also coherent. There is after all not a huge gap between the weaves and some of the elements of decoration of the 1980s and say the Lepakshi paintings.

In the pics: 1) Rekha in 1972 playing a servant girl, 2) In 1982’s Vijeta she plays a middle class woman wearing a similar Maharashtrian handloom and khann blouse 3) Supriya Pathak wearing a silver tribal necklace and handloom sari 4) Smita Patil in a handloom sari - contrast coloured woven blouses were common 5) Vagadia Rabari girl in 1985 - her blouse has heavy shisha work and 6) Rekha in 1987’s Pyar ki Jeet wearing a shisha work jacket and oxidised silver.

PostScript: Emma Tarlo returned to Hauz Khas in 1993 and found the peasant and tribal trends of the 1980s as well as new forms of historical elite dress like Mughal inspired brocades (along with black lycra). From there to Devdas (2002) and Bollywoodised forms of the ‘elite dress” as “traditional India” was a natural progression.

(Source: vintageindianclothing)

eros-dikaios said: ’80s clothing was so aggressively ugly, hate it so much tbh. ’90s was even worse though in a way because in the ’80s there was at least some creativity.

I did see some mind blowingly ugly fashion when I was doing the 70s but the 1980s is a very meh decade for sure.  It did have a handloom resurgence though into which you can read all kinds of things. And of course Rekha in the 1980s was a big fashion influencer, her look is quite singular and imo can be attractive. So it wasn’t as bad as the 1980s in the West:)

The 1990s on the other hand..the decade Indian fashion died.

eros-dikaios said: unpopular opinion but i don’t like a lot of ’70s fashion either. The earlier ’70s were ok and i don’t mind the printed nylons + plain blouses (they can be quite cute, sometimes the prints were ugly) but really dislike the ‘disco’ aesthetic.

You are not alone, raising my hand as someone not in love with the 1970s - though when I do posts I set aside my personal biases :).

risforrini said: no comment on the aesthetic of ’80s indian fashion, but i do like that this decade popularized the kurta churidar for women/made it possible for me to wear it regularly when visiting relatives in mysore, because i utterly flop at wearing the sari. :c

Oh absolutely. From being a North Indian fashion that was worn now and then, it was reinvented in this decade in a manner that had a broad appeal. And they had everything on offer from those typical 80s ensembles to simple woven cotton ones like the ones still around in FabIndia. Which is why I featured it.

This generation will be most familiar with the popularity of Marina Khan’s wardrobe from Tanhaiyyan, another brilliant serial by Moin. The colour-contrasted patchwork shalwar kameezes that Marina Khan was seen wearing became all the rage throughout the ’80s. From Dawn.

Before there was Zindagi Gulzar Hai there was Tanhaiyaan and Dhoop Kinare. The Pakistani TV serials of the 1980s reinvented the salwar-kameez with colour blocking, pockets, epaulettes and the likes. The dupatta was often reduced to a strip, almost like a scarf draped over a shoulder or inserted into an epaulette. These serials were available in India through video stores and variants of the salwar-kameez styles in the serials were one part of the wide variety of styles available in India then.

1981-1990: The churidar/salwar - kameez.

One day, a lady walked in after a dance class in a short sari and that’s when an idea struck me. I approached the weaver and gave her the specifications for a salwar set. What came out of this, was the concept of a handloom salwar kurta and duppatta. In a sense, we introduced it to the rest of the country. After this there was no looking back. The most beautiful fabrics sold like hot cakes at an exhibition in Bombay. Women went crazy over the stunning south Indian weaves and duppattas. Arundhati Menon in The Hindu

This was the decade in which the churidar/salwar-kameez became ubiquitous for young women and by the end of the decade was in the process of replacing the saree as office and leisure wear. Apart from the many variations in existing styles, it became available as a “set” i.e. cloth to make the outfit plus the dupatta. For probably the first time the sets were mass produced. And in a departure from the past the dupattas had prints or woven patterns and matched the outfit. In a way they were abbreviated sarees as the many existing handloom weaves were modified (e.g. a “pallu” at the both ends of the dupatta) to provide a suitable dupatta. This also resulted in a more voluminous dupatta than earlier versions which tended to be light and gauze like. Pics 7 and 8 are probably the closest to the kind of sets produced by Arundhati Menon at Shilpi.  Another example would be this simple block print which would have had a matched dupatta.

In the pics: Farah (1), Sridevi (2, another example here), Deepti Naval (3 and 5), Padmini Kolhapure (4), Revathi (6), Supriya Pathak (7 and 8)

The Sari: 1981-1990

1988 - Garden Vareli For Garden Vareli, we reinterpreted the saree as a fashion garment. The campaign proved to be a platform for identifying future beauty queens – 3 consecutive Miss Indias (Namrata Shirodkar, Madhu Sapre and Aishwarya Rai).

