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Costumes of the cast form an integral part of the film. It is among the vital tools that the director uses to narrate the story. Costumes help portray the film character's personality to the audience and transform actors into credible people on the screen. Costumes depict three Ps- People, Place and Period. When used in prudent combination with other elements, costumes help throw light on the demography and social class of the character and also convey information about the era in which the film is set, geographic location, time, season and weather in which the scene was shot.
A costume designer must know all the characters of the film and their contribution to the plot before curating wardrobe and accessories for them. Generally, one costume is worn by only one actor in his role, portraying a specific character in a particular scene or sequence in the story. It is the responsibility of the costume designer to ensure that their creations weave seamlessly into the story to foster engagement with the audience. Inappropriate costumes for a particular character or a specific sequence, exorbitantly priced costumes, or even a bad finish affect the portrayal of the character in a story.
Whether it was Mumtaz’s tangerine sari in Brahmachari, Deepika Padukone’s royal attire in Bajirao Mastani (2015), or the signature outfits of Kareena Kapoor Khan and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja in Veere Di Wedding (2018), the impact of fashion on 21st-century movies have been profound and represents an evolution of the dressing style over the decades. The vice-versa is also true. Fashion trends of the 1970s, such as bell-bottoms, cropped shirts, oversized glasses, platform heels and polka dots, referred to as ‘bobby print’ after Dimple Kapadia’s look in the film ‘Bobby’ indicate the influence of 21st-century movies on fashion.
Here are a few movies which changed the way we dress.
Costume Designer- BN Trivedi
This historical drama was among the most expensive films of that decade, which is reaffirmed by its elaborate sets, opulent costumes, exquisite jewellery and high-definition make-up. In the movie, every outfit of the protagonist Madhubala is embellished to impart a regal look. A popular song, 'Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya,' wherein Madhubala donned a high-waisted kameez with a full-length skirt in red and light blue, won the audience's hearts. The look is complemented with a Mughal-style cap and heavy jewellery. Every item of Madhubala’s wardrobe was meticulously chosen to give it an authentic setting-footwear was ordered from Agra, crowns were made by craftsmen from Kolhapur and jewellery from Hyderabad. Not only that, Saleem and his father’s angrakhas with a waistcoat in contrasting colours were also noteworthy.
Costume Designer- Bhanu Athaiya
This historical film is based on the love story of the King Ajatashatru of Magadh, and the court dancer Amrapali essayed by Sunil Dutt and Vyjayanthimala, respectively. The film is noted for its signature costume, 'Amrapali sari', which resembles a dhoti drape and is worn with a bustier. The costume designs are inspired by the frescoes from Ajanta Caves, and costume designer Bhanu Athaiya travelled there to study the designs. Her most famous Amrapali outfit is in a shade of orange, derived from the dye made of parijat flowers.
Costume Designers- Bhanu Athaiya and Chelaram
This film is noted for the orange sari worn by actress Mumtaz in the song ‘Aaj Kal Tere Mere.' This orange-flame sari was a precursor to the 'concept sari' with pleats, a zipper on one side, and the 'lehenga' effect at the bottom.
Costume Designers- Zeenat Aman (for herself)
This film featured the song 'Dum Maro Dum, Mit Jaye Gum', which became an instant hit for its melodic tune as well as for the iconic setting of the Indian hippie movement. The pink kurti worn by Zeenat Aman adorned with marigold garlands, oversized tinted glasses and hoop earrings became the icon of the hippie movement.
Costume Designers- Rishi Kapoor (for himself), Stylo, Mani Rabadi and Satyawan
Throughout the film, the protagonist ‘Bobby’ dresses in a way that reaffirms her identity as a Christian girl. Credit goes to Mani Rabadi for designing her outfits in a way that lead actress Dimple Kapadia could pull off with elan. The polka-dot crop blouse with a short, black front-buttoned skirt was instrumental in portraying 'Bobby' as a naughty yet innocent and demure character.
Costume Designers-Archana Shah
In this movie, lead actress Smita Patil’s mirror-worked low-back kapadus, along with tie-and-dye cotton odhinis, symbolise how the women dress in Kutch. Credit for this exemplary design goes to costume designer Archana Shah. Most of Smita’s outfits and jewellery were chosen from Kutch and then altered to fit her. Archana has also authored a book 'Shifting Sands' on textiles and traditions of Kutch, highlighting the meticulous planning process while designing costumes for this film.
