The Stars of Style [N - R]

Actors that impacted Indian fashion and style

Film still of Nargis Dutt and Raj Kapoor (1949)Museum of Design Excellence

NARGIS & RAJ KAPOOR

1935 - 1968 
1935 - 1988

Nargis’ effortless charm and grace were paralleled in the simple western and traditional attire. Her ethereal/delicate beauty was resonated in the elegant, diaphanous saris she often wore in movies such as Andaz (1949) or Shree 420 (1955). Along with her short, voluminous hairstyles, Nargis’ classic white-shirt-tucked-into-black-trousers became a look that made white tops and shirts a wardrobe mandate for women in that period.

Film still of Nargis Dutt, 1950s, From the collection of: Museum of Design Excellence
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While Shree 420 may have been the highest gross film of 1955, it was Raj Kapoor’s costume that left a stupendous impact on the fashion world and garnered hoards of imitators. Raj Kapoor’s quarter pants, cowboy hat, cap-toe shoes from the film became the uniform style for young men aiming to ascertain their identity in post-colonial India.

Film still of Raj Kapoor in Shree 420, 1955, Original Source: Raj Kapoor (Producer)
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Neetu Singh (Late 1970s)Museum of Design Excellence

NEETU SINGH

1966 - Present

The styles and trends set by Neetu Singh in the 1970s and 1980s have found their way into contemporary vogue. Her retro looks comprising polka dotted tops and scarves, flared pants, bell sleeves, hoop earrings, double-winged eyeliner, and layered chain necklaces continue to be popular even today. Additionally, Neetu Singh’s emblematic middle-parted hairstyle is reappearing today. 

Parveen Babi (1980s)Museum of Design Excellence

PARVEEN BABI

1972 - 1991

To complement her sultry, charming persona, Parveen Babi was unafraid to dress in pants, bikinis and sip on exotic cocktails, a facade that many heroines of that time would avoid. Dressed in a bold red dress in Deewar (1975) or a fitted, gold bodysuit with a plunging neckline in Namak Halal (1982), Parveen Babi was a fashion icon for the brazen who enjoyed the occasional “sin.”

Preity Zinta (2000s)Museum of Design Excellence

PREITY ZINTA

1998 - Present

Bollywood’s girl-next-door, Preity Zinta, introduced fresh, classy, and casual looks to modern Indian fashion in the early 2000s. Her chic bustier, black, satin dress in the title track of Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001) (inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s attire from Breakfast at Tiffany’s - should we add this?) and the long skirt paired with t-shirt style, the long dresses, and the curly untamed hair in Dil Chahta Hai (2001) became signature trends that influenced designers and fashion enthusiasts alike.

Preity Zinta, 2000s, From the collection of: Museum of Design Excellence
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Priyanka Chopra (2010s)Museum of Design Excellence

PRIYANKA CHOPRA

2002 - Present

With her bold sartorial choices and fearless approach to experimentation, Priyanka Chopra has become a global fashion icon. The gold, slinky, sari in the title track Desi Girl in Dostana (2008), the baroque, traditional ensembles in Bajirao Mastani (2015), or the chic jumpsuits in Dil Dhadekne Do (2015), exhibit Priyanka Chopra’s ability to embody an assortment of personas that also reflect changing perceptions of femininity.

Film still of Priyanka Chopra in Dostana, 2008, Original Source: Hiroo Yash Johar & Karan Johar (Producers)
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Raaj Kumar (c.1980)Museum of Design Excellence

RAAJ KUMAR

1952 - 1995

Known for his flamboyant dialogue delivery and compelling acting in box-office hits such as Mother India (1957), Lal Patthar (1971) and Pakeezah (1972), Raaj Kumar was also a notable trendsetter. In addition to dapper suits and the traditional kurtas, Raaj Kumar was also known to sport more eccentric attires consisting of micro-mini shorts and unbuttoned shirts, and cat-eyed glasses. 

