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Evolution Of Indian Women Fashion And Clothing
Why is that an image of a woman draped in a saree is instantly relatable as something to do with India? It’s because saree is the traditional garment of choice for Indian women everywhere. But the saree is so much more than a national costume. There is nothing more perfect Indian than a saree. The story of the evolution of the saree runs parallel to the history of India. This has rarely been witnessed and even less documented because people have often failed to recognize it. However this article is a little bit of investigation research on fashion through the ages which will reveal that the saree is not merely yards of fabric worn by Indian women, it is a relic to India’s past, present and future.
Evidence of Saree and Blouse
The earliest documented evidence of the saree comes around 300 BC during the Maury and Sunga periods. At that time men and women wore a draped rectangular cloth over their lower body and nothing covering their upper body. Sculptures and paintings from the Gupta period in the 7th and 8th century showed a stitched garment like breast band for women along with lower draped garment. Historians believed that it was the women of the higher classes who wore two garments while women of the lower classes were bare-upper body.
Saree in Mughal Era
During Mughal era, there was difference between Hindu and Muslim women based on the way they chose to dress. Hindu women preferred to wear pleated sarees, while Muslim women wore Persian inspired loose trousers with long tops (known today as Salwaar Kurta) with a shorter, thinner, scarf-like fabric covering the breast and head called the Dupatta.
Saree in British Era
Did you know: - It was the British who brought the blouse and blouse designs to the saree in India, along with their own ideas of European propriety? In the 19th century, many women did not cover their upper body in southern India, while some went bare-breasted under their saris in Bengal. Even a hundred years later from then, Jnanadanandini Debi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore, was refused entry to clubs run by the British in India, for covering her breasts with her sari alone. When the British became the supreme rulers of India, the saree was once again transformed to suit their own rules of proprietary and morality. They found the finer sarees worn by Indian women was immodest. Thus introduction of the ‘blouse’ and ‘petticoat’ those were to be worn under the Indian saree.
About European Fashion
At that time European ladies laced themselves tight in corsets and dresses that covered them neck to toe. Later, the button-front fitted blouse design was created after the World War I in Europe as women embraced leisure sports, education and jobs for the first time in history, and thus the heavy dresses of the previous century was dropped. The sewing machine came into the scene and women began to sew their clothes at home, for their relief and style. The layers of their gowns were minimized, comfortable, mobile and flexible garment styles were invented, including the blouse, as women stepped into workplaces that were dominated by men. The blouse designs became more streamlined, fitted, appearing like the business attire of their male counterparts. Blouse designs with its different sleeve structures and necklines, under the sari made colonial British and Indian fashions even resemble each other at some point.
Saree Post- Independence
Post-Independence, India - 1950s-1970s saw the emergence of Bollywood movies. With influence of the beautiful starlets who graced the big screen, sarees underwent some major innovation with fabrics, patterns, weaves and drapes which were quickly adopted by newly fashion conscious Indian women. This was the first time ever; Indian women had the freedom to pick and choose their own individual style.
Around 2010s the world was truly globalized and most women found it a difficult task to draping and pleating a saree. Indian fashion designers used their ingenuity to create pre-draped versions of the saree that could be worn as quickly as western garments preferred by modern Indian women. Pleats became totally optional as sarees could also be worn without them as half and half versions that had contrasting pallus and skirts. Infact the saree became the canvas for fusion wear like Lehenga-Sarees and Saree-Gowns.
Much like the country itself, the saree has been persevered, toiled, transformed and continues to evolve, encompassing the changing world around it but also remaining consistently true to its innate qualities.