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What is Anarkali

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March 22, 2018

What is Anarkali?

An Anarkali Suit is a form of women's dress. The anarkali is made up of a long, frock-style top and features a slim fitted bottom. The anarkali is an extremely elegant style that is worn by women in Pakistan and other countries in South Asia. The anarkali suit varies in many different lengths and embroideries including floor length anarkali styles.

The word Anarkali literally means the ‘delicate bud of the pomegranate flower/ tree’. This name signifies the qualities of softness, vulnerability, innocence and beauty, associated with the women who wore Anarkalis.

The majestic Anarkali suit ensemble is quite popular in India and many other South East Asian communities like Pakistan. It generally consists of 3 separates – a fitted till waist and then flared long kurta/ top-wear, a churidaar (fitted) bottom and a dupatta/ stole. The graceful Anarkali suit finds its roots in the Mughal and Persian cultures. The various forms of regal Anarkali silhouette are also related to the Indian culture in many ways. The Indian Angarakha is very similar to Anarkali, and is closely associated to the Indian classical dance-form Kathak. In fact, Anarkali tends to be the regular costume of the dancers, practicing the Kathak form of the Lucknow Gharana.

Anarkali Style Dress

Anarkali Style Dress with Dupatta

Anarkalis are special and unique dresses beloved by women across India, Pakistan, and many other regions of South Asia. Anarkalis create a flowy silhouette that effortlessly looks beautiful and mesmerizing. If you’re a Pakistan or Indian woman with a thing or two for ethnic fashion, you probably have one or more Anarkali suits neatly tucked in your wardrobe. And if you’re trying to explore traditional Indian or Pakistan ethnic fashion, these usually gorgeous Anarkali dresses might be what you need to make the perfect entry into this colorful world of fashion.

Background & Origin Of Anarkali Dresses

Basically, the Anarkali suit is a variation of the salwar kameez dress.

That type of salwar kameez (flowy, long-frock style) which were the earliest-known forms of the Anarkali dresses were first worn by Mughal-era courtesans/dancers who were often invited into the place to entertain the court with Mujra dances.

Named after the legendary Lady Anarkali, probably the most famous Mughal era courtesan, the dress became popular as the dress of the royalty, often made from special luxurious fabrics.

Today, Anarkalis are no longer confined to royal palaces but are now worn by women of different social classes and made from diverse fabric types while featuring simple to intricate embroideries.

Heavily embroidered Anarkali suits today make the perfect wedding dress for brides, while less embroidered ones find great use in casual settings and formal functions. From winning the hearts of Mughal kings to gaining a special place in the hearts of women across Pakistan and India, and the other parts of South Asia, Anarkalis have evolved through history and still retain their charm and grace till today.

Making Anarkali Suits - Process, Fabric, Etc.

Anarkalis are fabulous dresses for big occasions and religious ceremonies. This is a testament to the amount of work that goes into making these gorgeous dresses.

You can find Anarkali suits embroidered with stones or one without stone embroidery, depending on what you need.

Some other Anarkali dress styles may also feature different embroideries like zardozi work. While Anarkali suits of the ancient Mughal empire were exclusively made from lavishly luxurious fabric, these dresses are now made from fabrics of different kinds, including colorful net laces, silk, cotton, silk, satin, georgette, and more.

In making the Anarkali suit, the dress is usually designed as an extended frock-style top combined with a bottom. While the top is typically flowy and can reach as far as the mid-knee, ankle, or floor length, it is, however, fitted around the bust from where large pleats flow downwards.

The churidar usually paired with the top is often designed to be very slim, almost like leggings. Embroideries traditionally employed in making Anarkalis range from zari work to zardozi, Gota, and Kundan embroidery.

Green Anarkali Dress

Green Designer Anarkali Dress

Different Anarkali Styles & Designs

The thing about Anarkalis is that you get to choose from lots of different styles and designs that you’re to a large extent that you’ll always find something you’ll like.

If going the traditional way with a beautiful Anarkali dress is one of your goals for 2022, then you can pick from any of the following popular four (4) types of Anarkali dress styles;

1.  Jacket style Anarkali suits

Jackets have become compatible with almost every type of traditional piece you can think of. Anarkali suits with jackets are not left out, and they are breathtakingly beautiful.

The Jacket style Anarkali suits come in different designs, mainly based on the jacket design. While some are long, others may be long or medium length. The jacket style might also be in a separate form from the Anarkali or attached to the dress. You can find anything from jackets with embroidered borders to beautiful Anarkali jackets made from cotton silk.