Film still of Sharmila Tagore and Rajesh Khanna in Aradhana (1969)Original Source: Shakta Samanta (Producer)

RAJESH KHANNA & SHARMILA TAGORE

1966 - 2012
1959 - Present

Beyond his acting expertise, as showcased in several box-office hits, Rajesh Khanna redefined clothing style on screens and the streets. While his characters on-screen sported a range of clothing styles such as shirts, jackets, trousers, and suits, Rajesh Khanna was most popularly known for altering the status of the legendary guru kurta - a collared A-line kurta with round necks and rolled back sleeves. Originally worn only by farmers at festivals or humble politicians, the guru kurta became a cult favourite Rajesh Khanna embraced the look in Andaz (1971). Moreover, the kurta-trouser outfit that is still widely seen in the country today is also inspired by Rajesh Khanna’s look in his popular film, Kati Patang (1971).

Rajesh Khanna, 1970s, From the collection of: Museum of Design Excellence
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From her dramatic, bouffant hair-do and winged eyeliner in Aradhana (1969) to her bold, sensuous swimsuits and two-piece bikini in An Evening in Paris (1967), Sharmila Tagore became a legend in the fashion department. She was also one of the first few women to carry off chiffon saris and bustiers, bejewelled with diamonds and pearls, with an elegance that inspired thousands of women.

Film still of Sharmila Tagore, c.1965, From the collection of: Museum of Design Excellence
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Rajnikanth (1990s)Museum of Design Excellence

RAJNIKANTH

1975 - Present

Rajinikanth’s fashion was not limited solely to his sartorial game but was also governed by his signature mannerisms. Beyond his kurtas, three-piece suits accessorised with sunglasses and gold chains, it was Rajnikanth’s signature cigarette flip, strut, and salute that iconised his characters. 

Ranbir Kapoor (c.2019)Museum of Design Excellence

RANBIR KAPOOR

2007 - Present

Suits or jackets, sweaters or hoodies, sherwanis or bandhgalas, Ranbir Kapoor’s carefree, malleable persona can adapt to a range of looks. No matter the type of character he portrays on-screen, Ranbir Kapoor’s lovable playfulness and nonchalance, either supported by or unperturbed by the costumes he adorns, always find a way to manifest themselves. 

Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Ram Leela (2013)Original Source: Kishore Lulla & Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Producers)

RANVEER SINGH

2010 - Present

A fashion chameleon known for his disruptive styles and scrupulous performances, Ranveer Singh is the embodiment of the absurd, the daring, and the fluid in the 21st century. From his ornate, ankle-length regal kurtas and headgear in Bajirao Mastani (2015) where he plays a fierce ruler, to the casual open-fronted shirts and blue Adidas tracksuit in Gully Boy (2019) - attire which soon after was seen on every aspiring rapper on the streets of the country - Ranveer Singh seamlessly latches on to a disparate range of facades. 

Raveena Tandon (1990s)Museum of Design Excellence

RAVEENA TANDON

1991 - Present

Dressed in a simple, yellow, low-waist sari, Raveena Tandon’s drenched look in Mohra (1994) continues to be a benchmark for sultry, sensuous portrayals  in Bollywood. She has sported a range of looks, from her floral-print skirts and dresses in Andaz Apna Apna (1994) to her maroon, velvet, and sheer cutout bodysuit in Dulhe Raja (1998), which were often complemented by experimental hairstyles and subtle yet effective makeup. 

Film still of Rekha in Khoon Bhari Maang (1988)Original Source: Rakesh Roshan (Producer)

REKHA

1958 - Present

Rekha is representative of quintessential Indian glamour. Her looks comprise opulent traditional wear, primarily elegant Kanjeevaram and Banarasi saris, often paired with statement chokers and ornate earrings. Whether it was in her white printed sari with pink borders in Maang Bharo Sajana (1980) or her anarkalis embellished with necklaces, earrings and bracelets in Umrao Jaan (1981), Rekha was unafraid of wearing bold, red lipstick and sporting daring hairdos - elements that resonate with her confident, fierce aura.

Rekha | Aankhon Ki Masti | Umrao Jaan (1981)Original Source: Muzaffar Ali (Producer)

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