Fashions are in and out like shifting clouds. Some pave the way gently for others while many create strange contradictions aS the bloomers did in England during the nineteenth century. When the fuss dies down the fashion and style go on to the future times with newer forms and innovations. This is very true with the Punjabi Salwar Suits. A product of the twentieth century this outfit has now mesmerised dames across the country from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and from Burdwan to Bombay. Now young girls are found hunting. for the latest Punjabi Suits in emporia, garment shops and boutiques. Rachna Subir Sen takes us down the memory lane with the highs and lows-of this glamorous Punjabi 'dress, and its galloping popularity in national and international spheres.

The Punjabi woman has always been the cynosure of all eyes, being the epitome of beauty and grace. lt was not merely an accident that the fashion of wearing the Salwar Kameez which is flourishing in the land of the five rivers for a time, has currently become a parallel to the saree an.d is being adopted by women in all corners of the country. ln the past, the image of a Punjabi belle donning a conventional salwar kameez-dupatta apparel has inspired many a painter and poet and righfly too as O.A. Wall points out. lf we draw a line to touch the outer points of a woman,s body, they will form an ellipse and of all the styles of dressing up adopted by women in various countries of the world, none conforms so much to the oval type as the combination of the mantle (dupatta), the skirt (kameez) and the baggy trousers (salwar). 

 The satwal suit has come a long way from its simple beginning to the present day designer suit and the metamorphosis has been as interesting and gripping as any romantic tale of Punjab. The Punjabi peasant woman in the pastwas content with the wearing of her ghagra-choli but when Punjab came under the impact of lslamic culture, it was influenced by their dress codes as well. The Mughal women of courtly classes wore gowns with an inner bodice and to complement the transparent or slit gowns, they wore trousers for dignity and immunity to indelicate exposure. 

  Salwar Kameez reaches Europe -
Zamima Khan the wife of the Pakistani
cricketer turned politician lmran
Khan with Princess Diana   
 ln Waris Shah's immortal tragedy his "Heer" is shown wearing (salwar) trousers of silk called, Sutthan,, and by this time the ghagra was confined to the trousseau of brides, besides wrap-over kilt-like lower garments called lungis which were worn with Kurtis. Deviating from the "Jaguli" gowns of Mohammadan wornen Punjabis developed tunics reaching halfway down the leg with no inner bodice to be worn with the "Sutthan". The ensemble was complemented with and, Odhni,, later known as dupatta (Chunni in Punjabi). Amir Khusro in his literary work belonging to these times highlighted the importance of the veil or the mantle as a mark of respectability.  
 It was the Begum of Bhopal who in the 19th century wore an innovative knee-length shirt that gave birth to the "Angya Kurti", resulting in the outfit of the Punjabi women who were under the direct influence of the Mughals. The salwar inspired by the  bifurcated harem trousers of Turkey has seen variations in the width near the ankles. Gradually the ghagra ceased to wield influence on the fashion and faded as a casual attire with the passage of time. However, salwar went on to gain a foothold for its sheer adaptability. lt got less floppy and smarter with the bottom varying from the oh-so-tight trousers called chooridaars (1850's) which had to be slit at the ankles and fastened with buttons. Then the wide and loose salwars became the height of fashion. With the onset of the twentieth century, salwars became an absolute rage in Punjab and were continuously subjected to the changing caprices of fashions. The baggy tops of this garment having a sizeable gathering by a drawstring at the waist created an illusion of expansion-so the uppermost part was replaced with a flat un-plated girdle for a sleek fit. 

 Turban the sikh headgear adds a
new dimension to salwar kameez
compensating the chuni or dupptta.

