Bollywood Nostalgia: A Journey into the Retro Glamour and Timeless Classics

Taking you back to The Golden Era Of Bollywood. So take a sip of chai and play some music of Kishore Kumar & Mohammad Raffi.


Prisha Gupta

1/18/20247 min read

Fashion has always been recycled, old trends are coming back in the ever-evolving world of style. Fashion never goes out of style. Over the decades, fashion elements in Bollywood films, including clothing, shoes, and makeup, have undergone significant evolution, mirroring the changes in the industry. This evolution not only shapes consumer preferences but also influences designers and other stakeholders in the fashion realm.

The Golden Age of Bollywood commenced in the late 1940s, In the mid of 1950s Famous actresses like Madhubala, Nargis, Nutan, Meena Kumari and Vyjanthimala became fashion icons. Their style set the standards of being the most beautiful women in the film industry.

Madhubala was known for her natural beauty. She effortlessly embraced mid-length dresses, showcasing a remarkable sense of style on the opposite side of the fashion spectrum. Madhubala’s iconic role “Anarkali” from Mughal-e-Azam remains a timeless symbol of grace and beauty. She adorned resplendent Anarkali attire in "Mughal-e-Azam," showcasing opulent fabrics, intricate embroidery, and a royal aesthetic that beautifully encapsulated the film's historical theme. In 2018, New York Times called her “A Bollywood legend whose tragic life mirrored Marilyn Monroe’s.”

Nutan was known for her grace, often embraced elegant sarees, modest yet sophisticated dresses, and timeless jewelry, reflecting a classic and refined fashion sense. In the 1960s, she broke the idea that actresses lose their careers after marriage and showing that being married doesn't mean the end of success in the film world.

Bollywood fashion during the 1960s was stylish and sophisticated, characterized by bright colors, daring styles, and innovative trends. Women often styled their hair for added volume, embraced bold winged eyeliner, and favored peachy-coral shades in makeup, creating a chic and aesthetically pleasing look.

Mumtaz in her iconic orange draped saree in Brahmachari.

Sharmila Tagore made history in the 1960s by becoming the first actress to wear a bikini on screen. This bold move paved the way for other actresses to follow suit, with costume designers like Bhanu Athaiya leading the way. Actresses such as Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman, and Dimple Kapadia further popularized the trend with their bikini appearances in movies like Yeh Nazdeekiyan, Heera Panna, Qurbani, and Bobby. These actresses quickly gained recognition as some of the hottest and most daring in Bollywood. Their bikini moments on screen not only broke barriers but also left a lasting impact on the industry, forever changing the perception of female attire in Indian cinema.

In the movie "An Evening in Paris," Sharmila Tagore wore a saree that exuded grace and elegance. The saree was adorned with intricate designs and made from luxurious fabrics, effortlessly blending traditional and modern styles. This choice of clothing perfectly complemented the opulent backdrop of the film, enhancing Sharmila Tagore's on-screen charisma with a touch of sophistication.

Sadhana revolutionized Indian cinema with her debut film "Love in Simla," where she introduced the fringe hairstyle. The visionary director R.K. Nayyar, who would later become her husband, initially proposed a hair-line strip to create a narrower forehead. However, this idea did not yield the desired result. It was then that Nayyar took inspiration from Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn and suggested the fringe style. The fringe quickly gained immense popularity, becoming a fashion trend of the 1960s in India, and it is still referred to by the same name. This iconic look perfectly complemented Sadhana's character, Sonia, in the film, enhancing her mischievous and charming persona.

The 1970s witnessed a significant departure from the fashion trends of the fifties and sixties in Bollywood. It embraced a diverse range of costumes, blending Indian and Western styles. From laid-back casual chic to extravagant party attire and traditional Indian outfits for everyday wear, the fashion of 70s Bollywood offers inspiration. Bold makeup, featuring winged eyeliner from the preceding decade, was prominent. Actresses experimented with elaborate hairstyles, often incorporating various types of wigs. Notably, in certain scenes, they transitioned from long Rapunzel-like locks to the iconic look of Marilyn Monroe. Keep an eye out for these style shifts the next time you enjoy a Bollywood movie from that era.

During the 1970s, Rekha's Bollywood fashion was a harmonious fusion of traditional sophistication and modern flair. Her wardrobe effortlessly combined the grace of intricate sarees with the chic allure of trendy outfits, showcasing a versatile and impactful style that established her as a fashion icon in the industry.

