We’re celebrating 70 years as an independent nation, and what a ride it has been. Within this span, we’ve witnessed India build itself, bit by bit, into a power to reckon with. Politics aside, there is much to be said about India’s soft power; Indian cinema is flourishing, with films like Lipstick Under My Burkha, winning awards and plaudits by the bagful, yoga is now a thing, internationally, and of course, there is our fashion. FYI, Anita Dongre has just opened her first store in the US; and on that note, we take a look at the definitive moments in Indian fashion since our independence. Fashion, in particular, can be an effective tool in marking the milestones of the progress.
1947: Nehru Jacket
Jawaharlal Nehru was a stalwart in many ways. Independent India’s first prime minister laid the groundwork for policies that are of relevance even today. But his contribution to defining the image of an Indian prime minister has perhaps not been lamented about enough. The bandh gala jackets he wore as his uniform are eponymous to him. The Nehru jacket has become a staple in every Indian man’s wardrobe, and even the present prime minister abides by this dress code.
1966: Reita Faria Wins Miss World
Reita Faria put Indian beauty on the map when she became this first Indian AND Asian to be crowned Miss World. As if this wasn’t enough – she went on to become the first qualified doctor to win the pageant. Phew!
1968: Sharmila Tagore in a Bikini
If you think all the controversy surrounding Lipstick Under My Burkha was excessive, think about the storm Sharmila Tagore might have stirred up back in 1968 when she appeared on the cover of Filmfare clad in a two piece bikini. She paved the path for generations of women to come – from Zeenat Aman in the ’70s to Priyanka Chopra in ’00s.
1970s: Ritu Kumar Brings Boutique Fashion to India
Champion of the revivalist movement and a pioneer of the Indian fashion industry, Ritu Kumar is responsible for paving the way for fashion as we know it. Starting from a tiny shop space in Kolkata, she turned her label into an empire and broke into the Paris and New York scenes when India didn’t so much as have a retail culture. It’s no surprise then that she rightfully won a Padma Shri in 2013.
1982: Bhanu Athaiya Wins Oscar For Costume Design
Bhanu Ataihya’s contribution to costume design has been pivotal. She started her career with Guru Dutt’s film, CID, and soon became a part of his team. With over a hundred films under her kitty, her work for Richard Attenborough’s film, Gandhi, got her a much-deserved Academy Award.
1986: National Institute of Fashion Technology is Born
In a much-needed move, the Ministry of Textiles set up its first vocational training institute for fashion with help from Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. Today, NIFT is a mecca for those willing to make a career in fashion and has been voted one of the top 20 fashion schools in the world as of 2017.
2001: Monisha Jaising Introduces the Kurti
Ever wonder how the humble, calf-grazing kurta became the chic kurti as we know it? It’s all thanks to Monisha Jaising, who first introduced this concept to make partying in a kurta possible. Now, the kurti is a staple in every Indian girl’s wardrobe, and rightly so.
2017 – Anita Dongre Enters the Global Market
Already a name to reckon with in Indian fashion, Anita Dongre caught the western world’s attention when Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge wore a dress from her label while she was on her India and Bhutan tour. Now, she’s part of the NYC fashion circuit with her recently opened store Grassroot in SoHo. By bringing handicrafts like jamdani, bandhani and traditional embroideries to this hip area, she is bridging the divide between Eastern and Western fashion.
Images via Wikipedia, India Today, IMDB; Cover image courtesy Shutterstock