5 intriguing fashion trends from ancient India


Representative image. (Source: eventilaindia/Instagram)

Fashion has been a favorite subject of men and women since ancient age. Right from the Harappan age, both sexes, have been fascinated with clothes, shoes, makeup, jewellery, perfume etc. Today when we course through our history books, we notice that people from India, were quite fashionable back then!

We will take a sneak peek here into the fashion trends which were rampant in ancient times, some still followed till this date.

Fancy Footwear

We come to know that back in 500 BC, the Buddha laid out detailed rules for his monks to follow – what they could and couldn’t do, eat and wear, all recorded in the Buddhist texts called the Tipitaka. One section of Tipitaka covers types of shoes that were forbidden for monks. But there is long list of footwear that was fashionable back then!

People wore different colored shoes e.g red – soled, blue – soled, yellow – soled and more. They also wore moccasins, Greek-style laced boots, cotton-padded shoes, peacock-feather shoes and shoes that were intricately painted with images. Some of the more adventurous even wore animal skin shoes.

Colourful Beards and Platform Heels

The ancient greeks who came with Alexander to north-west India in the 4th century BC, mention that they saw Indians dyeing their beards with different colours..like a red tint, snowy white and the likes. The dignified crowd wore shoes made of white leather, elaborately trimmed. The soles of their shoes were multicolored and made thicker to make them appear taller.

The Gupta Fashion gurus

People were rich and prosperous during the Gupta era((300-500 AD). Their luxurious lifestyle was reflected in the clothes they wore and the fashion they adopted.Both women and men went to great lengths for fashion.

Women had elaborate daily routines to get ready. Kajal on the eyes and a red stain on the lips was a must, where the red colour came from dug up shellac worms! The same red alta colour was applied by them on their hands and feet daily.

Everyday, they would spend a lot of time etching out elaborate colourful rangolis on their own cheeks, foreheads and even chests! This art form was known as ‘visheshak’. It was done using a special white clay, into which different natural colours were mixed in. We can still see traces of this ancient art in brides of Bengal even today.

Hip Hairdos
Women customarily grew their hair extremely long, and never left it open in public. They oiled their hair, parted it in the middle, and made long braids. They perfumed their hair with various types of incense after washing, and wove in flowers, pearls and jewels into their braids. Single braid called an ‘ek-veni’, was the most basic hairstyle. Women also experimented with unique hairdos, as a way to express their personalities.

Flower power
Ancient Indians loved fresh, scented flowers and never appeared in public without wearing some. In general, both men and women usually wore long garlands that reached knee length. Women often substituted their real gold jewellery with intricately patterned jewellery made of fresh flowers! They wore decorative belts on their hips made of crocus flowers, and put karnikara or shirish flowers in their ears. Different flowers were woven into their braids and nestled in their hair.

It was customary for women to carry around large fresh lotuses in their hands to twirl playfully as they walked and talked, just like western women carried decorative fans!


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