The sartorial influence of the Indian Maharanis


Immaculate pearls and chiffon sarees. Tailored coats and cigarette pants. Heritage jewelry and stiletto heels. The charming Indian Maharanis loved to play with high fashion, often breaking the rules set by the West, boldly forging their own sartorial paths, and having fun in the process. In an era when catwalks and fashion designers didn’t exist in India and the World Wide Web or Pinterest wasn’t available for inspiration, these royal women pioneered an opulent style that opened. the way to the evolution of our fashion sensibility.

Deconstructed jacket embroidered with silver figures with pompom finish, black lycra top with tribal embroidery, red draped skirt, all prices on request, Anamika Khanna; Jenlove, price on request, Christian Louboutin; Gold jadau necklace, price on request, Amrapali; Turquoise peacock choker, 12,500 INR, royal finesse danglers, 15,000 INR, Mystical Memoir kada, 7,000 INR, indigenous spherical kada, 13,500 INR, floral kada, 12,000 INR, silver ghungroo kada, 5,000 INR, Geometrical Marvel kada, 12,000 INR, traditional kada statement, 11,000 INR, silver gokhru kada, 14,000 INR, silver handcuffs, 9,000 INR, all by Mero Jewelery; Khaden-Fish Design Tibetan Rug, INR 48,000, Khaden Tibetan Rug, INR 48,000, Khaden Tibetan Rug, INR 59,000, all by Carpet Cellar

Black and white photographs of Sir Cecil Beaton and Man Ray have immortalized our Maharanis in their finery. So it’s no surprise that these images continue to find their way onto the mood boards of modern fashion, jewelry and design.

Dupatta and waistcoat, both prices on request, Tarun Tahiliani; 14k gold studded bridal necklace as headgear, 14k gold earrings, both prices on request, Vandals; antique mirror necklace, INR 6,800, Curio Cottage; traditional peacock ring in 18k gold, price on request, Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewelery; Samarkand khotan carpet, 1,35,000 INR, Carpet cellar

It takes a certain degree of interest and curiosity to dig and unearth these treasures from the past. If you are lucky you will discover a world of striking brocades, kundan jewelry, delicate zardozis, gold embroidery, embossed silks, sumptuous rows of pearls, mathapattis and necklaces encrusted with precious rubies, emeralds and diamonds. While some of these elements have infiltrated our wardrobes today, the true essence of Indian Maharanis as sartorial inspiration has yet to be realized.

Sujan quilted silk jacket, price on request, Raw Mango; Green Onyx and Cubic Zirconia Bridal Choker Set, INR 18,900, Green Onyx Stone Maang Tikka, INR 1,800, all by Curio Cottage; Emerald and diamond necklace, price on request, Amrapali; Floral Emerald Silver Drops Used as Head Accessory, Temple Emerald Choker, INR 10,000, both by Mero Jewelery; Exquisite 14k Gold Studded Emerald Jhumka, 14k Gold Studded Cuff Bracelet, Priced on Request, both by Vandals; Khaden-Fish Design Tibetan Rug, INR 48,000, Khaden Tibetan Rug, INR 45,000, Khaden Tibetan Rug, INR 48,000, all by Carpet Cellar

From Maharani Gayatri Devi’s iconic square to Rani Yashoda Devi’s infamous Patiala necklace by Cartier, these queens were undoubtedly the pioneers of their time. Maharani Tara Devi of Jammu and Kashmir opted for androgynous power suits for hunting, a revolutionary stance for his time and probably even today. Gayatri Devi’s mother, Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar loved to flirt with fine silks, diamond studded shoes and elaborate necklaces.

Long ivory beaded sleeveless coat, price on request, Anamika Khanna; Purva sari, price on request, Raw Mango; organza sharara, INR 27,000, Arpita Mehta; Multilayer pearl and polki diamond necklace, jadau diamond polki earrings, both prices on request, Amrapali; Diamond ring, flower shaped diamond ring, both prices on request, Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewelery

The distinct personal style of each Maharani formed the Idiosyncratic Style of India as we know it today. And while many lavish jewelry and ornaments now live behind glass boxes in museums, their royal influence will continue to bring our modern bridal trousseaux and wardrobes to life.

Photographs: Dolly Devi (feat. Cast); Styling: Zoha Castelino; Model: Anugraha Natrajan (feat. Cast); Hair and make-up: Riviera Vaz; Assisted by: Siddhi Dolas & Jainee Bheda (styling); Courtesy of location: Colonial Collective & Zim Exports

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