Exploring Historical Fashion Eras and Influences in India (1920s to 2020s)


Fashion is an ever-evolving art form that reflects the societal, cultural, and political changes of a particular era. Throughout the years, India has witnessed significant transformations in its fashion landscape, with each decade leaving a distinctive mark on the sartorial choices of its people. In this article, we will take a journey through time and explore the evolution of fashion trends and the historical fashion eras that have shaped the Indian fashion industry from the 1920s to the 2020s.

The 1920s – The Era of Elegance and Influence

The 1920s marked a shift from the conservative Victorian era to the more liberal and modern Roaring Twenties. Influenced by Western fashion, women embraced shorter hemlines, dropped waistlines, and loose-fitting garments. The iconic flapper style with its sequined dresses, feathered headbands, and art deco-inspired jewellery became popular. Men’s fashion witnessed the rise of double-breasted suits and the introduction of jazz suits.

The 1930s – Embracing Traditionalism

In the 1930s, there was a resurgence of traditional Indian fashion as the freedom struggle gained momentum. Mahatma Gandhi’s call for Swadeshi led to a revival of handwoven textiles like khadi. Women opted for sarees and blouses, while men embraced the Khadi Kurta. This era saw the fusion of traditional Indian attire with Western influences.

The 1940s – The Impact of World War II

The 1940s were marked by the impact of World War II, which limited access to fashion from the West. Simple and practical clothing styles became prevalent. Women wore sarees, salwar kameez, and blouse sets, while men preferred the kurta-pajama combination. The emphasis was on functionality rather than elaborate designs.

The 1950s – The Golden Era of Indian Cinema

The 1950s saw the emergence of Bollywood, which greatly influenced fashion trends. Actresses like Madhubala and Nargis popularized the saree and the glamorous, feminine look. Western influences began to permeate Indian fashion, with women adopting full skirts, fitted blouses, and high-waisted trousers.

The 1960s – The Swinging Sixties

The 1960s brought a significant shift in fashion with the influence of Western youth culture. The mini-skirt, made popular by British designer Mary Quant, became a symbol of rebellion and liberation. Bollywood actresses like Sharmila Tagore and Asha Parekh embraced this trend. Men’s fashion saw the rise of the Nehru jacket, inspired by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The 1970s – The Decade of Bohemian Vibes

The 1970s were characterized by a bohemian aesthetic. Flowy maxi dresses, bell-bottom pants, tie-dye prints, and ethnic-inspired accessories were in vogue. The hippie movement had a significant impact on fashion choices, embracing peace symbols, fringe details, and natural fabrics.

The 1980s – Glamour and Glitz

The 1980s witnessed a shift towards glamour and excess. Disco fashion was prevalent, with shiny fabrics, sequins, and bold colours dominating the scene. Power dressing for women, characterized by shoulder pads, tailored suits, and statement accessories, was popularized by celebrities like Sridevi and Rekha.

The 1990s – Minimalism and Globalization

The 1990s brought a wave of minimalism and the influence of Western brands. Grunge fashion gained popularity, with ripped jeans, flannel shirts, and combat boots being embraced by the youth. Traditional Indian attire like the salwar kameez and saree also continued to be favored.

The 2000s – Fusion and Global Trends

The 2000s witnessed the rise of fusion fashion, with a blend of traditional Indian wear and Western silhouettes. Bollywood celebrities became fashion icons, influencing trends with their red carpet appearances. Designer labels gained prominence, and globalization brought international brands to India.

The 2020s – Sustainability and Individual Expression

The current decade is characterized by a shift towards sustainable and conscious fashion choices. Slow fashion, upcycling, and eco-friendly fabrics are gaining popularity. Individual expression and personal style take centre stage, with fashion becoming more inclusive and diverse.


The evolution of fashion in India reflects a rich tapestry of historical influences, cultural shifts, and global trends. From traditional attire to Western influences, each era has contributed to shaping the vibrant fashion industry in India. As we move forward, fashion continues to evolve, reflecting the changing times and the aspirations of the people.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The 1930s marked a revival of traditional Indian textiles like khadi, which gained popularity during the freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi.

The 1960s saw the rise of the mini-skirt and the Nehru jacket, both of which became popular fashion choices in India influenced by Western youth culture.

The 1990s saw a blend of global fashion trends and traditional Indian wear, with the rise of fusion fashion and the continued popularity of traditional attire like salwar kameez and sarees.

The current decade is characterized by a focus on sustainability, individual expression, and diverse fashion choices, with trends like slow fashion, upcycling, and conscious consumption gaining prominence.

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