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.
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.
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.
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.
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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