Jnanadanandini Debi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore – the brother of famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore – is said to have sari fabric covering her bare breasts. Tagore is said to have actively encouraged his wife to adopt Western ideas.
The words “blouse” and “petticoat” – both English – entered the Indian vocabulary during the Victorian era. Blouses were also worn under sarees as part of high fashion, and these rather British innovations were considered traditional clothing.
Although it can be revealing, due to the cut that leaves the midriff bare, the sari blouse has long been considered elegant and associated with tradition.
In India, it is important for a woman to cover her body with a draped cloth here no matter what is underneath.
British influence grew over time. We see different types of shirts with varying sleeves and necklines.
Image copyright © British Library Council, Photo 1000/46(4641)
image captionAt the height of the Victorian era, British and Indian fashion looked remarkably alike
Unlike Britain, India n Didn’t have a written code of conduct or guidelines on what to wear What a blazing law. What is deemed suitable spreads by word of mouth.
So today’s hemlines—which no doubt feel like protecting women by stipulating what they should wear—are following in the footsteps of the political hegemons of yore.
Indian women are now more free to do what they want, at least in the cities, but we see dress codes developing and women being judged for what they wear. Some have even linked the clothes to rape.
These people don’t understand that ideas of modesty are constantly changing, that rape is not the result of what women wear, that’s what some men think.
Our clothes are our identities.
But what we think of as traditional Indian modesty might not be Indian at all, it seems.
Detail of studio portrait of Princess Sudhira, youngest daughter of Maharajah Cooch Behar. Taken in 1910.
Although Gayatri Devi is the most famous, the royals of Cooch Behar who preceded her had a unique style and many were often seen in their outfits which later became standard.
The sari here, for example, is draped much like the current 6-yard sari, although Bengali draping was common in the state around 1910.
The saree itself is a lightweight fabric, I tend to think of it as sheer chiffon, but I could be wrong. You will often see beaded/embroidered sarees (the very expensive kind) around this time. I don’t know the exact term, but chiffon dresses of this period were often beaded. As was common in the early 20th century, in some portraits Palu is pinned across the shoulders and draped over her head, although at least one shows the princess with her hair elegantly cropped.
This shirt has Edwardian detailing such as lapels and sleeve detailing (although the trim suggests Indian fabrics).
The jewelry was minimal, although the earrings fit what we say “statement”.
I have an anonymous question on tumblr as a previous question on wordpress which I will answer together here as they are somewhat related.
1. I see an early 19th century painting of women in blouses and saris. I always thought the shirt was by Jnanadanandini Devi?
I think some sort of shirt (and probably some sort of petticoat for ghaghra cholis and related clothing) was still there. Even the Ajanta paintings have some examples. This early 19th century painting is also an example:
But I think a formal chemise, often influenced by popular Victorian fashion, and petticoats with saris, was introduced to the West Indies and Bengal in the 1870s Some contemporary and later books refer to stores selling “jackets”, a term that differs from choli.
Dhurandhar designs from the early 20th century show different styles of shirting, from the native choli to the modified puff-sleeved choli, and more elaborate versions, apparently of Victorian origin, representing a variety of styles after the 1870s.
Overall, I think this saree blouse is round but not essential. Especially in the hotter regions of India, sarees will suffice. However, from the 1870s it became an important part of the dress code for educated women, if not all women.
1. A few months ago I asked Jnandanandini Devi for an introduction to the Brahmika (Brahmin woman) shawl for the Sisters of Saree.
The question is about the difference between the Brahmika drape and the classic Bengali drape and if the only difference is in the shoulder drapes.
At the time, I thought there was not much difference between early Bengali saree curtains and Brahmika sarees. But the question was on my mind and I have time to go for a walk during the weekend. Not much progress. While everyone agrees that the Brahmika cloth is new and inspired by the
Parsi/Gujarati cloth that Jnanadanandini saw in Mumbai of yore, the exact nature of the earlier cloth is unclear.
Instead, more emphasis is placed on the introduction of accessories such as blouses, petticoats, hair nets, etc., which help to make the saree a dress for bhadra (respectable) women. Still, there have been some changes, as there have been many comments that the curtains were messy and the previous curtains were unworthy.
The only clear reference I have found is in Rochona Majumdar’s book (Marriage and Modernity) where she mentions that the traditional style is the pallu (end of the sari) which is wrapped around the waist or hung from the front instead of the plissé of Brahmika yarn Korea. I don’t happen to find many photos from before 1870, except this one.
