When Shakespeare’s character Polonius in Hamlet advises his son Laertes “For the apparel oft proclaims the man” he inadvertently sealed the fate of millions of costume designers and stylists who would make those lines the cornerstone of their professions many decades later.
As soon as the human race had the technology to capture and broadcast motion pictures, visual appeal became the new buzzword of the movie business. The audience perceived and concluded several things about a film, its story and its characters by simply glancing at a billboard or movie poster advertising its release and star cast. Every small detail of a scene from the set to the costumes and even the body language of the characters expressed something about what was about to unfold on screen even before a single dialogue was delivered.
Bollywood movies with their magnum opus onscreen productions depicting larger than life personas are no strangers to the use of stunning imagery to create celluloid magic. A vital aspect of creating visual cues about a character is through the use of costumes. Bollywood costumes often become adopted into current fashion owing to the immense popularity and craze for Bollywood movies. A super hit movie with a stunning actress and her character’s enviable wardrobe is sure to permeate into mainstream fashion. Those who may believe that Bollywood’s influence on fashion is a recent phenomenon cannot be more mistaken. Madhubala in Mughal-E-Azam brought back the Anarkali style kurtas that are prevalent even today. Rekha’s jewellery and styling in Umrao Jaan is so iconic that most depictions of royal song and dance sequences are considered incomplete without some reference to her look. And Sadhana’s fringe hairstyle inspired by Audrey Hepburn that was referred to as the Sadhana Cut in India was all the rage in the 60s.
Indian women always have and will continue to reference Bollywood costumes and looks from their favourite starlets as inspiration for stylish dressing. Gone are the days of movies that only revolved around fairy tale romances between royalty and clandestine affairs between the rich and the poor that end in tragedy. As Bollywood movies approach broader subjects and bring to life characters from varied backgrounds Bollywood costumes have evolved to include everything from casual wear to occasion wear, making it easy for women for adopt these fashions into their lives. Kareena Kapoor’s long t-shirt and patiala pants combo from Jab We Met was a massive trend from Bhatinda to Kerala proving that a simple silhouette does not have to be slouchy and sloppy. Sonam Kapoor’s matching green checked dress and coat from Aisha brought back preppy school girl fashion in the chicest possible way and Deepika Padukone’s drool worthy number comprising a knotted t-shirt thrown over a sequin skirt in Cocktail became a staple in every fashionista’s wardrobe for lounging by the pool or beach on holiday.
Sources: Pinterest.com, Footnotesandfinds.com
Bollywood costumes can attribute their fame and fan following not only to the stunning movie stars who wear them but also to the designers and stylists who work tirelessly to put together looks that capture each character’s style while blending seamlessly into the story line of the movie. Given the number of characters, various song sequences and the general lavishness of big budget Bollywood movies it is very common to have 40-50 pairs of costumes for each actor and actress. Not surprisingly after production houses have spent millions on getting the right look for each character in every movie the costumes become their property. Large trunks full of costumes used in every movie are stored in warehouses where a lot of them are reinvented for use in another production.