Kolkata is a city of amiable contrasts and has an old-world charm to it, which can only be experienced by visiting the city. The by and large easy-going population of this metropolis, rightly called the city of joy, also takes a lot of pleasure in setting the benchmark for fashion.
Walking down the streets of Kolkata, one comes across people with varied dressing styles ranging from the traditional dhotis (garment for men) and sarees (garment for women) to contemporary outfits influenced by the western world.
Despite rapidly evolving fashion trends, the denizens of Kolkata have adopted the modern way of dressing, yet have stayed true to their traditional garments. The most prominent women’s dress in Kolkata is perhaps the Korial Lal Paar saree, the quintessential white saree with a red border. This saree is believed to be very auspicious for the Bengalis and women in this city prefer to wear it during festivals like Durga Puja. The fabric is accentuated with a big red bindi (a dot on the forehead, mark of a married Hindu woman), and the sindoor (vermillion), giving the women the look of Goddess Durga – the Hindu warrior goddess. Both the bindi and sindoor, have a different significance altogether.
According to the legend, the sindoor represents ‘power’ and the bindi is said to retain energy and boost concentration. It also represents the third eye. Since West Bengal shares its cultural influences with Bangladesh, the people residing in these places almost follow the same culture and wear the same dresses. The adults and the older generation in both the places typically sport traditional dresses like sarees and salwar kameez while in contrast the younger generation is dressed in westernised clothes like trousers, palazzos, cold shoulder dresses or even sarees draped non-traditionally, giving a modern look to traditional garments.
Classic meets cool on Kolkata’s catwalk
The city houses some of the best designers of the Indian fashion industry. These designers, like Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Anamika Khanna, Monapali, Kallol Datta and Ritu Kumar, have set their own unique standards to make way into the fashion world. Even during fashion shows, in different parts of India, their clothing styles and modern take on traditional clothing are displayed.
These Bengali designers are also the favourites of many Bollywood style icons, including Sonam Kapoor, the fashionista, who loves to experiment with her clothes and is an inspiration for many.
One such Bengali designer, Anamika Khanna, reinvents and fuses traditional garments into chic contemporary versions that make you look elegant and modern at the same time. She has designed clothes in movies like Aisha, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Fashion, etc., setting a new trend for draping sarees in a unique fashion. She introduced the different types of saree-draping styles like tulip-drape, wavy drape, the two pallu and dhoti drape.
Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the famous name who hails from a middle-class family of Kolkata, plays with his signature style that is original and beautifully crafted indo-western outfits. He has contributed a lot in the use of Indian textiles and converting them into contemporary clothes. He is a National Award winner for Sanjay Leela Bansali’s Black (2005) for the best costume designer and he also designed for many other movies like Baabul, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and Raavan.
Not to forget, Ritu Kumar, who is also a very famous name in the designing industry, started her fashion career in Kolkata and has won many awards for her creations.
While a number of women in Kolkata love to wear sarees both inside their homes and even at work; few are more in favour of wearing western clothes. However, wherever the Bengalis go and whatever they wear, they always carry with them a part of their culture by retaining a touch of traditional element in their western outfits.
Jaipur , Rajasthan