Rabindranatha Tagore’s mother is on the left (presumably old fashioned, though I’m not sure if Palu is tucked around the waist and shoulders).
On the right is a milkmaid from the 1840s, this drape is somewhat similar to the Brahmika style but without the pleats, just turned over.
The Parsi/Gujarati style seen above is the pallu seedha (straight) style with the saree tied on the right shoulder.
Brahmika/Bengali style on top. This style lines the edge of the sari in a way that mimics the seedha pallu (more evident in the photo to the left of the 1904 girl*), but the pallu is ultimately discarded and tied around the left shoulder. So it seems that the saree sisters are pleating and arranging the Brahmika sari sarees may be different (although some of the modern Bengali saree draping tutorials in
also have a small ruffle arrangement at the bottom part.
Also, the free end can be thrown over the right shoulder).
All About Bindi
The bindi/pottu/sindoor/tikli – whatever it is called – is probably the most iconic element of Indian dress and has a long history. It is symbolic (as a sign of marital status or caste) and is part of everyday ritual and decoration. Although there are several terms, I will use the term bindi in this article.
The Bindi (Kumkum/Sindoor) as a symbol of female marital status is known to most Indians.
This may vary by region and does not always involve hair parting, but it is part of Hindu temple weddings, festivals and ceremonies in almost all parts of the country. Its origins are unknown, but it may be a bloodstain marking the bride’s entry into a new family, which was replaced with kumkuma, a mixture of turmeric and extinguished lime. Not as commonly worn as it was decades ago, it is still part of ceremonies and is often used with decorative bindis.
Her friends apply refreshments to her: fresh lotus leaves, lotus root bracelets, sandalwood paste; they wave to him with flippers.
Decorative motifs for the face and body are found in abundance in the Sanskrit texts, some appearing quite elaborate as they begin at the level of the chest and flourish on the face. This practice is most common in the spring and summer
and the ingredients used are chilled in nature, with the onset of winter the dough is used minimally, if at all.
The designs are usually made of sandalwood, musk and/or saffron and are often referred to as पत्रवाली/patravali (garland of leaves/petals).
Cream sandal patterns combined with kumkuma and ash also indicate caste and sect, the latter sometimes being carried forward in males. For women, the use of sandalwood cream on the forehead is now reduced to dots or stripes, often worn with the forehead or as bridal adornment.
While sandalwood paste is used to make designs and used as lines/strips, turmeric is used as a strip on the forehead. Like sandals, it is decorative and cultural and used for skin care.
Fig. 1: Veena in Samrat Ashok (1946), Fig. 2: Portrait of a woman, 18th century, Fig. 3: Untitled B. Prabha (1960).
A little chalk, a little vermilion shone on his forehead, like the sun and the moon rising at the same time on the lotus leaves. In
Radha as consort, Harkh’nath.
The aforementioned designs of
continue in some respects such as the bridal designs on the forehead which can be seen in various parts of India, especially in Bengal where sandalwood paste is often used to create the designs. Pictured is a Gujarati bride (Asha Parekh’s character?!
), I think maybe in the 60s-70s. Another Gujarati bride here. The
must be a purist in me, but I can’t get on the sticker train for that 🙂
Decorative facial designs through tattoos or blackheads are common in rural India and tribal. The three-point chin patch is one of the most common national designs and is expected to appear on screens more often.
In pictures: Sreela Majumdar from Mandi (via dhrupad), Vyjayanthimala from Ganga-Jamuna and Nargis from Mother India.
The specific design is often seen in medieval and later Indian paintings. An example is the straight lines on the forehead of Deccan women in the MV Dhurandhar illustration. Another example is chandrabindu or moon bindi.
He is also a Devanagari character. In bindi form, the dots can be placed inside or outside the semicircle. Although worn elsewhere in western India, it is characteristic of Maharashtra (fig. 1) and can be combined with more lines and dots. A maang tika (eyebrow pendant) can also be used as a type of eyebrow similar to the one in picture 4. design. In 20th century India, certain genres seem to have dominated popular images (read movies) for certain decades.
Photographs from the 1940s and 1950s often feature distinct designs that sometimes seem to represent a particular aesthetic of historical or mythological films, but they also appear in more modern advertising shots. Designs can be varied and intricate, although 50s actresses often sport fancy bindis with Bengali (red core with white dots) tips (picture 4).
Photo 1: Nalini Jaywant, Photo 2: Sushila Rani, Photo 3: Shakila (Courtesy Photo Department) and Photo 4: Madhubala
44004 The 19
44044 44044 44044 44044 4404 Placement on forehead depends on wearer. Eyebrow shaping also seems to belong in the 30s and 40s.
