Who comes to mind when you think of the term ‘style icon’?
For many of us, the answer to that question might just be Sonam Kapoor for her array of dazzling gowns or Vidya Balan for her seemingly endless supply of beautiful sarees. These women are fittingly known for their signature sense of fashion, making them icons in their own right. However, there is much more to style than fashion.
Clothes have been used to symbolise power, political leanings, and above all, the personality of the wearer for as long as the concept of clothing has existed. Whether to show capability at a job interview or a laidback vibe at a party, most of us dress carefully for occasions with the goal of making an impression. As they say, to look the part, you have to dress the part.
In this one-of-a-kind exclusive article, we bring to you six of India’s most inspiring style icons – for whom every day is an occasion.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
As Prime Minister, it is safe to say that you must dress the part all day, every day. PM Modi is no exception. His trademark Nehru jackets carry a unique Indian charm, bringing to mind clothing traditions popularised by our very first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Most magazines and media agencies have labelled him the best-dressed prime minister ever and for good reason.
Our current PM uses these Nehru jackets to add a touch of traditional elegance to an otherwise simple ensemble, comprising of a basic kurta and churidaar in a solid print. The choice of the latter is significant because it aims to represent the common man, while the jacket effectively does the job of elevating the outfit to one suitable for the most powerful man in the country.
Similarly significant is PM Modi’s selection of colours and fabrics. He prefers khadi and linen, two fabrics widely used for ethnic wear. This again symbolises his connection and devotion to his country. He also leans towards earthy shades like saffron, white, and green, all of which strongly represent our flag.
That being said, PM Modi does not always dress to appeal to the common man. His wardrobe shows incredible versatility, allowing him to go from simple to powerful depending on the occasion. His soft spot for Bvlgari accessories is quite admirable and draws attention as well.
Most famously, his choice of a suit decorated with his own name for a meeting with former President Barack Obama in 2015 made headlines all over the world. While many praised and others criticised, nobody denied that the suit accomplished what it was meant to do: make a statement.
Having a signature outfit has served PM Modi well as a politician. Nehru jackets are sported by supporters all over the country to show their loyalty to him, in particular during election periods. His outfit choices on special occasions never fail to generate buzz, catapulting him to his current status of an icon with one of the most recognisable styles in India.
It is difficult to name another industrialist who constantly appears on ‘Best Dressed’ lists. Tata Sons’ former chairman tends to stand out amongst his peers, despite being one of the richest men in the world.
Ratan Tata leans towards classic suits with clean lines, personifying an understated elegance befitting his standing. His style has an element of predictability rather than flashiness, with tailored suits in black and grey. He isn’t afraid of a little experimenting, however; it’s common to see him in a muted suit paired with a silk tie to add a pop of colour. His fondness for Hermes ties effectively livens up his image from staid to dapper.
Ratan Tata symbolises his influence as one of the world’s most successful industrialists with old-school formals. Most importantly, his suits are always bespoke because he understands the importance of a well-tailored outfit in conveying elegance. His choice to stick to Hermes and a few favoured luxury brands ensures a defined signature style.
Anna Hazare is known for a number of qualities, foremost among them his dedication to anti-corruption, his perseverance against the establishment and, of course, his Gandhi topi. The Gandhian makes use of this statement accessory to establish a strong connection to the aam aadmi, thanks to the topi’s androgynous appeal and symbolism of Indian history.
His supporters were instantly recognisable due to the resurgence of this traditional accessory. Celebrities showed their solidarity by wearing Gandhi topis, while models and guests at 2011’s Lakme Fashion Week – arguably India’s biggest fashion event – were seen sporting topis as well.
At the height of the anti-corruption movement, Anna Hazare unexpectedly but effectively became famous for his style choices. The ever-present white khadi and dhotis evoked a rural, Gandhian simplicity essential to the movement he began.
Following a career spanning nearly five decades, Amitabh Bachchan never fails to impress with his sense of style. The classic, modern, and offbeat all come together to form a wardrobe unparalleled in its versatility.
Bachchan has the panache to carry off a classic pair of bell-bottoms to this day. His 1970s hits initially popularised these trousers in India, and he’s now brought back the hippie movement over 40 years later. His timeless kurtas and pashmina shawls are another emblem of a charmingly old-fashioned and graceful sense of style.
Despite his preference for vintage and traditional fashion, flamboyance isn’t something Bachchan has ever shied away from. From printed hoodies to flashy frames, he’s not afraid of experimenting with bright colours and pulling them off flawlessly, too! His iconic beard rounds off a unique style perfectly.
At times quirky and at times quintessential, Amitabh Bachchan continues to turn heads well into his seventies, courtesy of a multifaceted wardrobe. This versatility is matched only by his acting skill!
After leading the BJP to victory in Rajasthan in 2014, Vasundhara Raje quickly attracted attention for her grace and commanding presence. These qualities are well accentuated by an equally graceful ethnic wardrobe.
Raje’s regal chiffon sarees manage to convey both sophistication and simplicity. She frequently pairs them with pearls to add a touch of affluence, keeping with her royal lineage. Leheriyas in bold colours, along with traditional Rajasthani jewellery, make her a symbol of both femininity and power. As Rajasthan’s first female Chief Minister and a lifelong supporter of women’s rights, her sense of style represents her views and assertive personality. Frequently seen in bright colours, Raje does not shy away from commanding attention while displaying Rajasthan’s rich handloom industry at the same time.
Italian heritage aside, Sonia Gandhi has long since embraced traditional Indian wear with effortless elegance. She’s even famously provided fashion tips to students at the National Institute of Fashion Technology. Her tips can be summed up in one sentence: keep it simple.
True to her word, the Indian National Congress’ President has a tried-and-tested sense of style. She recommends staying away from multiple fabrics or patterns in a single garment, preferring simplicity over opulence. Timeless pieces, such as her trademark handloom sarees and pashmina shawls, comprise the bulk of Gandhi’s wardrobe. She explains her sense of style as clothing that doesn’t overshadow the bearer.
Gandhi also overwhelmingly chooses comfort without compromising on style. We unfailingly see her in comfortable cotton or silks in light colours suited to Indian weather. She occasionally sports salwar kameez in brighter colours as casual wear. Overall, her classic and elegant style shows an affinity towards Indian clothing as well as support for our handloom industry.
This blog has been written by Shwetali Sapte.