Rekha's style in "Umrao Jaan" was a masterpiece of timeless sophistication. She graced the screen in splendid Anarkali dresses, meticulously crafted with luxurious fabrics, intricate embroidery, and opulent details that portrayed a regal aura. The ornate jewelry and traditional accessories seamlessly enhanced her role as a courtesan, contributing to an iconic and visually captivating depiction of historical grandeur. Rekha's fashion in "Umrao Jaan" stands as a revered showcase of cinematic elegance and artistic attire.

Zeenat Aman gained widespread acclaim for her iconic portrayal in the most famous movie of the era, "Hare Rama Hare Krishna." The film showcased the quintessential hippie look, and Zeenat Aman masterfully blended Indian and Western styles. Her fashion choices became a sensation, with elements like hoop earrings, oversized sunglasses, and a distinctive round bindi contributing to her captivating hippie-inspired appearance. The movie not only left an indelible mark on Bollywood but also set a trend, influencing fashion enthusiasts who admired Zeenat Aman's unique and bold style.

During the vibrant and dynamic 1970s, Rakhee, Hema Malini, and Jayabachan emerged as trailblazers in the Indian film industry. Rakhee, with her mesmerizing beauty and emotive performances, captured the hearts of audiences across the nation. Known for her versatility, she effortlessly portrayed a wide range of characters, leaving an indelible mark on Bollywood. On the other hand, Hema Malini, often referred to as the "Dream Girl," enchanted viewers with her graceful dance moves and impeccable acting skills. Her ethereal presence on screen and her ability to effortlessly portray both intense and light-hearted roles earned her immense popularity. Together, Rakhee and Hema Malini, along with other prominent actresses of the era, contributed significantly to the evolution of Indian cinema, revolutionizing the portrayal of women and setting new standards of excellence.

Rekha, characterized by her mysterious allure and versatile acting prowess, underwent a remarkable journey from a struggling artist to an iconic figure. Her evolution was highlighted by daring role choices and a unique fashion sense that resonated with the changing preferences of the audience. Films like "Umrao Jaan" showcased her ability to embody intricate characters with elegance, cementing her status as a formidable performer.

Zeenat Aman, on a different trajectory, redefined the archetype of a leading lady. Her bold and glamorous on-screen presence made her a symbol of shifting societal norms. In "Hare Rama Hare Krishna," she not only exhibited her acting skills but also initiated a trend with the hippie look, establishing herself as a fashion trailblazer. Zeenat Aman's fearless approach to roles challenged conventional stereotypes, contributing significantly to her widespread popularity..

Parveen Babi, celebrated for her beauty and charm, introduced a modern and Westernized sensibility to the silver screen. Her roles in films like "Deewaar" and "Namak Halaal" mirrored the evolving aspirations and attitudes of the youth. Parveen Babi's captivating screen presence, coupled with her avant-garde fashion choices, positioned her as a noteworthy figure during this era.

She revolutionized the way women dressed in that era, setting new trends and becoming a style icon for many. Parveen Babi's fashion choices were bold and daring, often pushing the boundaries of traditional Indian attire. She effortlessly combined Western and Indian elements, creating unique and glamorous looks. From her signature bell-bottom pantsuits to her elegant chiffon sarees, Parveen Babi's wardrobe was a reflection of her confident and independent personality. She was not afraid to experiment with vibrant colors, intricate designs, and statement accessories. Parveen Babi's fashion legacy continues to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts even today.

Collectively, Rekha, Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi, Rakhee, Jaya Bachan, and Hema Malini represented the unfolding narrative of Indian cinema in the 1970s. Their talent, charm, and audacious decisions not only elevated them to stardom but also immortalized them as cultural icons, leaving an enduring legacy in the annals of Bollywood history. Rekha, known for her mesmerizing performances and undeniable screen presence, captured the hearts of audiences with her versatility and grace. Zeenat Aman, with her bold and fearless persona, broke barriers and redefined the concept of a leading lady. Parveen Babi, known for her enigmatic beauty and unconventional choices, left an indelible mark on Indian cinema. Rakhee, Jaya Bachan, and Hema Malini, each with their distinct talents and contributions, added depth and richness to the era, solidifying their positions as legendary actresses in Bollywood.