Royal Rewind: The Sartorial Influence Of India's Maharanis Advertisement

Royal Rewind: The Sartorial Influence Of India’s Maharanis

We revisit the queens from the Indian subcontinent and channel their fashion vocabulary into a chic and flamboyant photoshoot

By Gargi Agrawal  September 24th, 2021

Pristine pearls and chiffon saris. Tailored coats and cigarette pants. Heritage jewels and kitten heels. India’s charming maharanis loved to play with high fashion, often breaking rules established by the West, boldly forging their own sartorial paths and having fun in the process. At a time when runways and fashion designers didn’t exist in India and the World Wide Web or Pinterest wasn’t available for inspiration, these regal women pioneered an opulent style that set the stage for our fashion sensibilities to evolve.

Maharani
Silver figure embroidered deconstructed jacket with tassel finishing, black lycra top with tribal embroidery, red draped skirt, all price on request, Anamika Khanna; Jenlove, price on request, Christian Louboutin; Gold jadau necklace, price on request, Amrapali; Turquoise peacock choker, INR 12,500, royal finesse danglers, INR 15,000, Mystical Memoir kada, INR 7,000, indigenous spherical kada, INR 13,500, floral motif kada, INR 12,000, silver ghungroo kada, INR 5,000, Geometrical Marvel kada, INR 12,000, statement traditional kada, INR 11,000, silver gokhru kada, INR 14,000, silver box handcuff, INR 9,000 all by Mero Jewellery; Tibetan Khaden-Fish Design carpet, INR 48,000, Tibetan Khaden carpet, INR 48,000, Tibetan Khaden carpet, INR 59,000, all by Carpet Cellar

Black-and-white photographs by the likes of Sir Cecil Beaton and Man Ray have immortalised our maharanis in their glorious finery. It comes as no surprise then that these images continue to find their way onto modern fashion, jewellery and design mood-boards.

Maharani
Dupatta and vest, both price on request, Tarun Tahiliani;14k gold-studded bridal necklace as headgear, 14k gold earrings, both price on request, Vandals; antique mirrorwork necklace, INR 6,800, Curio Cottage; traditional 18k gold peacock ring, price on request, Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewellery; khotan Samarkand carpet, INR 1,35,000, Carpet Cellar

A certain degree of interest and inquisitiveness is needed to rummage through and unearth these treasures from the past. If you’re lucky, you will be introduced to a world of striking brocades, kundan jewels, delicate zardozis, gold embroideries, embossed silks, sumptuous pearl strands, mathapattis and necklaces encrusted with precious rubies, emeralds and diamonds. While some of these elements have infiltrated our wardrobes today, the true essence of India’s maharanis as sartorial inspiration is yet to be realised.

Maharani
Sujan quilted silk jacket, price on request, Raw Mango; Bridal green onyx and cubic zirconia choker set, INR 18,900, maang tikka in green onyx stones, 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 Jewellery; Exquisite 14k gold-studded emerald jhumka, 14k gold-studded cuff bracelet, price on request, both by Vandals; Tibetan Khaden-Fish Design carpet, INR 48,000, Tibetan Khaden carpet, INR 45,000, Tibetan Khaden carpet, INR 48,000, all by Carpet Cellar

From Maharani Gayatri Devi’s iconic bob to Rani Yashoda Devi’s infamous Patiala Necklace by Cartier, these queens were undoubtedly the trendsetters of their time. Maharani Tara Devi of Jammu and Kashmir opted for androgynous power suits for hunting—a revolutionary stance for her 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 neckpieces.

Ivory beadwork sleeveless long 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, polki diamond jadau earrings, both price on request, Amrapali; Ring with diamonds, flower-shaped diamond ring, both price on request, Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewellery

The distinct personal style of each maharani has formed India’s idiosyncratic style as we know it today. And while many of the lavish jewels and embellishments now live behind glass boxes in museums, their royal influence will continue to breathe life into our bridal trousseaus and modern wardrobes.

Photographs: Dolly Devi (Feat. Cast); Styling: Zoha Castelino; Model: Anugraha Natrajan (Feat. Cast); Hair & Makeup: Riviera Vaz; Assisted By: Siddhi Dolas & Jainee Bheda (Styling); Location Courtesy: Colonial Collective & Zim Exports

Find ELLE’s latest issue on stands or download your digital copy here.