 The Principal dress - the shirt, which started with a gathered fit at the waist had its length fluctuating with changing fashion whims. Dropping down to knees in the 20's - higher like a short smock in the 30's and overstepping the knees in the late 40s, it was always accompanied by a dupatta thrown over the shoulders in various ways.  
   With the rise of capitalism, novelty and fashion were looked upon more and more as the essence of modernity in  were not prized for anything else but sensual appeal and seductiveness. Th.erefore, the .veils that once used to be thick now became semi-transparent. The revolutionary girl of Punjab .set the vogue for a look of sensuous delicacy and smartness with her shirt, salwar and dupatta ensemble that lent her a certain feline poise. As Jeremy Quirks has remarked "The shirt of the Punjabi woman - the loose upper garment descended from very early times - from the monastic robes seen on figures in the earliest Buddhist - sculptures. lnfact, the evolution of the salwar kameez has been weaving quite a spell on the minds of the intellectuals. From the yesteryears' outfit of the Punjabi dame to the national dress of lndia, the suit has surpassed even the sari in its  sheer convenience.
  The salwar suit has certainly become the ultimate attire, being a very practically viable outfit, catering to all tastes, adaptable to all occasions, changeble according to weather conditions, filling into every budget, reflecting distinctive tastes, enhancing  all figures - it stands out as the singular outfit acceptable to all social circles. The wearer can use it in any possible way - whether as a comfy night suit or an ultra formal bridal dress, whether a sober conventional attire commanding respect or a sexy, clingy eye-catching outfit to attract attention, the choice lies with the wearer and this sheer flexibility of the suit has made it the current national favourite of all females from sixteen to sixty.
 ln a recent interview Ritu Beri, the leading fashion designer revealed the fact that it was merely a decade ago rn 1987 that a few designers like her set up the vogue for designer lines in clothes. Before that, dressing-up was a mere ritual - a daily chore but now it is a lucrative business, generating employment for millions of lndians. The craze for wearing something unique arose in eightees when fashion exposure in media created a desire in every woman to look different. Since then the suit has been anything but staid inform. lt has changed more in the past decade than it did in its whole evolution.
 The neck-lines have seen variations never imagined before, the cuts of the suits have been experimented with, astonishingly, the  20th century. Women's clothes   lingering sometimes on the Patiala salwar', sometime the chooridaar pajami, the dogri pilama, the laila salwar or even the palazzo pants or parallels. The business acumen in the big and to small entrepreneurs all over made possible the numerous embellishments of the suits never thought of before. Embroidery, painting, block-printing - every trick bf the trade was tried to create a different look. This capacity of variations has made salwar suit a hot favourite with everyone from our Ex-CM Rajinder Kaur Bhatthal to glamorous Shobha De.
 Today there is a boutique in every lane of Punjab where the housewives turned designers produce suits to cater to the local-clientele. Thus the suit has become such an extra ordinary outfit which every ordinary woman can wear to enhance (or hide) her figure and equally provide nobility. This outfit was found to be so comfortable and simultaneously graceful that the lndian Airlines hostesses demanded it to be made their official uniform instead of the sari. Even men did not stay behind and joined the bandwagon in creating designer suits.

The growing elegance made the sufis take a quantum leap to regions outside Punjab where noh-pu-nlaOi  a new trend pattern of lndian tradition and art in Lukhnavi chikankari, Jaipuri bhandei and South lndian chandeii styte of females discovered that their elegance and comfort were too tempting to suipass. The great fashion designers of lndia came to the fore making exclusive suits, experimenting with colours and fabrics and creating 'haute couture'
 Crossing the  Asian border through the endeavours of the lndian designers like Ritu Kumar who has opened outlets not only a Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Banglore and Amritsar but also in London Punjabi Suit has found a platform for the British woman's foray. The suits are so famous that it has attracted attention of even Lady Diana who has become a regular client of Ritu's outlet  along with Jamima Khan, her close friend. ++++

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♥ Braja said...

Wonderful article, however your attributing the angya kurti to the Bhopal Begum is wrong: it was long before then, the imperial princess Zeb-un-Nissa, daughter of Aurangzeb, is famous for adapting the Turkish traditional dress to suit the women of India and their climate and style...hundreds of years before the Begum of Bhopal gave it new ife...

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing such beautiful information with us, And i hope you will share some more information about salwar kameez online

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