The ’60s and ’70s saw the bloom of ghaghra-choli , now commonly known as long skirts. Watch any old Bollywood film, if it has a rural setting, you will see the lead heroine prancing around in a ghaghra on peppy numbers. From Vyjayanthimala to Sadhana and from Madhuri Dixit to Deepika Padukone, ghaghra has retained its significance in Indian fashion. Vibrant, colourful ghaghra-cholis were a way of convincing audiences that in all villages across India, this is the only outfit that women wore. That there existed a state-to-state distinction was completely overlooked. Since the trend has not seen much change in Bollywood representations, here’s what you need to know about the ghaghra.
Also known as lehnga or lacha depending on which state you’re in, the ghagra kept on modifying according to varying tastes and cultural traditions in various parts of India. Over the years, it has beautifully blended with the local cultures. This voluminous skirt is majorly worn by the tribal women of Rajasthan and Gujarat. And now, this nomadic cultural artefact, celebrated for its bohemian spirit, is taking the forefront in the fashion world.
With numerous ethnic brands bringing out the many versions of the outfit, the ghagra no longer can be seen in the closet waiting only to be flashed around in pompous weddings. It is now more of a regular and casual attire being paired with accessories for a chic, modern look. People these days are very experimental in terms of fashion, and are breaking away from following any trends that are pre-defined.
Ghaghra reflects Indian roots and connections. Many brands tend to get inspired from village cultures and incorporate them into modern designs giving a more of a retro-modern fusion look. Mainly inspired from the nomadic tribes of India like Rabari, Meena, Garasiya while also covering some other north Indian regions, the ghaghra found its place in Indian society ages ago, and is now raging in the mainstream fashion industry albeit holding on to its cultrual roots of origin.
Designer Archana Kochhar recently showcased her new digital collection “A Tale of Two Travels”, a mélange of her travels to the breathtaking Taj Mahal and the village of the colourful nomadic tribe Banjara, at the “FTL New York Fashion Week SS17”.
According to her, she drew her inspiration from the nomadic tribes of India called Banjara, known for the craft of the vibrant mesmerizing colours and rustic mirror work in India. In her collection, she specifically wanted to encapsulate the style and impression of Rajasthan.
“My inspiration lies in the colourfully enriched culture and intricate embroidery of banjara tribe, from Rajasthan, ghaghra being one of those styles being highly preferred by many Indian designers as one of the most important ethnic styles to be showcased in some of the biggest fashion shows. If fashion is being carried on in this perfect manner, I’m sure very soon ghaghra will be making it into the mainstream fashion industry with a boom!” says Kochhar.
But for many designers, a ghaghra can never called a long skirt. “The most noticeable difference between a normal long skirt and a ghagra is the word ‘normal’ — every ghaghra is unique in its own way, and it can never be normal. The intricacy of the work, essence of the fall of the fabric, the voluminous flare, flamboyance of the appearance can never be mistaken for a normal long skirt,” says designer Kochhar.
According to Pankaj Anand, director of Sabhyata, fusion long skirts have their origins from ghaghra. Long skirts would be a step ahead as skirts nowadays are more versatile. One can wear them as a daily wear. Skirts with their cuts and hemlines are a redefined version of ghaghras.
“Many celebrities of late have been spotted acclimating to ghaghra by wearing them in award ceremonies and international events. Various designers have also worked hard to bring ghaghra on the forefront of every fashion week. With India being a festival centric country, women hardly run out of excuses to don a ghaghra,” says Anand.
With upcoming designers using ghaghra as the subject of most of their collections, not only is this attire to stay in the Indian market, it is also paving way for local craftsmen to earn better livelihood. After all, it requires a certain gharana of artisans to work on Bandhini and mirror work.
Another brand which is enormously working on this outfit is Nomad. It is bringing back the unique Indian culture and bohemian style in its collection of ghaghra. Fascinated by the brightly painted and printed floral patterns, “Chheent” is the signature print of Nomad.
Harshita Gautam, founder and owner, Nomad says, “The fabric of our ghaghra comes from the loom and is hand-stitched and so, every piece carries the spirit of the artisan. By giving a platform to the handloom weavers, we not only provide them employment but also save a part of our rich tradition. Keeping our ghaghra free size also increases the probability of the garment getting passed down thereby cutting down the need to buy more.”
“We attach utmost value to our precious artisans and show our appreciation through premium wages and a stress-free environment. Their smiles are a testimony to our claim! And the artisan shows his gratitude by pouring his soul in the making of the ghaghra. It is not just an outfit; it is love and care bundled and tied in silken strings,” adds Gautam.
When it comes to styling, designers suggest, pair it even with sports shoes, it looks great. The beauty of the embroidered ghaghra lies in the intricacy, the detailed motifs and the vibrant choice of colours. The cuts have the touch of ethnicity with a western twist exhibiting perfection. The look can be perfected by light fusion jewellery or an oxidized headgear with a dash of bling. To give it a slight modern look, new arrivals concentrate on distinctive styles and shapes. For instance, Haute Couture collection has brought to the fore cholis with different necklines, cuts, sleeveless-cum-strapped to be teemed with their ghagras.