The 1940s Salwar Kameez

w1 w2 w3w4

The adaptation of the salwar kameez with modernity is perhaps less documented than the sari. In the 1920s and 1930s, the new kind of sari drape was the on trend garment. By the 1940s, the salwar-kameez (or on occasion the churidar-kameez) was in vogue, especially for young college going women.  While maintaining the traditional silhouette and embellishments like zari, gota and sequins, it was also possible to incorporate new fabrics and prints as well as collars, laces, trims and the like. Especially for the kameez.

The most common ensemble in the 40s is as in pics 3 and 4, a kameez that ended above the knee, loose salwars and a dupatta. Pics 1 and 2 are of churidar ensembles which you see now and then in the decade.Pic 1: Amrita Shergil with her cousins

Pic 2: Still from a 1940s film

Pic 3: Drama group, Delhi, 1947

Pic 4: Still from Midnight’s Children.

About Anu M

A potted history of Indian clothing and fashion.
This entry was posted in 1940s, 1950s, Early 20th Century, fashion, Indian fashion, Indian Women, Islamic Dress, Salwar Kameez, vintage fashion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The 1940s Salwar Kameez

  1. Is there any relation between the word kameez and the French chemise or Spanish camisa?
    I hope you don’t mind me suggesting that it would be helpful if you could translate between brackets some of the Indian terms you use in your posts (for example dupatta, zari, gota) for non-Indians or non-specialists to understand the text easily. (Of course, one should find the time to do the research oneself, but days are never long enough!).
    It is interesting to see the transformation in women’s dress – although it was perhaps not for the best from the aesthetic point of view, the kameez seems to have been more practical for working women.

    • Anu M says:

      Yes I think it comes from the Latin/French.

      Not all – I do try and make sure there are links. Unfortunately when I am doing a series of posts, the first post gets pushed way back and the context in recent posts is lost for the reader!

      The kameez is definitely very convenient while providing some kind of national identity and more often than not in recent times also incorporating weaves which were traditionally reserved for saris. I think it can also be readily adopted by say even visitors to the country while the sari, though elegant, requires a degree of mastery.

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