7 Fashion Wonders Of Free India's 7 Decades

As India celebrates its 70 years of independence, we look at the fashion evolution across the seven decades. From the fiercely nationalistic era of the 40s to the cellphone toting millennial today, fashion in India has undergone a revolution of sorts.

We take a trip down memory lane decoding the hottest trends of each decade since Independence.

1940 – 1950

It was a decade marked by the Second World War with an emphasis on functional clothing. As young college-educated middle-class women joined the freedom movement, fashion too reflected the nationalistic ethos. The handspun Khadi fabric became a powerful symbolism of the Swadeshi movement as opposed to the British mill-cloth.

While the six-yard sari with simple borders ruled, the draping style varied. The foundation of the Indian cinema in this decade revolutionized the fashion scene. Actresses were seen wearing puff sleeves in blouses which became a rage. The salwar-kameez with a dupatta made its mark. Women from royal families like Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur who became a style icon of this decade made simple silk chiffon saris and delicate jewels very popular

From Raj Kapoor to Dilip Kumar, men were inspired by the European fashion of their matinee idols. White kurtas were still widely worn with dhotis.

Dress like Maharani Gayatri Devi by accessorising your chiffon sari with an elegant multi-string pearl necklace sets.

Dress up like Dilipsaab by flaunting a statement cufflink on your shirt sleeve.

1950 – 1960

In the post-World war and post-independent era, celluloid actresses like Madhubala, Meena Kumari and Nargis’s sartorial style inspired many young women. While Madhubala’s sensual look in deep-cut blouses with Capri pants in Howrah Bridge (1958) and full-length Anarkali suit in Mughal-E-Azam gained widespread popularity, Meena Kumari mesmerised her fans with her courtesan look bedecked with jewels. Translucent saris teamed with brocade blouse with sweetheart neckline were the eternal favourites.

Men took style lessons from Dev Anand who had girls swooning over his look. Dev Anand was a trendsetter with his puffed hair, check shirts, mufflers and jackets.

An elegant haath phool similar to Mughal-E-Azam style is a classic jewellery staple you can opt for a bridal look.

1960 - 1970

This era saw the hem of the kameez go shorter and arrival of bright colours. Body-hugging silhouettes came in vogue like skin-tight short kurtas flaunted by Sadhana in films. Shorter and fitted blouses, a hint of skin, scarves and bouffant hairstyles were the key features of the 60s. While Sharmila Tagore embraced the swimsuit in An Evening In Paris (1967), the Mumtaz style sari became hot favourites. Bandhgala or jacket as worn by Jawaharlal Nehru became a staple in formal wear. Checkered shirts, polo and Turtle-necks and bell-bottom pants for men were key fashion takeaways.

A simple pair of hoop earrings is as relevant today as was in the 1960s.

1970 – 1980


The 1970s was aptly called the ‘Decade of Decadence’ with both men and women adopting the hipster style. From demure to bold, actresses like Zeenat Aman, Dimple Kapadia and Helen set fashion goals in crop-tops, pant-suits, maxis, skirts, polka dresses and fishnet stockings. The era also saw Indira Gandhi becoming the first woman Prime Minister of India who was also a style icon. From her neatly starched handloom and khadi saris, the Iron Lady of India was known for her tasteful sartorial choices.

Men adopted the ‘Guru kurta’ (round-neck A-line kurta popularised by Rajesh Khanna), safari suits and slim pants. By the end of the 70s, jeans emerged as daily wear for men. Amitabh Bachchan, the angry young man of the 70s was a trendsetter with his leather jackets and flared trousers.

With a choker around your neck, you don’t need any other fashion jewellery piece to flaunt.

1980 – 1990

The advent of television in people’s homes gave new meanings to fashion. Salwar/chudidar became national attire for women. Printed saris with matching blouses became common. Shoulder pads, blingy ornaments, outrageous colours and OTT accessories were the hallmarks of this decade. Rekha, the glamorous diva of the 80s flaunted opulent jewellery in her iconic films like Utsav and Umrao Jaan. Sridevi, the Bollywood bombshell in her gossamer saris teamed with sleeveless blouses became a fashion craze. The buzzword for men’s fashion was colourful T-shirts and denim jackets.

A dazzling passa will make you look resplendent when teamed with an anarkali kurta.

1990 – 2000

90’s fashion was ruled by Indipop divas like Alisha Chinai and Suneeta Rao who had immense fan following owing to their desi cool image. Film inspired fashion continued to play an important role be it Madhuri Dixit’s Hum Apke Hain Kaun inspired purple sari or sexy sheer Manish Malhotra styled saris worn by Karisma Kapoor and Kajol.

Baggy pants were common in men. While Shah Rukh Khan sported branded body- hugging tees in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Salman Khan’s vests became a national craze. Govinda in mismatched loud wardrobe became a style icon of the masses. 

A multi-hued dangler is all you need to complement your sari or lehenga.

2000 - 2010

The new millennium had several international brands setting shop in India. Both men and women sported new styles and experimented with cuts and patterns. Fashion designers like Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi experimented with new and old fabrics. Women preferred sari in its slinky and glamorous avatar with deep-cut cleavage-bearing blouses. Low-waist jeans too became hugely popular along with ethnic kurtis.

Men’s fashion was more about distressed jeans and cargo shorts. A bespoke kada screams fashion and makes a cool statement.

2010 to present

From high-waisted palazzo pants to off-shoulder blouses, handloom saris and maxi dresses, fashion in this age of digitization is all about recycling. The revival of India’s textile heritage is also a key feature of this era. With ecommerce giants dabbling with style and technology in equal measure, the fashion hungry middle-class is also spoilt for choice.

Think men's ear studs is cool? Don’t be shy to show off your studs accessorised with a tailored suit.

Which of these decades has been your favourite? Tell us in the comments below.
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