Pictured: Amrita Sher-Gil, Gayatri Devi, Devika Rani, Shanta Hublikar, Leela Chitnis, Miss Gohar.
There are also decades without the need to wear a sari with a bindi like in these photos (Image 1: Hansa Wadkar, Image 2: Neena).
The “tilaka” or elongated forehead mark came in many forms, some of which had religious functions. It can also appear as an ornament. It is decorative and can be painted according to the wearer’s needs.
Although it is common among young women in South India, it is also common in other parts of the country. It was often worn by young women in the 50s and 60s – you can see some examples in today’s post.
Last photo courtesy of the photography department.
In the 1970s and 80s the plain round bindi had appeared, which was available in powder or liquid form, but the existence of the Shringar kumkum and the original plain felt bindi meant that the latter was preferred. Then, of course, came the 1990s with the famous decorative felt bindi.
Pictured: Rekha, Aruna Mucherla, Swaroop Sampat (still a girl Shringar kumkum
Between the early 20th century Lake Bindi and today’s Felt Bindi came the Plastic Sticky Bindi. It is made of hard plastic but flexible Made of plastic with a clear, smooth finish, available in a variety of colors, not hard to see in photos from the 60s and 70s, but never replaced powder and liquid adhesives like their felt counterparts
Finally, he appears in his white balm on the body, bright fringed jewelry, robes of white silk with swan-yellow trim, tilaka marks on the forehead, and ornaments around the hair, neck, and arms
Men also use various forms of bindi, mainly dots and tilaka.
Men also wear a turmeric sandal or strap on their forehead. These are often used as caste marks and consist of a mixture of lines, dots and tilaka. Usually marked with sandals, ash or kumkuma, they are more common in southern and western parts of India. They also serve a decorative purpose, especially for the groom.
In pictures: Chief of Gandhara (my photo), Krishna, Chief of Maratha, 1860, Prince of Maratha, late 19th century, Madhava Rao and Sir Pannalal Mehta by Raja Ravi Varma, Maharaja Sayaji Rao, 1902, Mysore raja, M 1906, to.
K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Consort.
Epilogue: Facial decoration is of course known all over the world, especially in tribal communities. In more urban cultures, bindi-like adornments appeared in Mycenaean Greece and Tang China (and can also be seen in Korean wedding ceremonies today). Especially in the Tang Dynasty, there are many kinds of patterns and colors, but red is the main one.
Besides her origin story, the petals fell on the princess’s forehead. Nevertheless, the consistent and varied use of the bindi in rituals and decoration appears to be unique to India.
Salwar Kameez of the 1940s The
Salwar Kameez is probably less suited to modern times than a sari. In the 20s and 30s, the new style of draped sarees was a popular garment. In the 1940s, salwar kameez (or sometimes churidar kameez) became popular, especially among young female students.
While maintaining traditional silhouettes and embellishments such as zari, gota and sequins, new fabrics and prints can be incorporated as well as collars, lace, trims and more. Especially Kameez
The most common costumes in the 40s are shown in photos 3 and 4, a kameez that is above knee length, baggy salwar and dupatta. Photos 1 and 2 are Churidar sets that you have seen from time to time over the past decade. Photo 1: Amrita Shergil and her niece
Photo 2: Still from a 1940s film Photo 3: Derry Drama Group, 1947
Photo 4: Still from Midnight’s Children.
This post is in response to a reader request on tumblr.
It’s very basic, mostly limited to the 19th and 20th centuries, but covers some ground. here we are!
Although the “set-mundu”, consisting of two pieces of cloth, is considered the traditional garment of Kerala, in practice the lower half, the mundu alone, is common in many 20th century photographs.
It is usually worn with a jacket like shirt and sometimes with a sari blouse as in the 1965 film Chemmeen. Typically, a mundu is a cream or off-white woven fabric with a border. While the border may be a simple ribbon, the festive version has a woven gold border known as kasavu. In this photo of the Travancore sisters and others, you can see three of the women wearing a top and shirt. Of the three sisters in the middle, Larissa on the left wears a neriyathu (upper body) as part of a half sari
Such as the whole. Ragini wears a mundu and velvet jacket, Padmini on the right wears a half-sari common in Tamil Nadu (in the 1950s this was usually a silk skirt, georgette top and embroidered blouse ). Photo circa 1954 courtesy of Betsy Woodman. From left to right Ambika, Lalitha, Chandran, Ragini, Betsy’s father, Padmini, Sukumari.