Maharanis & Begums – How our history inspired Women’s Fashion Trends

The Indian love affair with fashion started centuries ago and you can certainly find its roots in the extravagance and opulence exuded by our maharanis and begums. Their sense of fashion is still seen as an integral part of our modern couture.

Here are a a few fashion elements that started way back when and have endured the test of time. After all, you know what they say, “elegance will never go out of style”. 


The Glorious Maharani Style

Indian royal ladies were rightly called so, as everything from their mannerisms to their clothes were the epitome of grace. They would often wear traditional garments when they were required to attend high-tea, a royal event or even address the crowd.

The Chiffon Saree

Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar is known to be the first woman who wore the trousseau, French chiffon in Paris and from there on began the trend of the material. The Maharani loved the material, and on her insistence, it was made to 47 inches in width, and thus the soft flowing chiffon saree was brought to India.

Since then it has been adorned by women all over India. Whether its Raveena Tandon in Mohra or Deepika Padukone in Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, chiffon sarees have never really been ‘out-of-fashion’. But more than extremely stylish, we love this material mainly because it feels so soft against the skin and is the perfect mix of grace and sensuality.

Chiffon saree 1 Raghevandra Rathore

Sheetal Chiffon

Chiffon has not only been an inspiration to Bollywood but also resonates with the designers worldwide. Luisa Beccaria’s Spring Collection showcased her fairy-tale gowns for the blushing bride-to-be’s.

Even vintage-inspired collection of bridal dresses feature minute details from the 1960’s such as chiffon and sheer sleeves. Designers like Prabal Gurung led the runway with their use of floral prints that were seen on floating silk and soft chiffon.

Long Sleeved Blouses

Maharanis preferred pairing their sarees with long-sleeved blouses. Even today, with so many cuts and designs to choose from, there is something about full-sleeved blouses that make them look elegant to a whole new level. And our designers know this!

We often see designers experimenting with full-sleeved blouses. Shyamal and Bhumika’s Victorian-era inspired couture showcased tulle ruffles with intricately embroidered work on the sleeves. Also, there are the tulle bell sleeves, balloon sleeves, and cold shoulder blouses.


From the use of brocade silk or velvet for the blouse to zari work on the sleeves speaks highly of traditional grandeur. The subtlety of the detailed work that is embroidered on the blouse combined with the plain saree makes for a perfect balance. Pairing a full-sleeved blouse with your saree or lehenga lends tints of winter to create a certain sense of warmth.

Waistcoat Over Blouses

The Maharanis in the Deccan used to wear a sleeveless, embellished vest over the blouse. The Maharanis would often combine them with net or silk waist-length jackets or you could combine it long jacket over a saree, which was quite in demand back in the 60’s.

Today, we see tons of brides and bridesmaids opting for a jacket-styled blouse or choli. Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla crafted a Kutch embroidered, jacket-style blouse fitted till under the bust and flared below it, giving it a peplum look.


Anamika Khanna’s saree gown finished off with a sheer cape gown that was designed for Sonam Kapoor to be worn at the Cannes Red Carpet sparked off various trends to the otherwise plain saree. Designers like Rohit Bal and Gaurav Gupta styled the cape with intricate hand-work and embellishments further adding to its vintage charm. This Indian tradition is a blend of regal with the right amount of modern detail.

The Royal Begum Style

The gorgeous dressing sense of Begums bent more towards the feminine side. Their quintessential look consisted of heavy, embroidered silk paired with a lot of jewellery including earrings, nose rings, necklaces, and anklets.


The origin of the ghararas was during the rule of the Nawabs. It consists of a short or mid-length kurta paired with wide-legged pants that are ruffled at the knee, resulting in a dramatic flare. The knee area is called the gota and is often elaborately embroidered in zari work.

Ghararas continue to be a source of inspiration for many designers. Manish Malhotra and Ritu Kumar have presented them on the ramp by mixing them with lehengas and gowns to create an exquisite collection.

Arpan Vohra

Sabyasachi’s Heritage Collection for Winter Mehendi and Sangeet which uses shararas for some of the looks illuminates opulence and grace with its minimalistic and distinctive design. The collection certainly mixes art with fashion to give us a fusion between multi-patchwork sharara and hand-embroidered kurta.

Those who have seen Anushka Sharma in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, have irrevocably fallen in love with her attire in the song “cutie pie.”



During the Mughal period, weavers were famous for their fabric and designing. Many females chose to wear this rich fabric clothing paired with intricate jewellery. The Anarkali is fitted on the bust area, and its length usually ranges from floor length to mid-knee.

Anarkali suits are in demand as they are the perfect blend of modern and ethnic. They do not need to be paired with accessories and are hence comfortable to wear. In addition to this, they make you feel like royalty.

Nidhi Tholia Anarkali.jpg

Many designers have made use of the idea, and further have them making a resurgence as gowns and dresses. Whether the gown is hand-embroidered with beads and glass pipes or has velvet silhouettes with exquisite detailing, we can be sure that they come together to create sheer brilliance. But that being said the best part of Anarkali’s is that if they are floor length, you can wear them without pants 😉 

IMG_0023_1 a a a a b

So ladies, now that you have an idea of some of our history inspired fashion trends that seem to be a rage still, take a trip back in time and try these vintage fashion trends for yourself and share them with us! 

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