Of matching kurtas and coats: Coffee table explores western influence on pre-Independence Punjab fashion

Updated: few hours ago

New Delhi, Nov 25 (PTI) An pyjama and a collared shirt, a pair of shining shoes beneath the said pyjama and a dashing great coat was all that was needed to complete the mid-19th century Indian, nay Punjabi, gentleman – style catastrophe for some, mismatch for others maybe but certainly a moment in fashion as it evolved.   A new coffee table book explores in meticulous photographic detail how Indian, especially Punjabi, attire was transformed by western influence from the mid-19th century to pre-Independence 20th century and then on.   The lavishly displayed “Influences of the British Raj on the Attire and Textiles of Punjab”, written by author-textile researcher Jasvinder Kaur, edited by Nirad Grover and designed by Nikheel Aphale, traces simpler times in Punjab when western clothes were gaining currency among the men and women of the province -- even when the British did not appreciate the idea.

“The British imposed some rules on dressing in order to emphasize the difference between the new rulers of India, i.e., themselves, and the ruled, i.e., the natives. Even the Indian royalty was subjected to these policies. They could not wear anything that would in any way resemble the English crown,” the author says in the book.   Be that as it were, the popularisation of new fabrics and changes in attire did take place, and it was across the board, she notes in the introduction. Men took fancy to wearing not only a fully western outfit, but also combinations of European and Indian apparel.   In the early 19th century, just as the East India Company and the British Empire with it was gradually spreading its control over the subcontinent, the man from Punjab wore a kurta, pyjama, juti and the indispensable pagri (turban).

Soon, the common western-style coats, waistcoats, greatcoats and overcoats found themselves mixed and matched with Indian clothes. The fusion of European and Indian also gave birth to the achkan and sherwani that incorporated elements of both the fashion styles.