Lata Mangeshkar: The style that will never fade
The Nightingale of India was not just particular about the words in her songs, but also the drapes of her sarees and design of her diamonds
An air of regalness and understated elegance that never failed to charm — Lata Mangeshkar’s style was classic and effortless. The Nightingale of India charmed audiences in elegantly draped white crisp cotton sarees, in soft shades of white, that were worn with modest, long-sleeved blouses. Draped in a simple style with pallu taken over her shoulders, a round distinctive bindi, two statement plaits and a warm smile, she had a unique way of carrying herself. Like her sweet, pure voice that gave life to innumerable songs in over 32 languages, Mangeshkar’s style, consisting primarily of white sarees, symbolised purity.
The two plaits that Mangeshkar wore as a young girl came to define her over the next seven decades in the music industry, and stood for her childlike innocence. Another thing that remained an important part of her growing up years and wardrobe was her love for white, ivory, cream and pastel sarees. While talking about not wearing many coloured sarees, Mangeshkar said in an interview, “The one time I wore a coloured saree to work, the chorus girls laughed so hard I swore never to dabble in colour ever again.”
Known for her impeccable taste, she had an inclination towards Indian textiles that she had inculcated as a young girl. Mangeshkar loved wearing Kota white cotton sarees with multi- coloured embroidered thread. Ahilaya was the first company to supply her with sarees. Nagma Ansari, one of the directors, Ahilaya recalls how her late father used to visit late actor Dilip Kumar’s house. On one such meeting, he met Mangeshkar and from there started a lifelong bond. “He used to reminisce about her kind and humble nature. She was the kindest, he always said,” says Ansari.
Fond of diamonds, she once said, “With my first income, I bought gold jewellery for my mother, and for myself I got a specially designed diamond and ruby ring with ‘LM’ on it. I still have that ring. It’s one of my most prized possessions.” It’s said that she had paid ₹700 for it in 1947. After that, she began taking interest in diamonds.
Talking about her personal style that she embraced over the years, designer Nachiket Barve says, “It was unique, identifiable and deeply personal. The exquisite collection of handloom sarees in whites, the flawless diamond jewellery; she was always classy.”
Designer Ritu Beri feels her style reflected purity of her thought process. Having met her at an event, Beri told her how honoured she was to be receiving an award with her. She says, “To my surprise she said, ‘Me too’.”
For designer Ritu Kumar, Lata ji had an evergreen style. “There was no confusion, her fashion sensibilities never changed. She knew she didn’t have to change. The conviction and confidence in her own talent was so defined that she never had to change anything,” says Kumar.
A self-confessed fan of Mangeshkar, singer Kavita Krishnamurti, says, “She always wore these very elegant white sarees and had a great interest in diamonds; she was even good with designing them.” Krishnamurti goes on to reveal that she was once so enamoured by the singer’s personality that she forgot her lines! “To my surprise, she turned around and gave me a mischievous smile. That was Lata ji for me.” Lata ji will be remembered for her beauty, grace and personality, as much as she will live on in the minds of her admirers through her music.
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