The archetypal Indian Saree is never complete without a blouse. However that wasn’t the case up until Jnanadanandini Debi, wife of Satyendranath Tagore (brother of Rabindranath Tagore) made the very debut of a blouse in the 19th century India. She adopted western ways after her husband encouraged her to live the modern way and accept the elite westernized ways of clothing.
How it all Began?
Jnanadanandini Debi was refused to enter a club under the British Raj because she wore a Saree without a blouse underneath. After a furious fit, she eventually gave into the Western ways of dressing and became the style icon for the said ‘blouse- tradition’ in India. She was one of the primary drivers of change and is known to be the woman who popularized blouse culture in India.
Western Waves in Bengal
The European fashion culture made its way to the business capital of India under British Raj- none other than Calcutta. Bengali Women of upper and classes were expected to dress up Sarees with blouses and Petticoat- which was again an offering of the Victorian Era.
The Blouse and Petticoat became a part of Indian culture even though it exposed the midriff bare. It is considered a modest piece of clothing and is thus also associated with the traditional Indian Culture. It became a stereotypical image of a traditional Indian woman’s identity and is now one of the most quintessential pieces of Indian Fashion.
Blouses made their way in bollywood movies and celebrity parties in the 20th century. Stylists, as well as designers, tried to create such innovative designs that it led to the birth of Halters and criss-cross backs. From Manish Malhotra to Tarun Tahiliani, each one of them tried to give a different edge to the modern day blouse. With racy necklines and bare backs, the blouse became a glamorous accompaniment to the Saree and yet again a style statement.
The Modern Touch
The ancient choli, re-invented itself time and again to become the very inspiration behind the modern day crop top. A recent age blouse is one which can be worn with lehengas, jeans or palazzos. From fusion fashion to international fashion walks, the blouse has not run short of inspiration and designs. Always up with quirky, creative ideas, this piece of clothing has been at the receiving end of constant re-invention and invigoration.
Jnanadanandini Debi made her mark by popularising the blouse in India, under various social pressures. However, the blouse that made its mark in India for the first time has come a long way. With exciting innovations and embroidery designs, the evolution of the blouse has been far too noticeable and quite jaw-dropping. Risqué patterns and glamorous designs made the blouse a necessary accompaniment for the Saree. In retrospect, it not only became the perfect go-to for Saree’s but also for Lehengas, palazzos, pants, etc. The blouse has indeed come through a major metamorphosis and yet learnt to be a part of our indigenous roots.