They say that life imitates art, and one doesn’t have to look far to see that this is true. It’s difficult to imagine another culture where cinema has the reach and influence that it does in India. We buy what celebrities sell to us in commercials, obsess over the names of their newborn children, and allow the release of certain films to become so political that we take to the streets to protest. Whether you’re a moviegoer or not, you can’t deny that the screen-to-street bleed is unavoidable – especially if you’re aware of what’s going on in the fashion world.
The fashion industry has undoubtedly matured and developed a more organized infrastructure of fashion weeks, commercially driven ramp shows, and a backbone of PR managers, professional stylists, and choreographers over the last two decades. However, another factor has firmly established itself along the warp and west of Indian fashion: Bollywood star power. Unlike the global trend, where celebrities mostly appear as front-row guests of the designer and only top models play showstopper, Bollywood-obsessed India operates differently. Our supermodels are those from Tinseltown. They pose in fashion advertisements and serve as social media fashion icons and the face of the Indian fashion industry, in addition to acting in films. Fashion designers rely on Bollywood films and stars’ wide reach and appeal to attract attention, media coverage, and business. Stars require designers to help them look fashionable and current when they attend events. It’s a designer match made in heaven.
Whether it’s Kareena’s Salwar-Kameez pants and T-shirt look in Jab We Met that started an “Indo-Western” revolution or Deepika’s night-out club outfits from Cocktail that brought back major love for mini dresses – no industry in our country is as influenced by the screen as fashion. Mainstream trends are constantly reflected on our screens. What may come as a surprise is that the ripples from Indian cinema dating back to the 1980s, 1990s, and even the early 2000s appear to be reflected in the relatively new streetwear scene as well. While trends from decades past have been reappearing all around us, it is clear that some of our favorite cult-classic Hindi films may have been on to something that modern streetwear labels are still emulating.
The Anarkali suit represents opulence and history. The name Anarkali refers to the famous dancer at Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court who attracted and stole Prince Salim’s heart. She is known for her exceptional beauty, and her given name, Anarkali, literally means ‘blossoming pomegranate.’ In the twentieth century, Bollywood had a significant impact on Indian culture. The love story of Prince Salim and Anarkali was adapted for the big screen in 1960 as Mughal-e-Azam. It was a cinematic masterpiece, and the audience adored Madhubala in the role of Anarkali. The film was so successful that it established a trend that lasted for decades. Now, the Anarkali is worn for almost every special occasion, including weddings, parties, festivals, and social gatherings. This suit design is popular among women of all ages because of its elegance, uniqueness, and style.
Bobby was Dimple Kapadia’s first film as a lead actress opposite Rishi Kapoor. It was one of the biggest hit movies of the 1970s that catapulted her to stardom. The entire film was an excellent blend of romance and classic 1970s vintage fashion. It was in the news not only for the sweet love story, but also for its revolutionary fashion trends. Aside from the new couple, it was the polka dot tied-at-the-bust blouse and short skirt that became a trend almost immediately after the film’s release. Many years later, Prachi Desai wore the look in Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, Kareena Kapoor in Heroine, and Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture to cover Silk Smith. Why do you think it became known as the ‘Bobby’ print?
An Evening In Paris is remembered for many things, including its stylish thriller, stunning vistas of Paris never seen before in Hindi cinema, melodious music and memorable songs, and Shammi Kapoor’s trademark antics. The film’s most enduring claim to fame, however, is that it was the first to feature a Hindi film actress in a bikini. Surprisingly, the sexy ensemble was suggested by none other than the film’s heroine, Sharmila Tagore, who desired to wear the two-piece in the film. Tagore reluctantly agreed to wear a one-piece for the film but wore the bikini for a photo shoot with Filmfare magazine. The shoot, which included other photos of her posing in a bikini, had “some beachwear and a lot of Sharmila,” as the accompanying caption astutely noted! Sharmila was posing in a two-piece bikini and wasn’t hiding anything. It only took her two minutes to change, but the face of the magazine covers was changed forever.
Mumtaz was a seasoned actress by the time the film was released. However, it wasn’t until Brahmachari’s Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyaar Ke Charche that she became a global fashion icon, putting the form-fitting saree on the map of the most iconic fashion moments. Mumtaz wore a low-waist, unconventional pre-pleated saree with gold gota borders and a frilled hemline for the song. She accessorized with gold chandelier earrings, a choker necklace, a hath patti, and the iconic puffy hairstyle of the 1960s. The saree itself was iconic. However, the story behind it demonstrates that Mumtaz was a true fashion icon who was not afraid to take risks. Mumtaz was nervous about dancing in a saree because the song required a lot of movement. As a result, her costume designer, Bhanu Athaiya, created a pre-pleated saree with side zip. Mumtaz’s style was here to stay, as evidenced by the draping that appeared to be a second skin around her hips and knees, the frilled bottom, and the sensuous ensemble as a whole.
With her exceptional acting abilities, the late Sridevi established herself as India’s first female superstar. Aside from her on-screen antics, her fashion choices always turned heads. The actress had developed a distinct fashion identity with her elegant Indian looks in the six yards. So much so that, even years later, her fashion sense continues to inspire generations. Sridevi’s white chiffon saree in 1989’s Chandni has become her most iconic look, inspiring a slew of imitators. Later, wednesday won hearts as the quirky reporter Seema in 1987’s iconic Mr India, but she also scorched the screen in an incredible look that hasn’t been forgotten to this day. In the sensual song Kaate Nahin Kat Te, she wore a blue chiffon saree with a matching bindi and red lip, showcasing her dancing skills to the fullest.
When Dil Toh Pagal Hai was released in 1997, the country was perhaps unprepared for the fashion forwardness. Karisma Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit were both icons at the time, with previous big hits like Raja Hindustani and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! ‘, but this film elevated them above the rest. Because this was primarily a dance film, the athleisure was spot on. Fitted cycling shorts, a plethora of sports bras, a plethora of cleavage-hugging kurtas, and hints of Karisma’s abs ensured that most Indian women were lining up at the shops looking for replicas.
If millennials and Generation Zs can agree on anything, it’s that Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham was a true fashion icon. Her character requires an introduction, and her fashion sense does not. Poo served as a fashion role model for millions of girls growing up in the early 2000s, and her outfits are still very relevant with the resurgence of Y2K fashion. Poo’s introduction in the film solidifies her role as a fashion icon. She served as an outfit inspiration for generations to wear and look stunning in her asymmetrical sequined backless top and mini leather skirt. In fact, there were numerous occasions throughout the film when Poo wore the crop top with grace. What’s trendy on the runway right now was already in Poo’s magnificent wardrobe, which, let’s be honest, we all lusted after.
The connection between cinema and mainstream fashion is obvious. What is seen on the silver screen by moviegoers one day becomes a popular commodity the next. Movies give viewers a way to escape their own lives and immerse themselves in the lives of other — usually glamorous — people. Fashion does something similar by allowing its followers to ‘re-invent’ themselves. Often, the selves they try to emulate are those of the icons they admire in the film; therefore it seems natural that they emulate the style of dress of those they consider role models. As Joanne Entwistle so eloquently stated, ‘fashion opens up possibilities for framing the self, however temporarily’