The Sari: 1921-1930
There are more than a few changes in the 1920s. For one, the number of royals getting themselves photographed seems to have substantially increased! It is the period of silent cinema and glamorous actresses like Patience Cooper, Miss Gohar and Ruby Meyers. There were more women in political life, more middle class women in the Arts. There are as a result diverse photographs from the decade so I will cover a few.
At the beginning of the decade, the short sari and boots seems to have been a Thing and it was duly satirised by Gaganedranath Tagore in 1921 (pic 1). See also here. The whole brooch to fix sari to blouse and pallu on the head thing seems to have been on since at least the turn of the century, probably due to the burning question of “how the hell do I keep on this pallu!” with the nivi style. The style stayed on for a bit, Sarojini Naidu in 1929 (pic 2) still sports it. Also see here.
One of the royals, Cooch Behar’s Indira (pic 5, year 1928) was responsible to a large extent for the “I want to be super classy in my Parisian chiffon saree and pearls look” and it was in the latter part of this decade that she wore it most often. As the Motherland article puts it, it was a shift as significant as Chanel’s LBD and still remains a style statement (though perhaps more for ladies of a certain age:). In fact Bengal princesses were prone to do their own thing as in the 1927 photographs of the Burdwan princesses (pics 3 and 4) - can anyone id if those are lame saris? Jewellery is also pretty minimum and there is no brooch. As for the saris almost all seem to be chiffons with stitched zari borders. In this decade they are not as routinely heavy or ornate like in the 1930s (1925*, 1928). of course heavier tissue kind of saris of the previous decade (Pic 6 of Rani Amrit Kaur - also on the Gentlewoman cover) as well as the full sleeved blouse remained (pic 7 of Abida Sultan, also in this 1925 photograph).
Elsewhere, handlooms and simpler styles remained with regional variations. Rukmini Devi (seen here in pic 8 with her husband George Arundale) wears hers Tamil style - note pallu drape over the shoulder and the tucked in part akin to a nine yard. Similarly in pic 9 Nirmal Kumari Mahalanobis, who accompanied Tagore on many of his 1920s visits, wears her sari in a style common in Bengal in the early part of the 20th century. See also Santiniketan in 1925, Parsi women in 1925, at the 1929 Suffrage Alliance, 1925 Karachi and Calcutta, Lakshmi Sehgal as a teen and studio portraits 1, 2, 3 and 4).
Its hard to see the blouses given the way the pallu is draped but for the most part they seem to be simple with little of the lace or detail or embroidery of previous decades.
The pleats are not very clear to me in most of the 1920s pictures - unless the photographs are inverse, sometimes the pleats go the other way and sometimes they are barely there. In short, the way of pleating we are used to still seems to be in question.
Notes: I have covered the paintings of the 1920s in more than a few posts. See as an example the painters of the decade, MV Dhurandhar [X, X, X] Hemen Mazumdar [X, X, X] and Damerla Rama Rao [X, X]
*I could have sworn that border was 1930s but I am wrong. Tchah!