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India@75 | Evolution of Indian fashion through the decades: 1960s to 2010s

As India celebrates more than seven decades of Independence from the British Raj, let’s go through the changing fashion tastes of free Indians over the last seven decades.

Independence Day 2021: What we choose to wear every day says far more about our culture than we realise. Just like our politics, occupations and way of life, our clothing styles have also evolved over the years.

As India celebrates more than seven decades of Independence from the British Raj, let’s go through the changing fashion tastes of free Indians over the last seven decades.

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Simplicity of the ‘50s

Consumed by the fresh scent of freedom, the 1950s had a strong flavour of patriotism. The hand-spun khadi symbolised the swadeshi movement. Cloth sarees draped in different styles or simple salwar suits dominated the scene.

The fashion was largely functional and hints of European influences, especially in menswear, could also be observed. Women like Maharani Gayatri Devi, and Hindi cinema’s Nargis, Nutan, Suraiya and Meena Kumari were the fashion icons of this era.

Colourful spirit of the ‘60s

The 1960s was the decade that brought us Madhubala’s Anarkali suit and the tiered orange saree on Mumtaz. Moving into a new decade, women’s clothing became more fashionable and everyone embraced bright colours and prints.

With body-hugging churidar suits, shorter blouses and a hint of skin on display, the ‘60s were also big on embracing curves. Not to forget, the poufy hairdos, winged eyeliner and the uber-popular Sadhna cut were also from this decade.

Hippie trippy vibe of the ‘70s

Dubbed the ‘decade of decadence’, the 1970s were huge for fashion. The decade gave us Dimple Kapadia's iconic polka-dotted blouse in Bobby, Zeenat Aman's hippie look from Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Parveen Babi’s scant bikini and Helen’s iconic Cabaret feathers. Bell-bottoms, cropped shirts, oversized glasses, platform heels and polka dots were just some of the most memorable trends from this era.

Vivid creativity of the ‘80s

The 1980s were all about the over the top (or OTT) vibe. Blingy ornamentation, big shoulder pads, gaudy colours, metallics, unruly hair and leg warmers – there was a lot happening in this decade. But this decade also birthed the first generation of Indian fashion designers like Rohit Khosla and Satya Paul.

Bhanu Athaiya won India’s first and only Oscar for costume design in 1983 and the National Institute of Fashion Technology was set up in 1986. In Bollywood, Sri Devi and Rekha were the heroines leading the fashion scene.

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Cool girls & boys of the ‘90s

The decade that birthed Indipop stars like Alisha Chinai and cult films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dil Toh Pagal Hai, the 1990s created trends that are still big today. From denim shirts, crop tops, chokers, co-ordinates and overalls to chiffon sarees and oversized shirts, we saw it all in the ‘90s. And leading ladies like Karisma Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and Kajol, often styled by Manish Malhotra, became the style icons of this period.

Fashion forward face of the ‘00s

The aughts or the 2000s saw many international fashion brands opening up stores in India. Sporting the latest styles and trends was no longer limited to people who had connections abroad. Following in her sister’s footsteps, Kareena Kapoor warmed things up with characters like Poo and Jab We Met’s Geet.

Super-fitted pieces like tube tops and micro-minis as well as desi fusion outfits defined this overtly sexy decade.

Comfortable mood of the ‘10s

Moving on to the most recent period, the 2010s gave us social media and influencers! We slowly said goodbye to super sexy clothes and welcomed athleisure with open arms. The focus shifted away from celebrity trends and street style gained more steam.

Micro bags, sheer tops, oversized sweatshirts and cycling shorts were the viral trends from the period. Bloggers and Instagram-famous supermodels were the biggest trendsetters.

As the last decade comes to a close amidst a full-blown pandemic, the focus remains on comfort and clothes that look good on social media. The next decade in fashion is poised to be more inclusive and focussed on technological advancements such as smart fabrics and digital-only clothes.

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