The synthetic sari with motifs and styles tailored for the Indian market was around in the 1970s (X, X). But it more or less became ubiquitous and stylish in the 1980s - in fact by the late 80s instead of the coveted foreign sari it was the Indian version that was going abroad - before becoming so common by the end of the 1990s that every other Surat sweat shop was churning them out making it entirely unfashionable.  The materials are rarely as translucent as the 1970s, by and large they tended to be opaque. While Vimal was popular, it was Garden Vareli that was perceived to be more stylish until its decline which started as early as 1989 with the launch of its Miss Vareli range of salwar and churidar kameez which didn’t meet with the success of its saris.

More Garden ads here.

The Sari & Blouse: 1981-1990

The matching blouse piece - and I mean matched as in almost mimicking the sari - was the highlight of the 1980s.  Initially they were sold as separate pieces with the sari. Prints for saris remained popular - and were sometimes worn with plain blouses -  but the prints are more in line with old block prints than the bold florals of the 1970s. A little bit of the Air India uniform going mainstream you could say. 

Blouses cut from the same cloth were also common for other kinds of saris (e..g pics  4 and 6).

Also covered previously.

The women: Pics 1 and 6: Moushumi Chatterjee, Pic 2: Hema Malini, Pic 3: Deepti Naval (with Farooque Sheikh), Pic 4: Smita Patil, Pic 5: Jayalalithaa and Sivasankari (X), Pic 6: Rekha.

The 1980s Preview. 

The rise of the churidar-kurta, “ethnic chic” and more.

In the pic: Supriya Pathak.

Meena Kumari in the 1950s.


Whenever Devika Rani, a veritable doll, appeared on screen in perfect harmony with the incredibly innocent-looking Ashok Kumar, they elicited feelings of endearment from the audience. Harmless guile, coltish antics, incredibly hilarious romance—even people who normally liked bold, passionate love, both in life and on screen, couldn’t help being attracted to this soft, supple and gentle love and became particularly fond of the pair. Back then, Ashok Kumar was the ideal hero of school and college girls, and college boys, sporting loose, long-sleeved kurtas, roamed around singing: तू बन की चिड़िया, में बन का पंछी, बन बन बोलूं रे*…..[Saadat Hasan Manto on Ashok Kumar]

One of Hindi cinema’s most enduring performers, Ashok Kumar was born this day (13 October) in 1911. Seen here in the 1930s in swadeshi chic 
*you are a bird in the forest, I am a bird in the forest, we sing together in the forest (very roughly).

Whenever Devika Rani, a veritable doll, appeared on screen in perfect harmony with the incredibly innocent-looking Ashok Kumar, they elicited feelings of endearment from the audience. Harmless guile, coltish antics, incredibly hilarious romance—even people who normally liked bold, passionate love, both in life and on screen, couldn’t help being attracted to this soft, supple and gentle love and became particularly fond of the pair. Back then, Ashok Kumar was the ideal hero of school and college girls, and college boys, sporting loose, long-sleeved kurtas, roamed around singing: तू बन की चिड़िया, में बन का पंछी, बन बन बोलूं रे*…..[Saadat Hasan Manto on Ashok Kumar]

One of Hindi cinema’s most enduring performers, Ashok Kumar was born this day (13 October) in 1911. Seen here in the 1930s in swadeshi chic

*you are a bird in the forest, I am a bird in the forest, we sing together in the forest (very roughly).

(Reblogged from vintageindianclothing)

……..ascending, descending, coming and going, the swing captivates the hearts of men with its sinkings and risings. From the Karpuramanjari [X]

Karpuramanjari* (cluster of camphor) is a comic play and the only extant play in Prakrit (the writer of the play Rajasekhara quotes himself in the play as saying that “Sanskrit poems are harsh, but a Prakrit poem is very smooth”).  It goes into some poetic detail about the swing festival of spring, a somewhat new theme at the time.
*the name of the heroine of the play.
Pic: Jaipur, 1960, Festival of Swings. Brain Brake.

……..ascending, descending, coming and going, the swing captivates the hearts of men with its sinkings and risings. From the Karpuramanjari [X]

Karpuramanjari* (cluster of camphor) is a comic play and the only extant play in Prakrit (the writer of the play Rajasekhara quotes himself in the play as saying that “Sanskrit poems are harsh, but a Prakrit poem is very smooth”).  It goes into some poetic detail about the swing festival of spring, a somewhat new theme at the time.

*the name of the heroine of the play.

Pic: Jaipur, 1960, Festival of Swings. Brain Brake.

On a break.

Pic taken at Tirta Empul, Bali. Everyone dressed for a upacara (ceremony).

Essential components: kamen (sarong) generally ikat or batik, kebaya (lace jacket) and selendang (outer sash for kebaya, also generally the minimum requirement for entering a temple). The sabuk is a long broad cloth wound from the hips and around the torso over which the kebaya is worn. Also keeps the kamen in place. I think this has been replaced by a tube top these days though there must be some additional means for securing the kamen.

Ritual cloth is everywhere in Bali. Along with Indonesian terms for clothing like kain you also chance upon wastra (Sanskrit) and dastar (Persian) now and then.