Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Diwali ~ 1950s Sari Dresses

Living so close to the Indian enclave of Southall it's hard to miss that the Hindu festival of Diwali is upon us (it's been like living during the Blitz with all the noise of fireworks going off around us!). So to mark the occasion here are some Indian influenced dresses from the 1950s and early 60s. The 1950s love of the exotic embraced influences from the east - Chinoiserie and cheong sams were especially popular, but designers also looked to India for inspiration, and there found brightly-coloured sari silks, embroidered with sparkling golden threads in traditional designs.

Sari fabrics often feature a woven brocade border, which dressmakers employed to accent bodices and hems to great effect.

Certain sewing patterns suggested using saris, positioning the border decoration for a variety of effects.

Simplicity 1452, 1956 (source)

McCall's 5241, 1959 (source)

This design from Sears in 1956 was made in cotton with a metallic print to imitate the luxurious sari silks, "taking an air of elegance and splendor from its shimmering Indian-type design."

Sears, 1956

Sari styling was sometimes even interpreted quite literally, with sashes and drapery evoking the traditional garment:

1961 (source)

If you're feeling inspired, you can pick up vintage silk saris quite cheaply on ebay. I've got two or three which I brought back from my travels in India a few years ago - now I finally have some ideas for what to do with them!


  1. Oh, my goodness, my eyes are popping and my mouth is watering! How absolutely stunningly gorgeous. I adore Saris and the braid that edges them.

  2. absolutely adorable! never seen such examples, nice to see so much of them.

  3. Interesting post! Everyone thinks of Indian-inspired clothes of the 1970s so it's nice to read about and see the influence of and use of Indian saris in the 50s. The iridescent orange dress is stunning.

  4. I knew about the cheongsam popularity, but I was unaware the Indian designs were big at this time too! Great post! And McCall's 5241 is positively swoon-worthy!

  5. Indian fashion is my first love. I have a beautiful blue sari with gold trim that I used to wear all the time. I've been wanting to turn it into a 50's dress since I saw these a few years ago but I hate to ruin a beautiful sari too :( I did find some sari fabrics at JoAnne fabrics last year. I think they carry them most often in the summer and with a 1/2 off coupon it's a great deal!

  6. How jolly interesting! Those dresses are really beautiful!

  7. You must be a mind reader, because, hand on my heart, I was just thinking about the topic of Indian inspired mid-century clothing earlier today. It's almost spooky how topical this post is for me. I've never worn an Indian ensemble, but find them so beautiful and was thinking that perhaps I'd work toward putting a vintage (or vintage appropriate) one together some time, and now have scads more inspiration to help me do so. Thank you very much, dear gal!

    ♥ Jessica

  8. i'm totally with jessica's comment ... i thought about the same thing today. propably it depends on another blog we both commented on today ... the mixture of indian fabrics/prints and 50s styles is fabulous.
    and it's a good way for us - not asian women - to wear a sarree fabric without looking silly (sarrees just look good on indian ladys because they're familiar with this special kind of dress and familiar how to move in it).
    thank you so much for the inspiration.

  9. I'd never seen any of these designs. As a Tooting resident with access to plenty of good Sari shops, these are wonderful inspiration, thank you!


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