Cover: This Poila Baisakh, travel through four decades of Bengali sari-themed fashion with Bibriti Chatterjee
Journey with us through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s as we rediscover the magic of the quintessential Bengali sari
When it comes to redefining indigenous fashion, Bengal has historically led the way and paved the path for new-age fashion. Traced back to the Indus Valley civilisation, saris still continue to rule any Bengali woman's ethnic wardrobe. Worn in several styles and pleats, it has survived centuries of fashion evolution and apart from being regular wear for many, this six yards of wonder also completes any festive look, be it pujas or weddings. This Poila Baisakh, we have tried to capture the sari looks that ruled the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s fashion in Bengal. Emerging actor Bibriti Chatterjee has done complete justice to the looks with her smouldering looks and expressive eyes.
Here are the looks deconstructed by us, in case you want to try them out today:
The traditional 60s
The sixties were all about Aat Poure saris in Bengal or saris worn with eight folds. "Bengali women are known for their impeccable style, particularly when it comes to wearing a sari. Rich Bengal weaves like tant, dhakai, jamdani, baluchari and garad looked graceful in ethnic Bengali drapes," tells couturier Sayantan Sarkar.
"While at home, married women draped saris in “Aat Poure” style, the working women wore them “Nivi” drape. The workplace also saw a lot of printed silks - beautiful paisleys, fish, parrot, flower motifs. Women from upper-middle-class families were often spotted in sleeveless blouses. The pallu draped around the neck, the blouses with embroidery or lace details, use of brooches made them stand apart," tells designer Parama Ghosh, who is famed for recreating traditional eras through her bespoke blouses.
Brinda Sirkar, who helms the design aesthetics of A Sirkar and Co. Jewellers, tells us that the 60s looks can be accessorised with art-deco earrings, metro haar, a lot of chooris (slim bangles) or Jorowa bala, Guinea necklace and pasha, Amrita Pak Bala, lots of Belowari Chooris (inspired by the Belgian chandeliers). "Keep the makeup simple or bold but don't forget to add a red vermillion bindi. Do a middle part in your hair and add a bit of volume before tying it up into a low bun," suggested makeup artist Abhijit Paul.
The experimental 70s
The 70s were all about exploring and experimenting with looks and fusing ethnic styles with Western trends. "Over-the-top bouffant voluminous puffy hair, intricate French braids and teased beehives with soft curls decorating the temples and the winged eyeliners with bold pouts with a light blush were all in rage during the 70s," says Abhijit. "Vibrant polyester, glossy chiffon, georgettes, made their way alongside the simple printed cottons in a Bengali woman’s wardrobe. Shorter sleeves, sleeveless, halter necks, deeper neckline in blouses, glossy or transparent saris, casual draping, shorter pallus -- 70s was a decade of carefree confidence," feels Parama.
The jewellery too matched the mood and Brinda tells us that filigree work influenced by Persian and Odiya styles reigned the scene. "Jorowa chokers, Oporhaath, brooches, big dome finger rings and slender watches ruled," she adds. "The key to wearing a 70s' style sari is coordinating the blouse and the sari. Print on print was very popular coupled with puff sleeves or back tie-up blouses," tells Sayantan.
The transformative 80s
Still influenced and defined by Bollywood trends, the Indian fashion scene saw a huge transformation during the 80s, feels Sayantan.
"The 80s were about monotone silk saris paired with sleeveless blouses. Actors like Rekha, Jaya Prada and Sridevi ruled the roost with pretty saris in simple cotton and silk pieces with broad borders. All you need to do is just enhance the look with statement jewellery and a bindi," says Sayantan.
"Since the working women population increased manifold, one could spot crisp cottons, simple jamdanis, starched tants, Orissa cotton handlooms - mostly pleated and tucked with a safety pin on the shoulder," adds Parama.
"With gold control introduced and prices going up, the 80s and 90s were a turbulent time for gold jewellery with new artisans from Bangladesh and Midnapore starting a new trend of machine-made light jewellery that almost replaced all beautiful handmade indigenous bijouterie. The jewellery designs became even more homogenous and lacked refinement and imagination. So there’s nothing very distinctive in jewellery during the 80s and 90s," tells Brinda.
If you grew up in the 90s, you’d remember the purple sari worn by Madhuri Dixit in Hum Apke Hain Kaun that still is a benchmark when it comes to 90s' fashion. In the film, the monotone piece was paired with a heavily embellished blouse to create a sense of balance. Also, Kajol’s sari looks in sheer, monotone, chiffons definitely took the cake," feels Sayantan. "A major tip in recreating the 90s sari look would be “locks” - strands of hair cut in flowy bangs falling from either side of middle-parted hair. Bright glossy lipsticks, locks, nose pins, and big bindis were very common Bengali sari look," advises Parama.
If looks could kill
We ask the beautiful and promising actor Bibriti Chatterjee about her Poila Baisakh fashion choices and memories, work and more
You were a part of Manish Malhotra beauty campaign and your film Bhotbhoti is ready for release soon. It's a great start to 2022...
Yes, this year has been till now very good but I don't believe in new year, every day is a new day for me. Bhotbhoti was shot in 2019 and is long due for release and I can't wait for it to play in theatres. It's a magic realism film and I play a character similar to a Disney mermaid princess Ariel that portrays real emotions, dilemmas and complexities.
How difficult has your journey been in Tollywood as an outsider?
As an actor with no roots, it's a tad difficult but with no set parameters or boundaries or expectations, I don't think people had reservations about my work and I could experiment. But now as the audience has formed an opinion, I am more careful about my projects. Besides talent, one needs great communication skills which I lack thoroughly but I am very hopeful at the same time.
One lesson that u have learnt?
Not to trust someone at face value, but rather always test them and wait for time to reveal what the relationship really holds for you. So I usually keep to myself.
Tell us how you used to spend Poila Boisakh and what are your plans for today?
Poila Baisakh has always been special to me, especially since I grew up in Rajasthan and couldn't celebrate it together the way it is done here. But when I returned to Kolkata my friend Diti (model), who celebrates it like a ritual, made sure we spend it together all decked up and eating the best of Bengali cuisine. This year too I will spend it with Diti and other friends
Wearing new clothes is a must during Poila Baisakh and like me, most Bengalis would associate the occasion with the famous Chaitra sale (year-end sale). I like wearing something Indian, maybe a sari this year.
Your fashion statement?
I am very temperamental and choose daily wear according to my mood and the occasion. I either dress like a pauper or like a princess but it has to be comfortable and unique.
If it's a festive occasion I like to wear ethnic clothes but brunches or evening parties mean pantsuits, jumpsuits or flowy dresses.
Your wardrobe essentials?
A pair of shorts, oversized loose tees, a nice low cut dress and definitely a scarf.
Model: Bibriti Chatterjee / Pictures: Sandeep Sarkar / Hair and makeup: Abhijit Paul, assisted by Sananda Laha Mondal / Clothes: Parama Ghosh, Sayantan Sarkar, Simaaya / Jewellery: A Sirkar and Co. Jewellers, De Beers Forevermark / Styling: Olivia Sinha Roy / Location courtesy: Polo Floatel