The Influence of Indian Cinema on the Evolution of Salwar Kameez

Over the last century, Hindi mainstream cinema has not only mirrored our society but also helped to shape many attitudes and trends. Among the most impact it has had is on the way we dress. With the allure that our leading ladies manage to create on the silver screen, no wonder commoners try and imitate them as best as they can in their bid to look equally glamorous.

As a result wardrobes of ladies in the country are stuffed with lookalikes of what the actors are wearing on and off-screen. Many of the country’s leading fashion designers have reached their exalted status because of the way they have dressed up these heroines in the box office hits. With actors becoming more experimental with the stuff they strut around in, a new fashion wave has been ushered into India that seeks to recreate the magic of the silver screen on the high street.

anarkali mughal-e-azam salwar kameez

The famous Anarkali popularized by Madhubala in the movie Mughal-e-Azam


The Progress of Salwar Kameez in Films

The salwar kameez, along with the saree, is the most favored Indian ethnic wear for women. The clothing finds its place as easily in every formal events as casual wear. Many girls start wearing them when are very young as school uniforms and go on to stick with as they progress to college and beyond in their professional lives. Even though the salwar kameeez has been around in Asian countries for centuries, it has managed to stay contemporary with design tweaks that have never failed to please.

You can very easily trace the evolution of the style of the salwar kameez by seeing Hindi films as they progressed from being ultra-conservative in the early 50s to the avant-garde creations of the current decade. When a film does well in the theatre, it is very common to find salwar suits by the same name flooding the market. Even the retail stores on the web are not far behind on offering cheap designer salwar suits online that mimic exactly what the actors are sporting in the films.

Among the most memorable styles that were made immortal were the salwar kameez worn by the legendary Madhubala playing the role of Anarkali in the classic film Mughal-e-Azam. The popularity of the film inspired many designers to come up with extremely vibrant salwar kameezes in the typical Mughal style, appropriately termed as Anarkali.

More than fifty years later contemporary India is once again witnessing a resurgence of the style albeit in colors and fabrics quite different. Today when the audience steps into the cinema theatre, not only is the film appreciated but all eyes are also on the heroines’ stylish clothes that will soon spawn knockoffs by thousands of boutiques and retail stores.

salwar kameez indian ad divas

Salwar kameez popularized by Indian cinema and celebrities

The Fashion Industry Revolves Around Bollywood Actresses

Right from the days of Madhubala, the fashion industry in India has been significantly impacted by what Bollywood actresses have worn. In fact almost every actress worth her salt such as Nargis, Madhuri Dixit, Karisma and Kareena Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Aishwarya Rai, among many others have sparked off fashion trends among ladies of all ages.

Fashion analysts, however, are quick to point out that the styles that the films are responsible for bringing to the market remain popular only for a relatively brief duration as one style is quickly replaced by another just like the posters of the films playing in the cinemas are taken down and replaced by newer ones.

These actresses have made the salwar suit extremely trendy and have really lifted it up from its usual commonplace status. Indeed many actresses have not been afraid to wear salwar suits even in high profile events internationally, serving to put the even more in the limelight.


Author bio: Sujain Thomas is a fashion designer who has made quite a reputation for herself with her creations being showcased by some of the most well-known Bollywood actresses. You can find many of her creations on premium fashion portals such as