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Indian Fashion History, Evolution & Influence

Summary: Traditional Indian clothing has gone through quite an evolution since its birth. While traditional Indian dress has been influenced by the West, the influence it had on them is no less. This article tells takes you back in history and tells you how.

Traditionally, Indian clothing has always varied widely by culture, religion, region and climate. Sarees, lehenga choli and salwar kameez comprise the ethnic outfit in India. While the first two are exclusive to women, the last one is unisex, consisting of a tunic and loose trousers. Traditional Indian outfits for men comprise dhoti kurta, lungi and pagri. However, these are only staple clothing, Indian fashion has undergone a huge evolution ever since its birth.

In the ancient times i.e. during the Vedic era, stitched clothing was not worn. Instead, people used to wear pieces of clothes that were tied together. Quite interestingly, the concept of stitched clothing was existent even in the Indus Valley Civilization; however, the idea of stitched attires did not come into being until the Islam period. However, the two staple traditional Indian dress, the saree and the dhoti, which are worn even today, are unstitched.

It is during the Islamic era that stitched clothes made its way into Muslim families, in the form of burkha or veil.

Western attire for both men and women primarily came after the advent of British in India. In fact, the British period was quite a confusing time as far as fashion was concerned. There was a conflict between Indian national identity and the growing influence of the British. While the common people continued to don ethnic clothing, the elite class who were in good terms with the British were influenced by their sense of dressing, which shortly became a status symbol.

As time passed, fashion gradually became an exclusive enterprise, a way to attain wealth. The networks of tailors began to develop into a retail history, which ultimately resulted in the cropping up of boutiques. Nowadays, clothes are laser cut with the help of computers and are sourced from all around the world, and thanks to the internet, one can easily buy them online while sitting in the comfort of one's home.

Ever since the days of colonization, cultural exchanges between the two countries or rather the eastern and the western world have been there; but, it had been largely one-sided with only Indians borrowing from the West. However, in the recent years, certain aspects of Indian culture, like fashion, has been found to have become extremely popular in the West. As a result, traditional Indian clothes are no longer exclusively found in India, but in the western world like USA, UK, Canada & South America as well.

A major driving factor behind this, of course, is the Indian film industry, Bollywood. Given its popularity and huge viewership all around the world, Indian fashion has reached a wide base of people. As a result, the names of Indian fashion designers too have come to be known all over the world.

While, today it is not rare to see Indian fashion designers like Rohit Bal, Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi Mukerjee etc. feature in international fashion weeks, aspects of ethnic Indian attire is evident in the works of international designers like Armani, Dior, Hermes, Alexander Mc Queen etc.

Some popular attires that feature aspects of ethnic Indian wear are harem trousers which is a mixture of salwar and churidar; bindis and religious symbols; mehendi; and, last but not the least, sarees.

It is not just the cuts of traditional dresses from India that are inspiring the international fashion world, but also the patterns, embroidery and fabric like khadi, silk, cotton, etc.and kantha, phulkari, patola, madhubani, kashida, kasuti, zardausi etc. respectively.

To wrap up, it can be said that Indian touch is omnipresent; no matter if it is religion, culture, architecture or art, India has always had an influence on the world.

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