2.  Lehenga style Anarkali suits

Lehenga-style Anarkali suits are some of the most beautiful you’ll ever see. These elaborately-designed dresses evolved from the Anarkalis of the old and are the top choice for ethnic wedding dresses.

3.  Layer style Anarkali suits

The layered style Anarkali can be your ultimate Sangeet dress with detailed layers incorporated into the design to add structure and form to your appearance. It’s common to see Bollywood celebrities rocking beige or white layered versions of this Anarkali to pull off a strikingly gorgeous look.

4.  Silk Anarkali suits

Beautiful surreal silk fabric has always been one of the most preferred choices for Anarkali dresses since Anarkalis came to be.

Today, Anarkali suits made from silk are still as captivating as they’ve always been. If you want to style a royal, elegant, and sophisticated look in an Anarkali suit, this might just be it.

Anarkali Hottest Dress Trends

Anarkalis are always in vogue, but certain trends and design options seem to be getting the most attention from celebrities, models, and the average women out there. If you’re keen on tapping into these trends for Anarkali dress shopping, here are some of the best trends to follow;

1.  Pakistani Anarkali

The Pakistani Anarkali style usually featured an overlay jacket that kind-of gives the dress an air of royalty. It usually features heavy embroidery and embellishments, complete with a dupatta to drape around your head and/or shoulders.

2.  Floor-length Anarkali

This is the favorite of your Bollywood celebrities and other screen divas.

For this Anarkali, silk, georgette, and chiffon seem to be the most preferred fabric types. These beautiful and sprawling dresses continue to win the hearts of many of us with their beautiful handwoven and threadwork embroidery.

3.  Anarkali Gowns

This simple Anarkali-style gown is winning hearts effortlessly.

You can choose from different types embroidered with either sequins or other pieces. As simple as they are, they are a perfect fit for weddings, receptions, and other parties, especially if you’re looking for a dress that lets you stay free.

4.  Asymmetrical Anarkali

Who says every dress has to be perfectly symmetrical?

These new trends among modern designers are winning hearts with their asymmetry. These styles are witnessing a revival as of late, showing up at weddings and parties in bold colors and beautiful patterns.

5.  Cape Anarkali

This Anarkali is what you need if you want to show up looking gorgeous and angelic to your next event. It’s a contemporary design winning the moment with several designs and features. These are showing up in printed fabric and featuring handwoven embroidery and thread work, among others.

6.  Cotton and silk Anarkali suits

We’re seeing beautiful new Anarkali suits in style featuring different kinds of cotton and silk fabric. It seems like both of these fabric types are the most common nowadays, although velvet and georgette and the others are still not left out.

7.  Designer Anarkali

Modern designers are churning out new styles giving the Anarkali a modern twist to it.

You can be sure to find everything from stylish designer Anarkali gowns to other styles featuring handcrafted chikankari, among others. There is no limit to what you can find in this class of Anarkali, and it’s just mind-blowing how this ancient style of dress just keeps evolving every moment. 

How/When To Wear Anarkali Suits

Anarkalis can suit almost every occasion, depending on the dress style and the event type. There are bridal anarkalis made specially for intending brides as well as other types designed for different occasions.

In choosing what type of Anarkali to wear for what kind of occasion, there are specific tips and guidelines you might want to follow;

  • Tall women can easily look good in almost every Anarkali neck design.
  • V-neck anarkalis are most suited for women of short and medium heights.
  • Women with short and medium height might need to avoid Anarkali suits with heavy flare, although this usually turns out great on taller women.
  • Short or medium height anarkalis will look great in knee-length anarkalis with high heels, but this should be a no-go area for tall women.
  • You can pair your Anarkali with jewelry and accessories, but you’ll need to be careful enough not to overdo it.
Red Anarkali Suit for Women

Red Anarkali Suit for Women

Why Are Anarkalis Loved & Popular?

Everywhere you turn, you’re most likely to see an Anarkali suit. Why?

The answer is simple! There are many reasons why Anarkali suits are the darling of women who love ethnic Indian fashion & Indian dresses.

Aside from the fact that these dresses are super gorgeous and absolutely mesmerizing, they are also super simple to wear and very comfortable on the body. Also, because there are more than enough varieties, it’s easy to find an Anarkali for just about any and every occasion. Whether it’s a wedding, a graduation party, dinner, or other formal or casual events, there’s always an Anarkali for it.



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