Photo: Twitter/@1947Partition
Photo: Twitter/@1947Partition

How the salwar kameez has evolved over the decades

Over the years, the staple Indian outfit has bid farewell to billowy bottoms and the dupatta has become a dispensable element

Over the years, the staple Indian outfit has bid farewell to billowy bottoms and the dupatta has become a dispensable element.

1940s-1950s: The garment was predominantly worn in north Indian states. Women wore ‘salwars’ and ‘patialas’ with ‘kurtas’ and demurely-draped ‘dupattas’, as seen in vintage photographs and photographer Nony Singh’s book ‘The Archivist’.

Photo: Dreamvilla Productions
Photo: Dreamvilla Productions

1960s-1970s: Cinema and print media played a major role in popularizing the ‘churidar-kameez’ across India. Movie stars like Sadhana and costume designers like Bhanu Athaiya popularized new skin-hugging silhouettes, borrowing tailoring techniques from the West.

1980s: The ‘kurta’ bore striking similarities to the decade’s popular silhouettes—flared cuts, long sleeves and padded shoulders. Big hair and accessories offered finishing touches to the look, be it chunky earrings or heeled pumps.

Photo: Alamy
Photo: Alamy

1990s: From the big flared silhouettes of the 1980s, the ‘salwar-kameez’ in this decade took a turn towards sheer, strappy designs, seen most famously on Madhuri Dixit in ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’. ‘Dupattas’ became skinnier and were often simply slung around the arms.

2000s: Short ‘kurtis’ paired with loose ‘salwars’ caught on in the early years of the decade, inspired by the movies and fashion weeks. By mid-2000s, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee made a case for ‘patialas’ paired with ‘kurtis’ or even T-shirts, minus ‘dupattas’.

Now: In a functional-meets-fashionable avatar, the ‘salwar-kameez’ today is replaced by short ‘kurtas’ and loose pants a la Deepika Padukone in ‘Piku’. In occasionwear, the floor-grazing ‘anarkali’ has taken the spotlight at festive occasions and even on the red carpet. And the ‘dupatta’, what ‘dupatta’?

Photo: Fabindia
Photo: Fabindia
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