Glorious Indian Dance Costumes

Glorious Indian Dance Costumes

India is often thought of as having a glorious, ancient culture full of unique traditions and practices. Much of the glory of Indian culture in rooted in its multi-cultural society which is a melting pot of different types of religions and traditions. Every region of the country has its own set of unique customs and practices, including various distinctive arts, crafts and handicrafts. A great example of the rich and impressive culture of India is the presence of different types of dance in almost every part of the country. From the colorful and popular folk forms such as Bhangda, Ghoomar and Dandiya, to the classical forms such as Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Odissi, all of them have their unique history and literature that is fascinating to any lover of art, theater and dance. Though many of these share certain common factors, they are distinguished by their use of distinctive costumes and performance practices. Indian dance costumes are extremely vibrant and beautiful, to suit their nature as garments in which men and women are expected to perform.

There are as many varieties of Indian dance dresses as there are dance forms in India. Nevertheless, they all have certain common characteristics such as the use of bright colors and shining embellishments. In Indian dance, costume is just as important as the actual movements and expressions of the dancer. Indian dance clothing is supposed to be the perfect outerwear in which the movements and positions of the dancer get highlighted beautifully. Thus they are often designed to not only create interesting and attractive visual contrasts, but also to make the dancer feel as comfortable and flexible as possible. Since many of the dance forms of India (especially the classical ones) have deep religious origins and connections, Indian dance costumes’ designs tend to have a mythological influence, displaying temple and religion inspired motifs and symbols. Even though they are comfortable, they tend to be perfectly fitted and draped to create a streamlined silhouette on stage.

Some of the most popular traditional Indian dance costumes are those for dances such as Kathak and Bharat Natyam, which have specific cultural and regional origins but have today become popular with south-east Asian communities across the world, as well as with other cultures in India.

In Kathak, two types of costumes are worn. The followers of the Lucknow branch, influenced by Mughal cultures, traditions and arts, tend to wear anarkali salwar suits, while the followers of the Jaipur and Banarasi branch wear a classic version of the lehenga choli. Today, of course, an evolved version of the anarkali has become a very popular party wear outfit for women, but the traditional version worn with a spangled jacket is still the preferred Kathak dance costume for a lot of people. Indian dance costumes for kids always tend to be a bit more light weight and comfortable, which is also the case in Kathak. Children usually wear a long skirt and fitted tunic (reaching till the hips), with a dupatta or scarf tied across the body. Typically, Kathak costumes come with large golden borders, zari and zardosi embellishments and bright hues such as magenta, peacock blue, lustrous green etc.

Indian dance costumes for girls who are learning Bharatnatyam are quite distinctive in their look. The Bharat natyam costume consists of a type of blouse for the torso, a long cloth draped like a dhoti in the bottom half (this is mostly pre-stitched nowadays) and two addition pieces of cloth. One is draped across the torso to create a saree like look while the other is a fan shaped piece with pleats that is tucked into the waist and falls just below it. A similar costume is also used for Odissi and Kuchipudi, except with variations in terms of the fabrics, colors and designs used which are influenced by the region of origin. For instance, the Odissi dance costume incorporates unique prints and designs of Orissa such as Ikkat. Mohiniattam dancers wear a completely distinctive type of costume composed of white pieces with rich gold borders.

Types of Indian Dance Costumes

Indian culture places a lot of emphasis on the right jewelry and in many cases it takes on an auspicious significance. Dance is no exception as jewelry and styling is an important aspect of most dance performance ensembles. Indian dancers have to don multiple traditional pieces such as bangles, mang tikkas, necklaces, large earrings (or ear cuffs) and, most importantly, ghungroos, without which the dance cannot be performed. Gold is the preferred metal for all these pieces though typically the gold tone is more important than the actual metal itself which is why costume jewelry made of artificial gold is the preferred form of jewelry with Kathak dancers today. The one exception is the essential ghungroos. These are anklets for the feet that come with a million tinkling bells; they are usually made of brass, iron, copper etc rather than the auspicious gold metal.

There are as many varieties of Indian dance dresses as there are dance forms in India. Nevertheless, they all have certain common characteristics such as the use of bright colors and shining embellishments. In Indian dance, costume is just as important as the actual movements and expressions of the dancer. Indian dance clothing is supposed to be the perfect outerwear in which the movements and positions of the dancer get highlighted beautifully. Thus they are often designed to not only create interesting and attractive visual contrasts, but also to make the dancer feel as comfortable and flexible as possible. Since many of the dance forms of India (especially the classical ones) have deep religious origins and connections, Indian dance costumes’ designs tend to have a mythological influence, displaying temple and religion inspired motifs and symbols. Even though they are comfortable, they tend to be perfectly fitted and draped to create a streamlined silhouette on stage.

Some of the most popular traditional Indian dance costumes are those for dances such as Kathak and Bharat Natyam, which have specific cultural and regional origins but have today become popular with south-east Asian communities across the world, as well as with other cultures in India.

In Kathak, two types of costumes are worn. The followers of the Lucknow branch, influenced by Mughal cultures, traditions and arts, tend to wear anarkali salwar suits, while the followers of the Jaipur and Banarasi branch wear a classic version of the lehenga choli. Today, of course, an evolved version of the anarkali has become a very popular party wear outfit for women, but the traditional version worn with a spangled jacket is still the preferred Kathak dance costume for a lot of people. Indian dance costumes for kids always tend to be a bit more light weight and comfortable, which is also the case in Kathak. Children usually wear a long skirt and fitted tunic (reaching till the hips), with a dupatta or scarf tied across the body. Typically, Kathak costumes come with large golden borders, zari and zardosi embellishments and bright hues such as magenta, peacock blue, lustrous green etc.

Indian dance costumes for girls who are learning Bharatnatyam are quite distinctive in their look. The Bharat natyam costume consists of a type of blouse for the torso, a long cloth draped like a dhoti in the bottom half (this is mostly pre-stitched nowadays) and two addition pieces of cloth. One is draped across the torso to create a saree like look while the other is a fan shaped piece with pleats that is tucked into the waist and falls just below it. A similar costume is also used for Odissi and Kuchipudi, except with variations in terms of the fabrics, colors and designs used which are influenced by the region of origin. For instance, the Odissi dance costume incorporates unique prints and designs of Orissa such as Ikkat. Mohiniattam dancers wear a completely distinctive type of costume composed of white pieces with rich gold borders.

Types of Indian Dance Costumes

Indian culture places a lot of emphasis on the right jewelry and in many cases it takes on an auspicious significance. Dance is no exception as jewelry and styling is an important aspect of most dance performance ensembles. Indian dancers have to don multiple traditional pieces such as bangles, mang tikkas, necklaces, large earrings (or ear cuffs) and, most importantly, ghungroos, without which the dance cannot be performed. Gold is the preferred metal for all these pieces though typically the gold tone is more important than the actual metal itself which is why costume jewelry made of artificial gold is the preferred form of jewelry with Kathak dancers today. The one exception is the essential ghungroos. These are anklets for the feet that come with a million tinkling bells; they are usually made of brass, iron, copper etc rather than the auspicious gold metal.