Costumes of Awadh

Explore the unique costumes of the Nawabi Era

Whether you are a fashion buff or not exploring various dressing styles is always amazing. And understanding fashion becomes even more fascinating when viewed through the lens of history. When we explore the history of people, their fashion sense unveils itself. Every empire or era has its own taste of fashion which is unique in its own way. Historically, Awadh holds a significant position with respect to various art forms, including the fashion fabric of India.

Beyond the myriad monuments and cuisine, this land has been a birth place to many exquisite types of attire – particularly during the Nawabi era. The creativity and the artistry that has gone into creating these costumes are something unparalleled. These attires reflect royalty to a fault, and this is the reason they have still not lost their charm in the modern times. In fact, these costumes are evolving with time without spoiling its Nawabi and regal essence. For instance, the palazzos we see today are a modern version of gharara pants.

Although Nawabi era is widely famous for its culture, cuisine and monuments, the fashion style of Awadh is equally wonderful. So, here are favourite picks from among designs & costumes the Nawabs or Mughals gifted to us:

Kali kurta : It is open from the front and has a round neck. The kalis or gored panels give a fuller look to the garment. A triangular gusset is swen under the arm and two suspended pockets are inserted in the side-seams.

Choga : the long-sleeved choga used as an outer garment is made of soft black pashmina, obtained from the fleece of the underbelly of the rare Tibetan wild mountain goat. It is open from the front but fastened at the waist level. Borders are woven in jamawar.

Angarakha : made of kinkhwab brocade, Angarakha is one elegant piece of Awadhi costume. It refers to a traditional men garment worn by men. It overlaps and hugs the upper body and it tied to the either of the shoulders.  It used to be a courtly outfit.

Peshwaz : it is believed to be introduced to India under the reign of Babur, the first Mughal Emperor. However, the first written reference to this garment can be found in the Ain-i-Akbari – a documented recording of the life of Emperor Akbar. It is opulent Mughal clothing designed for women. It is in the form of a tunic and comprised a fitted skirt and bodice. It was worn similar to a robe – tied at the waist. As it was designed in a way that opened in the front, women were needed to wear cholis (traditional blouse) under it.

Farshi Pajama : It is a type of lower prevalent in the late 17th & early 20th centuries. It was worn by royal women, especially in the courts of Awadh.  Farshi Pajama is a flared parted skirt held by drawstrings. It was usually the dress of the royalty or ladies from privileged classes of Uttar Pradesh. (formerly United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in North India). Farshi derives from the word ‘farsh’ meaning floor as this pajama is of floor length. It is straight till the ankles and from there starts the flare reaching up to the floor. Farshi pajama was actually a break down on the flowing gowns of the British. The complete outfit comprises – farshi pajama, kurta/long short and a dupatta (long stole). Today, it is also called Farshi Gharara due to its similarity in appearance with the gharara. It is intricately & copiously embroidered.

Gharara : Originating in the ethnic soils of Awadh (now Lucknow), gharara is one of the most elegant traditional outfits. It comprises a short or knee length kurti,, team up with a pair of widely flared pajamas, usually ruched or pleated the knee with some delicate design. The birth of Gharara dates back to the late 19th century and early 20th century. The attire was admired by  the Nawabs of that era and the women of the elite ‘Taluqdar’ and Nawabi clan donned it as a symbol of class, sophistication and the aristocracy. The modern day Palazzo is actually the twist to the Gharara pajama. Gharara is a much favoured ethnic dress for Muslim women in North India, South Asia and Pakistan

Sharara : This is another three-piece outfit worn by women, generally to weddings. It has flared pants as lower with skirt-like outline below the knee. It is heavily flared, resembling the shape of an umbrella. It is paired with a kurti and dupatta to complete the look. The origin of sharara is believed to have derived from Mughal’s design aesthetics. It was Bollywood movies of 70s & 80s which gave them popularity among common people.