The message is clear. The nation has spoken. In Delhi’s searing heat, it was heritage clothing all the way at the swearing-in of the new government—especially in shades of white.

On Thursday, when around 8,000 guests thronged the wide forecourt of the 90-year-old Rashtrapati Bhavan to watch the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet, the choice of attire drew as much attention as the choice of the council of ministers.

Loyal to his ethnic look, Modi kept his outfit understated, opting for a kurta and churidar, topped by a sleeveless bandhgala jacket in shades of soft grey.

“Narendra Modi has toned down and looks more relaxed in his dressing style," said Delhi-based designer Rina Dhaka. “He chose to wear a classic white and grey combination. Though, I wish Prime Minister Modi would have worn his signature style half-sleeve kurta—that is something which began as a big trend with him," said Dhaka, referring to the “Modi kurta".

“All said and done, he’s always smartly turned out."

With the temperature touching nearly 40 degrees, guests spanning state dignitaries, corporate leaders, Bollywood celebrities and heads of neighbouring countries showed up in crisp white kurta sets, safari suits, handloom saris, sleeveless bandhgalas and formal western wear —with a few in saffron robes.

Cotton khadi scored big on the grounds of the tricolour-lit Rashtrapati Bhavan in what was its largest ever gathering.

“Khadi cotton seemed to be the fabric of choice," said Anavila Misra, designer of the eponymous Anavila label.

Modi’s key cabinet colleagues Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and Piyush Goyal were in line with the kurta-pajama trend, styled appropriately with sleeveless bandhgalas, mostly in earthy hues.

In contrast, former highways and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari turned out in a bright blue kurta set.

“The majority of politicians kept the outfits simple and functional, there wasn’t any major experimentation. They chose not to bring any attention to the outfits, keeping it respectable," said Dhaka.

The men found their calling in this style (kurtas and half jackets) as it makes them look formal and also imparts a seriousness to their dressing, she added.

Other trends that dominated the ceremony were handlooms. Former defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman wore a pastel pink Dhakai sari, while former textiles minister Smriti Irani picked a deep maroon silk one. “It’s a symbolic choice and also a favourite with her," said Misra about Irani. Her attire, Misra said, gave the traditional textile a contemporary look.

The Gandhis made an appearance in sombre and understated tones. Congress president Rahul Gandhi kept it simple in his signature white kurta-pyjama, while Sonia Gandhi was season-right with a cream cotton sari.

Among celebrities and corporate leaders, Kangana Ranaut, who has been a vocal Modi supporter, wore a cream and gold Raw Mango label sari. Bollywood director Karan Johar sported a black bandhgala. Billionaire Mukesh Ambani wore a plain black suit and his wife Nita, opted for a deep red salwar kameez, styled with strings of pearls. South Indian superstar Rajnikanth wore a long white kurta with a well-fitting churidar.

The evening that saw the new government hand-pick its cabinet scored big on ethnic wear. Menswear designer Raghavendra Rathore, who dressed eight celebrities for the evening, said traditional clothing is now mainstream fashion. “Once possibly looked at less approvingly by many a rank, in today’s modern India, these looks seem electrifyingly contagious among newsreaders, actors, corporates, politicians and bureaucrats alike," he said.

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