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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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