Costume Designers- Harish Kale, Pramila Roshan, Kachins, Madhav Tailors, Leena Daru, Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla
This film, directed by Rakesh Roshan, was inspired by the famous Australian television series 'Return to Eden.' However, Rekha's look of Jyoti in the film parallels Joan’s role in the ‘Dynasty,’ a popular American show of the 1980s. Rekha’s attire with the bling, the lamé, the turbans, the oversized sunglasses and the in-your-face make-up reflect the fashion statement of the 1980s.
Costume Designers- Masculine, Jewel and Manish Malhotra (for Karisma Kapoor and Archana Puran Singh)
The plot of Raja Hindustani revolves around Aarti Sehgal, hailing from an elite family (played by Karisma Kapoor) who falls in love with a taxi driver (a role essayed by Aamir Khan). Raja Hindustani proved to be a milestone in Karisma Kapoor's makeover, for which credit goes to Manish Malhotra. Aarti's long straight hair and subtle make-up reflected her sophisticated background and indicated the element of fashion in 21st-century movies and films. Today, Manish Malhotra continues to be among the actress' favourite designers, and she is often spotted wearing apparel from his collection at premium events.
Costume Designer-Anaita Shroff Adajania
The film is noted for Aishwarya’s turquoise-blue swimsuit. In reality, it was a one-piece with a cutout, and it was layered with a top and a short white skirt below it. This swimsuit was bought from Rio De Janerio and was complemented by the actress' sun-kissed hair, drop earrings and a cuff. Moreover, her knee-high boots, camo print, and medallions as accessories. This Yash Raj production also collaborated with Pepe Jeans to launch the entire range of costumes worn by actors in the film. Its range of apparel, including t-shirts and shirts, jeans with unique washes and embellishments, short skirts, stylish cargoes, and biker jackets, became an instant hit which is a testimony to the influence of 21st-century movies on fashion.
Costume Designers-Anju Modi and Maxima Basu (supporting cast)
The royal outfits worn by Deepika Padukone testify to costume designer Anju Modi's in-depth knowledge of textiles and embroidery. The dhani-coloured kalidaar anarkali over a multi-panelled ghagra completed with a Persian hat and exquisite gold antiquated jewellery became an instant hit among the audience. Each costume in the movie- be it Kashibai’s, Peshwa’s or Mastani’s seamlessly blend with the sequence to convey the opulent lifestyle of the bygone era of the Marathas. For instance, an attempt has been made to highlight Mastani’s partly-Muslim heritage by recreating the Hyderabadi Nizaam look through her jewellery. At the same, Kashibai’s look of a Maharashtrian woman is reflected by traditional Marathi jewellery - the nathni and archetypal ornaments.
Costume Designers- Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla
Essaying the role of Kalindi- a free-spirited bride-to-be, Kareena Kapoor’s outfits included basic tees, boots and bohemian wear. The signature outfit- yellow lehenga with the off-shoulder blouse is a 25-year-old vintage piece. Other stunning outfits worn by her in the film include a blue star embellished gown and the cape-style mirror work blouse with lehenga. The film is noteworthy for Avni Sharma’s (Sonam Kapoor) pink lehenga paired with a matching blouse, Meera Singh’s (Shikha Talsania) metallic silver off-shoulder dress with asymmetrical hemline and Sakshi Soni’s(Swara Bhaskar) mirror work lehenga paired with a denim jacket. The plot of the story revolves around four female friends, each with a distinct character and personality. These characters depict typical modern women, and their outfits reflect how fashion affects 21st-century movies and films.
Currently, styles of fashion in 21st-century movies and films are diverse, symbolising an eclectic mix of fashion trends of the West, ethnic styles and fashion trends of the past. Whether it was casual urban styles in ‘Dil Chahta Hai,’ Paro’s ornate jewellery in ‘Devdas’, fusion fashion in ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ or Aamir Khan’s style in ‘Ghajini,’ Bollywood films have always made a mark with their fashion quotient. It is noteworthy that the fashion in 21st-century movies and films is often recycled with an item of particular clothing or accessory, making a comeback after decades. The movies present an outlet for viewers to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily routine and immerse in the lives of the characters portrayed on screen. Similarly, fashion enables people to reinvent themselves by emulating the dressing style of actors they consider their role models. As summarised by Joanne Entwistle, ‘fashion opens up possibilities for framing the self, however temporarily.’
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