Modern Indian Fashion: After Independence

Fashion is significant in a nation like India, where clothing plays a significant role in culture and tradition. Indian fashion has changed in a variety of ways, whether it’s returning to its roots with handloom that is rich in heritage or adopting new-age fabrics that are sensitive to the environment. Although clothing has a significant role in culture, it also has a significant economic impact on the nation. While much of this is influenced by the culture and geography of the nation, Indian fashion really began to change for the better after the country gained its independence. When the colonists finally left the country, they were shocked to learn that the nation they had ruled for more than 200 years would follow suit, especially in something as outlandish as fashion. Since India gained independence more than 70 years ago, the nation’s citizens have developed increasingly ostentatious fashion tastes, moving from basic to premium to extravagance.

A Consequence of the British Raj

Up until Indian colonisation, fashion was an honour controlled only by the wealthiest citizens of the nation. The impact of the position framework on Indian-style history is something that definitely bears mentioning. Design decisions were made in accordance with people’s self-control and the dress’s common sense. For instance, the unlucky farmworkers and helpers wore cotton sarees and dhotis; for officers or soldiers, the clothing served as a layer of defence. The public’s division of jobs, class structures, and rank were all reflected in the clothing they wore. As a result, the development of the hand-woven fabric known as Khadi was supported in India, helping to reduce the country’s reliance on British industrial goods.

Indian fashion was greatly affected by the British occupation. The decrease in the use of handloom fabrics was one of the most important factors. The market was overrun by less expensive materials from Europe, which forced many Indian weavers out of work. The Khadi-Swadeshi movement, which was first promoted by officials during the Bengal Partition of 1905 and was later elevated to a national-level movement by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1920s, marked a significant turning point in this. Numerous Indians were motivated by this effort to switch to the independent Khadi while shunning European products (no matter how cheap they were). Nevertheless, it is also possible to see the aesthetic effects of British influence on Indian clothing. Men were first exposed to the pantsuit, which is still seen as appropriate formal wear for men, while women began wearing petticoats and blouses along with brooches for their sarees. While India was able to achieve freedom, a large portion of the British fashion influence persisted, only to be modified and adopted in an “Indian” manner.

After Liberation

India attained freedom in 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru, the new state leader of India, embodied one end of the Indian fashion spectrum with his high-caught coat, while Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the head of Pakistan, represented the other with a Savile Row suit. Both Vallabhai Patel and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wore dhotis. Amrita Shergill, arguably India’s most well-known painter, died in 1941, but her distinctive fusion of Indian styles served as a perfect representation of the exquisite post-independence Indian lady. Saris were fashionable, and Indira Gandhi, like Gandhi before her, did much to promote indigenous textiles with her exquisite handloom saris. Indian cinema has had a significant impact on Indian fashion. Women would desire to dress in what they had seen on screens worn by their favourite actors, such as Madhubala, Meena Kumari, and Nargis. Without a doubt, the development of movies following independence sparked a lot of inspiration for the sector. Western and Indian silhouettes both gained popularity, whether it was the contemporary swimsuit made popular by Sharmila Tagore in the late 1960s or transparent saris. While the traditional kurta occasionally evolved into a more fitted, shorter style in the 1970s, Madhubala’s longer anarkali version of the kurta popularised it in the Mughal-e-Azam movie.

Nehru Jacket

The “Nehru Jacket” is a different item of clothing that gained popularity. Although its origins are hotly contested, the silhouette and fashion show a clear blending of the traditional Bandhgala or Achkan and the more structured and fitted British influences. The jacket is frequently referred to as the Jawaharlal Nehra jacket because he popularised its khadi versions before and after India’s independence. Even today, longer, looser variations of the jacket are in demand; these are sometimes referred to as the “Modi Jacket” in honour of India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who frequently wears them. The popularity of the jacket has also found its way into the wardrobes of Indian women, demonstrating that it is a gender-neutral as well as adaptable silhouette for contemporary times.

The Ever-Sari

Despite Western and Bollywood influences, the sari has remained timeless over the years. Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur created a fashion statement with its straightforward chiffon version, notably in the 1950s. This decade saw the greatest popularity of the bordered, more straightforward sari. Indira Gandhi, India’s first female prime minister, was another significant person who became associated with the sari. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she was frequently spotted wearing elegant handloom and khadi saris.


India’s increased global relevance in comparison to its pre-Independence period had an impact on the nation’s fashion as well. However, with polka-dot sarees and puffy sleeves in sari blouses and kurtas, Indian fashion adopted many of these styles as its own. Among the younger crowd, crop tops, fishnet stockings, maxi dresses, and pantsuits were also in high demand. One of the most significant Western influences on India was probably the jean, which is still a mainstay of Indian wardrobes.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022


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