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Yashodhara Shroff

Yashodhara Shroff, Director & Founder,

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Evolution of Indian Women's Fashion Wear Over the Years

Following the rise of internet and smartphone usage, more women are now able to stay au courant of latest fashion trends, and have become smart consumers who know what they want when it comes to fashion.


“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” – So goes the quote by renowned French fashion designer and founder & namesake of the world’s most famous fashion brand, Coco Chanel.

The above mentioned quote by the most popular figure in the global fashion industry certainly manages to define what fashion is all about – style, elegance, and perfection. While the changes in women’s clothing and fashion since ancient times has been documented in across the world, these variations mostly reflected the social and political scenario of various countries rather than being a popular practice. However, varying reports suggest that fashion, as a cultural practice was first recorded in the western world during the 15th century, albeit it was reserved for the crème de la crème of society, i.e. the royals, aristocrats, and elites.

In India, the transformation in women’s clothing and fashion over the years has not been as drastic as compared to its western counterparts owing to various traditional beliefs and values still held by most Indian women. Nevertheless, with changing times, even the most traditional apparels have been modified to give them an urban look without compromising on tradition. This Women’s Day, let us explore how the changing fashionwear in India reflected the Indian women’s sense of individuality.

Following India’s independence in 1947, as the country began to create its own identity, its citizen, especially the women began their very own transformation that eventually set the standards of Indian fashion.

Whether it is the versatile saree, the humble salwar kameez, or the indo-western fusion of wearing kurta/kurta with jeans, many Indian woman have managed to adapt various trends in fashionable clothing without compromising on the beauty of all things Indian. However, one should know that fashion is ever changing, and while some styles manage to become timeless classics, other trends only enjoy a brief hype before they die down. Nevertheless, the fashion industry in India keeps altering and growing, irrespective of such trends.

The textile, apparel, and fashion Industry in India – A brief insight

The Indian fashion industry has grown leaps and bounds over the years owing to an increase in western influence, and changing tastes & preferences of consumers. According to a report published by Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India is the 2nd largest exporter of textiles and clothing in the world. The domestic textile & apparel industry in India is projected to be worth more than USD 141 billion by 2021 from USD 67 billion in 2014. Furthermore, increased penetration of organized retail, favorable demographics, and rising income levels are expected to be the key growth drivers of the Indian textile and apparel sector in the next couple of years.

Moreover, the Indian fashion market also owes its transformation to some extremely talented Indian fashion designers, who have made their mark both in India and abroad with their unique style and creations.

The market for women’s fashionwear in India is probably the most lucrative in terms of variety and scope. Even international fashion houses and brands have begun to focus on the immense potential for growth in this segment. Some have even gained acceptance and brand loyalty among the millennial female population. However, popular brands are not the only ones driving the growth of India’s fashion industry.

The Bollywood influence in Indian Fashion

The flourishing Hindi film industry in India, i.e. Bollywood has played a key role in transforming the way Indian women dress. While the 1960s brought in the era of heavy jewelries and embroidered sarees, the 1970s brought with it a sense of experimentation with bright colors, polka dot pattern, and bell bottoms.

However, the subsequent decades are touted to be the time when Bollywood began to adopt more westernized concepts in terms of fashionwear, and in a sense, ushered in an era where the women didn’t shy away from making bold and stylish choices. With the 1980s being the era of Disco, Indian fashion during this time saw plenty of glittery apparel in gold or silver, chiffon sarees in various colors, and denim & leather bike jackets. The following decade of 1990s saw the arrival of floral dresses, full-sleeved salwar kameez in various styles, and midis. The latter part of the decade brought in short dresses, sportswear or athleisure, crop tops, and halter necks.

The year 2000 brought with a dynamic shift in the way Indian women dressed and presented themselves. Each and every apparel worn by leading actresses became bolder and more sensual, reflecting the fact that Indian women had begun to feel more comfortable in their own skin, and had no qualms admitting the same.

Indian fashionwear from 2010 – present

Following the rise of internet and smartphone usage, more women are now able to stay au courant of latest fashion trends, and have become smart consumers who know what they want when it comes to fashion. Unique, chic, personal & bold are the new style statement, and Indian women confidently demonstrate these traits with what they wear. Smart pant-suits, body con dresses have become an integral part of the corporate women’s wardrobe, while designer wear and high street fashion are slowly becoming the norm.

Irrespective of how Indian women choose to dress, one thing is quite clear – They are smart, confident, & independent individuals who believe they can achieve anything in life, and what they wear definitely reflects that. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we wish each and every woman have the courage to chase their dreams, and dress how they want without fearing the judgement or scrutiny of society.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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