The magical silver screen and our wardrobe dream list are inextricably intertwined. All through our teen years we’ve followed the film industry more avidly than fashion runways for the latest trends. Overcome by nostalgia, we’ve delved into Bollywood’s fashion lookbook for the trends and icons that ruled each decade. Fasten your seat belts as we take you on a trip down the memory lane.
The Revolutionary ’40s
Although the British beat a hasty retreat, the sari attained its glamor avatar in keeping with Western sensibilities. The dowdy blouse made way for its stylish cousin, puffed sleeves and more daring necklines. Bollywood caught on quickly and realized that women could wear the pants (literally then, metaphorically now). And then Begum Para’s crop top happened! We rest our case.
THE ICONS: Meena Kumari, Nargis and Madhubala
The Classy ’50s
The colonial hangover played catalyst to the rise of formal, chic trends. Think corsets, sweeping cocktail gowns and straight-cut pants. Hairstyles saw the biggest makeover, from bouffant hairstyles and flowing tresses to graceful buns, French rolls and choppy bangs.
THE ICONS: Madhubala, Sadhana, and Sharmila Tagore
The Experimental ’60s
Not only did Mughal-E-Azam give India a cinematic classic, it showcased opulent jewelry and clothing in a new light. The decade saw a discreet sensuality creep into the sartorial sensibilities of Bollywood A-listers. The blouses grew shorter, the saris clingier. Picture Mumtaz shimmying her curves in that iconic orange sari! Finally, Sharmila Tagore took the plunge and bared all in a sexy yet coy swimsuit.
THE ICONS: Mumtaz, Saira Banu and Sadhana
The Bold ’70s
It was a coming of age. The first time Bollywood beauties threw off their desi devi personas to reveal their bombshell avatars. Parveen Babi cavorted on the beach in a bikini while Zeenat Aman discovered her bohemian side. Helen’s feathery gowns brought the art of cabaret to life and Dimple Kapadia bared her midriff in a knotted polka-dot top and button-down mini skirt. The ’70s aren’t called the most fashionable years of the Hindi movie industry for nothing.
THE ICONS: Parveen Babi, Dimple Kapadia and Helen
The Demure ’80s
The evolution from bikinis and crop tops to chiffon saris and peaked, fitted salwar suits was rather quick and unexpected. Sridevi set the benchmark quite high when she romanced Anil Kapoor in the rain, while Rekha redefined Bollywood oomph with a bright, red pout and perfectly accentuated doe eyes, beauty mole accentuated in all its glory. The era of sexy sati savitris.
THE ICONS: Sridevi and Rekha
The Romantic ’90s
Though the decade began with Karisma Kapoor flaunting puffy skirts, bushy brows and a lion’s mane, things really got stylish in the second half. Can we ever forget Kajol’s halter dresses and button-down maxis in DDLJ? Rani’s tiny bodycon dresses in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Madhuri’s vibrant, sheer chiffon salwar suits in Dil Toh Pagal Hai?
THE ICONS: Kajol, Rani Mukerji and Madhuri Dixit
The Coming-of-age 2000s
The new century ushered in a new era with female actresses taking on unconventional, realistic roles that broke the glass ceiling. Bold, racy intelligent women of worth. From green-eyed beauty Aishwarya Rai to sultry actress/singer Priyanka Chopra. From Kapoor heiress Kareena Kapoor to raspy-voiced, hazel-eyed Rani Mukerji. Trendsetters, at once, elegant and ambitious, famous for their unconventional choices on and off screen, and unafraid to take a stand.
THE ICONS: Aishwarya Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor