We as a country love watching films be it English, Hindi, Telugu or Tamil in the theatres and now online. Most of us are in awe of the stars and love what they wear and want to replicate the various looks these stars and actors carry so graciously in these films. Be it Bebo’s T-shirt-salwar look in ‘Jab We Met’, or Rani Mukherjee in ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ or Shah Rukh’s ‘Cool’ locket from ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, or House Sigils from ‘Game of Thrones’ in T-shirts, bracelets, keychains, we have tried it all.
Deepika Padukone in ‘Bajirao Mastani’
The relationship between film and fashion is very complex, various enriching and diversified factors come into the picture, as fashion and films walk parallel to each other. In the film ‘Sabrina’ (1954), Paris couturier Hubert de Givenchy designed for Audrey Hepburn, which turned out to be a successful collaboration and brought the iconic black dress into style and was flying off shelves at that time.
Along with the growth in industrialisation and comparable expansion within the couture industry into prêtà-porter, there is an acceleration in the fashion's influence over the film as well as the other way around. Kajol’s pinafore dress in ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ (DDLJ) was reproduced and marketed in the name of the film. The rise in celebrity culture and a blossoming interest in movie star and what they wear both on and off the screen is inspiring, a visit to any bridal store in Chandni Chowk in Delhi, would swear that the most popular asks are Anushka’s, Deepika’s or Sonam’s lehenga and looks from their respective weddings.
Actor Priyanka Jawalkar of ‘Taxiwala’ fame says, “Fashion and films have always been interdependent, the costumes should fit in as per the role of the character.” While recollecting one of her favourite Madhuri Dixit’s girl next door look from ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’, she says, “Collaboration and communication between the designer and actor is necessary to uplift the character being portrayed and do justice to the context of the film; at the same time trying to make it as realistic and as accessible as possible for people to replicate and recreate in their own way.”
The prominence of the Hollywood films witnessed an upsurge during the 1920s and 1930s, actors turned role models for us commoners. Major fashion trends no longer were dictated only by the top Paris-based fashion houses. The attire adorned by movie stars, both on and off the screen, beguiled American and European moviegoers and thus, launched countless fashion fads.
Bollywood cinema’s influence on fashion started during the silent movie era but was noticed from ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (1960). Whereas, the influence of Hollywood on fashion also began during the silent film era. Pola Negri, a popular actress in the 1920’s, purchased white satin shoes that she had dyed to match her outfits. Once this was publicised in a magazine, women by the thousands followed her lead. Clara Bow another silent screen star, helped to popularise bobbed hair, sailor pants, and pleated skirts.
Between the 1920s and 1940s, fashion designers working on moving pictures was belittling. Sam Goldwyn called Coco Chanel to Hollywood, who promptly returned realising she was too meticulous and too precise, and Hollywood was not for her. On return to France, Chanel gave movies another shot by designing for the films ‘Les Amants’ (1958) and ‘L'année dernière à Marienbad’ (1961). Hollywood costume designers started playing a crucial role in dictating fashion trends.
Between 1928 and 1941, Gilbert Adrian, head costume designer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios created the signature styles of the studio's top actresses and also launched numerous fashion fads of that era. The gingham dress made of cotton fabric in a checkered pattern designed for Judy Garland to wear in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) gained popularity. It was Hubert de Givenchy's collaboration with Audrey Hepburn that changed everything in such movies as ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's’ (1961), ‘Sabrina’ (1954), and ‘Funny Face’ (1957).
Outfits worn in movies were quickly copied by retailers. A woman who found a dress or gown worn in a movie appealing could purchase a low-priced copy in a department store. Magazines published clothing patterns based on film costumes, allowing women to tailor their own. The era's most favoured pattern reportedly was a dress worn by Vivien Leigh (1913–1967) in a picnic scene in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939), one of the era's most popular and publicised movies.
A difference in the classic and spectacular look in the films has surged to become apparent from the 1970s. The accessibility of film fashion has become a hugely significant factor in their appeal. In the 1970s and 1980s, fashion had become about what people wear, not what they might fantasise about wearing, a transition that altered the relationship with film. Hindi film actor Zeenat Aman in ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ rocked with those big bindis and florals, Janis Joplin-esque tea-shades and hoop earrings. We did love Dimple Kapadia's look from ‘Bobby’, front-tying polka dot blouse. Polka dots were a trending print in India. Wearing front-tying blouses and flaunting your midriff also became a thing back then. Later Kajol wore a similar top in “Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye” and was an instant fashion hit.
The interplay between fashion and film is a long celebration and the fall/winter collections usually tends to be a reference for some of cinema's most iconic costumes. As any fashion enthusiast knows, certain movie fashion, pops up in designers' collections as inspiration much more frequently than others. With outfits worn by actors and actresses given as examples to tailors in India to reproduce and replicate, the fashion industry over time has reproduced and replicated outfits in bulk either exactly like those worn in films or with film character names such as Anarkali, Jodha Akbar, and Masakali.
In the period drama ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, Madhubala performed as Anarkali and wore long kurtas and churidars, fast forward five decades, the famous Anarkali kameez is a popular trend. Madhuri Dixit’s "Joote do paise lo" look, Green blouse, green dupatta with white lehenga was imitated by many local fashion export houses. There were other looks that caught attention in the film ‘Hum Aapke Hai Kaun’. One of them being the sexy violet saree in the song "Didi tera dewar deewana" and the other red and pink dresses in the song "yeh mausam" and "pehla pehla pyaar hai’' respectively.
However, Indian fashion trends created by the film industry are now less common because Bollywood actors onscreen and off-screen are wearing outfits that follow the current fashion trends as opposed to extravagant costumes. This shift in fashion trend can be related to the more realistic filmmaking currently being the trend. The audience today relate to the narratives and characters as well as the costumes and tend to follow the latest trends.
- Deepika Sarode