The Lehenga is one of the many traditional types of clothing for the everyday Indian woman. Women in the ‘lands of kings’ or Rajasthan, as it is geographically known, are predominantly known for this particular type of clothing.
India is one of the few countries that have kept their cultural practices intact especially since most countries have adopted the Western culture. Rajasthanis are a few of many in India that have retained their customs and can still be spotted proudly wearing a sari rather than a pair of jeans, t-shirts or a pair of trainers.
A lehenga is a long embroidered skirt, often pleated made from various fabrics such as silk, cotton, georgette, crepe and chiffon. It could also be referred to as ghaghra choli when paired with a short blouse and a head covering known as a dupatta. However, though many different types of fabric can be used to make this garment, most designers consider silk a favorite. Even though fabric choice is the key, decorative stitching as is the case with most Indian sarees play a major role. Lehengas portray a number of decorative stitching handiworks such as the kundan, zari and the zardozi.
The Lehenga choli is popular female attire during festivals in India owing to the fact that it is available in a wide array of colours and decor. Bridal lehengas make the bride look like a queen, and that is exactly what a bride should feel like on her wedding day. Apart from this, the garment also has an exotic look about it not forgetting the comfort it offers. The Indian sari is the most pervasive bridal attire in India in general and North India in particular.
However, lehengas have been more popularly used in the modern fashion industry, as time continues to evolve. Traditionally, it would be worn with a waist length or slightly shorter blouse and a long dupatta. In the modern fashion realm, the blouse (choli) has become shorter although most of the time it is substituted by doll and halter neck tops. A number of Indian designers such as Ritu Kumar and Manish Malhotra have evolved with time to create a number of ghaghra designs characterized by low waist skirts and short cholis.
Most may argue that it is a traditional piece of clothing that should be done away with but judging by the garment’s popularity not just as an Indian bridal wear but also as a fashion statement, the lehenga is here to stay. The ghaghra choli was popularized in Bollywood after Madhuri Dixit performed ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’ (a song that sparked controversy in India) in the 1993 film Khalnayak. Popular item girl Malaika Arora Khan has also adorned the ghaghra in a number of films such as Dil Se and Dabangg.
As Indian men continue to popularize the kurta pajama, so will women showcase lehengas especially for weddings. Despite the competition from western designers, Indian attire continues to be a highly sought after mode of dressing. As I’m sure Rajasthani women would agree, the lehenga is not only a mode of dressing to cover a woman’s nudity but also a garment that shows dignity and respect of the wearer while at the same time making a pretty loud fashion statement which could easily surpass any western type of clothing.