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What is Lehenga?
The Indian equivalent of the Western skirt and crop top combination, Lehenga Choli, is an immensely popular and much in-demand ethnic ensemble. Today, women and girls of all ages wear this classic silhouette with élan – for festivities and special occasions.
In fact, the concept of the lehenga outfit is so sought after and admired now – that it has been fast replacing the cultural wedding staples Sarees in the popular Bridal wear and Wedding wear segments.
Similar in some ways to bohemian, long, flared skirts, ornate lehengas are much in demand all across the world. International designers work around this classic shape and style, giving it the fusion touch, while celebs across the globe don exquisite designer lehenga choli for events and functions.
Indian celebs and socialites too are often seen experimenting with this Indian ethnic fashion staple. These days, actresses and girls can be seen wearing ornate lenghas as skirts, often pairing them with more Westernized tops and blouses (instead of traditional cholis)
Lehenga Choli Dupatta
Lehenga refers to the lower half of the ensemble. The skirt like, flared silhouette, often created with panels or Kallis, and sometimes cut in an umbrella-style or crafted in pleated or gathered fashion – is called as the Lehenga. Held in place by a drawstring (nada) or belt at the waist, a lehenga is generally form-fitting at its upper end, and flares up as it progresses. Fish-cut lehengas with a fitted silhouette till kness and then a tail-like flare are also popular.
Choli refers to the fitted, cropped blouse worn as the top half of the lehenga ensemble. The Cholis or blouses were traditionally small and dainty, covering the woman’s upper torso, while revealing the mid-riff. However, over the years, cholis too have undergone many changes, and are now made in many styles and lengths.
Dupatta or Odhani forms the 3rd element of this popular Indian Ethnic Apparel. Dupatta was tradionally used as a cover-up, over the choli. These days Dupatta, also known as chunni or chunar, may be fashioned and draped in numerous ways. A little variation in the Dupatta drape can give an entirely different look.
History of Lehenga Choli
The history of Lehenga Choli dates back to a few centuries. Also known as Ghagra Choli or Chaniya Choli, this traditional outfit, in its many forms and variations, has remained a favourite choice of women, since ages, in many Indian states, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar and almost the entire Hindi speaking belt.
The contemporary form of Lehenga Choli - the one that is nowadays closely associated to the Indian Bridal Wear and Wedding Ensembles - is actually a deviation from the three-piece traditional costumes, typically called as Ghagra Choli.
In ancient cultures and archaic dressing styles, lehenga or ghagra was not a stitched garment. Instead, it comprised of layers of unstitched fabrics, secured at the waist using a belt or thread. The traditional ghagras and chaniyas were (and still are) generally unembellished, made in natural fabrics like cotton and cotton-blends.
There was a time when this dress was considered crude and only fit for commoners. Simple in their style, they were worn by people who had little money, as they could not afford sarees and other stitched garments. Ghagra Cholis were also associated with courtesans and dancers (in a king’s palace), as these women wore intricate Ghagra Cholis for dance performances. At that time, cultured women of upper classes and elite house-holds did not wear this dress.
Lehenga Choli is also associated with the Indian classical dance Kathak and many folk dance forms. Dancers wear traditionally associated Lehenga Choli/ Ghagra Choli variations, while performing. The Dandiya and Garba folk dances of Gujarat have a special connection with Chaniya Cholis. Folk dancers in Bihar, Rajasthan and Haryana also wear Ghagra Cholis.
Traditional Variations of Lehenga Choli
As aforementioned, Lehenga is known by various other names including Chaniya, Ghagra, Langa, Pavadai, Lacha etc. Traditional lehengas are low on ornamentation. However, these variations of Lehenga often represent a region’s specific art, textiles, work, embroidery, weave or fabric.
For example, you would see the South Indian Pavadaais in silks or Venkatigiri cotton with rich, broad borders called as Pattu – on the hemline. Pattu Pavadais are very famous all across the Southern states of India. The Chaniyas (popular in the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, and integrally associated with Navaratri festival) are routinely crafted in Bandhani, Leheriya and Gharchola – the popular fabric dyeing techniques of the region.
North East India’s popular Mekhla Chador is also a variant of Lehenga Choli Dupatta set. Closer to the South Indian Pavadai-Dhavani (3 metre saree) ensemble, the Mekhla Chador also has a lower skirt, a fitted blouse and a longer drape.
With the inter-mixing of the Indian culture with the Muslim influences, the Lehenga Choli got inspired by Sharara and Garara ensembles. In fact, these two are quite similar to the Lehenga. Divided in the upper half and flared in the lower lehenga becomes a Garara, while form-fitting in the top half, and flared in the lower lehenga becomes a Sharara.
Unlike traditional Lehenga Choli/ Ghagra Choli ensembles, Bridal Lehengas and Wedding-wear Lehenga Cholis tend to be high on design elements and ostentation. A designer lehenga choli is no longer a simple garment, but a masterpiece, crafted with meticulous detailing and rich embroideries/decorations. The inner lining of such garments is also quite ornate or heavy. Sometimes, materials like can-can are attached to the lehenga lining to give it a classic Barbie-inspired shape. Brocade and Banarasi linings are also used under transparent net lehengas and georgette lehengas. At Saree.com, you can browse a huge variety of Bridal and Designer Lehenga Cholis for your special occasions.
Ghagra-Choli still remains the typical dress worn by women of all ages, on a daily basis, in many parts of rural India. This is where it finds its roots. Ghagra is a traditional term, and generally refers torelatively unembellished and plainer version of the modern day lehenga choli.
While in earlier days and in traditional belts even today, Ghagra, worn as the daily-wear, is the ultimate comfort wear, given its breathability and openness, the contemporary Lehenga is form fitting, heavy, ornate and is worn on special occasions.
Also, as per many cultural references, Ghagra is more of a North Indian staple, and you would come across tonnes of variations in Ghagra Choli in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab.
You will also witness a slight deviation in the choli and ghagra styles, as you go to various Indian states’ ethnic history. In Haryana, the choli gets replaced by a longer, men’s shirt like top, while in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the choli is replaced by longer Kurtis and fitted tops.
In some belts of Rajasthan too, lehengas are referred to as ghagras. Rajasthani ghagras are heavily paneled, and may have upto 80 kallis. Instead of embellishments, the fabric flare becomes the focal point in these ghagras.
However, many people also tend to use Lehenga Choli and Ghagra Choli synonymously.
Buy Lehenga Cholis Online
You can now buy your beloved Indian outfit of Lehenga Choli Online. It’s easy to browse hundreds of latest and trendy Lehenga Cholis from the comfort of your home and as per your convenient time. A huge variety of Party-wear Lehenga Choli, Designer Lehenga Choli and Wedding Lehenga Choli is available on Saree.com. Saree.com also promises to make you look spectacular on your own wedding and all functions with an amazing range of Embroidered Lehenga Choli, Bridal Lehenga Choli, Sangeet Lehenga Choli and Reception Lehenga Choli. And, if usual stuff is not something that you prefer, we also have all possible variations of lehenga choli available in various fabrics and styles. Take your pick from Velvet Lehenga Choli, Georgette Lehenga Choli and Silk Lehenga Choli OR Straight Lehenga Choli and Circular Lehenga Choli.