Celebrate the salwar kameez, its drapes, its designs and its long journey in the country
With Id-ul-Fitr a few weeks away, it is perhaps time to look again at an Islamic contribution to Indian culture: the salwar kameez. It is so ubiquitous that its roots have been forgotten. Indian womanhood cannot be imagined without it today.
Yet, even a few a decades ago, the salwar kameez was not worn in Indian communities where the custom for women was to wear the sari or other traditional attire. The salwar suit entered mainstream from the Eighties, from when it was adopted as a uniform for school-going girls in a major way. In the same decade women began to join the workforce in significant numbers. For women, the age of marriage was going up. They also wanted ease of movement in the world outside. The salwar kurta liberated this generation and stayed on for the ones to come.
“Unlike the sari, the salwar kameez does not have strong associations with tradition, nor does it evoke anxieties of learning how to properly wrap and drape the outfit,” writes Stephanie Ho in an article in the Singapore Infomedia website, run by the National Library Board, Singapore. The salwar kameez travelled to Singapore quite early, when a large group of women from Punjab went to that country after the First World War to join their husbands, the article adds.
The costumes of the Mughals are said to have led to the salwar kameez in India. Otherwise it is a generic dress worn in South Asia and Afghanistan. It is the national dress of Pakistan, and the traditional dress of Punjab, both sides. The intricate, heavy metal embroidery of zardozi, another important Islamic contribution to Indianwear, is often used to great effect in the more formal salwar kurta.
Here we showcase the work of Rana Hashmi (picture above) of Alfukhum Smart Fashion in Calcutta. Her outfits are both formal and informal, building on the basic salwar kameez.
She uses pure cotton, pure georgette, net, chiffon, silk and crepe, with zardozi, kundan and mukesh works and threadwork.
“After a month of robust fasting arrives the day of Id-ul-Fitr, signifying happiness, togetherness and festivity,” says Hashmi. She has created her designs keeping in mind the spirit of the occasion, also a time to “drape and dress” she says.