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Why is Princess Sita Devi called 'Pearl of India?

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The Pearl of India

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The Pearl of India

In the annals of fashion history, few figures are as enigmatic and influential as Princess Sita Devi, often referred to as the ‘Pearl of India’. Born into royalty and thrust into the limelight, her stylistic choices made her a trendsetter and a fashion icon of her time. Her legacy is not just in the clothes she wore but in the cultural bridge she built between East and West. Her style was a blend of royal Indian tradition and European modernity, making her a symbol of elegance and a subject of fascination. While her story is shrouded in the glamour of the past, the essence of her influence remains a captivating chapter in fashion history.

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Early blossom

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Early blossom

Princess Sita Devi of Kapurthala, born into the Hindu Rajput royal family of Kashipur in 1915, embarked on a remarkable journey at the age of 13 when she married Prince Karamjit Singh of Kapurthala. This union catapulted her into the echelons of high society and fashion, where she quickly became a celebrated icon. Known as the “Pearl of India” or Princess Karam, her elegance and style captivated the European elite. She was also fluent in five languages and educated in various subjects at her behest.

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The Parisian muse

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The Parisian muse

Her frequent visits to Paris as the Princess of Kapurthala saw her rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of European society, enchanting the Parisian elite with her exquisite blend of traditional Indian elegance and European haute couture. Her sartorial choices were a seamless fusion of her royal Indian heritage and the avant-garde fashion of Paris, making her a muse for esteemed designers like Mainbocher and Madame Grès. She effortlessly carried saris with the same grace as she did the luxurious gowns and fur coats designed by these fashion legends, often accessorized with jewels from Cartier and Boucheron.

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Vogue’s secular goddess

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Vogue’s secular goddess

At the age of 19, Vogue hailed her as a “secular goddess”, a title that reflected her transcendent appeal and impeccable fashion sense. Her influence extended beyond borders, captivating the imagination of the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who was so inspired by the princess’s sarees that she dedicated her 1935 collection to them. This collection was a homage to the traditional Indian garment, reimagined through the lens of European haute couture. Schiaparelli’s designs captured the fluidity and grace of the saree, while infusing it with the avant-garde spirit of the time, thus bridging two distinct cultural aesthetics. The princess’s impact on the fashion world was profound, as she brought the elegance of Indian attire to the forefront of the Parisian fashion scene, influencing styles and trends across continents

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The trendsetting icon

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The trendsetting icon

Princess Sita Devi was not just a royal figure adorned in luxury; she was a visionary in fashion. Her preference for bright-colored sarees made from georgette or mousseline de soie was a statement that resonated in the fashion capitals of the world. She was known to travel with a thousand sarees, each paired with meticulously chosen shoes and furs, showcasing her unparalleled sense of style. Moreover, her fashion choices led to the creation of Saree & Co, a factory dedicated to crafting French chiffon sarees, further cementing her impact on global fashion trends

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The legacy

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The legacy

Despite her passing, Princess Sita Devi’s impact on fashion remains undeniable. Her influence extended beyond the glossy pages of Vogue and the haute couture salons of Paris; she captivated the imagination of the West to such an extent that she inspired a Broadway production number titled ‘Maharanee (At the Night Races in Paris)’ in Ira Gershwin’s The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. Her allure was captured by the lenses of legendary photographers like Cecil Beaton and Man Ray, who saw in her a muse that transcended time and place. Even today, her sense of style, her blending of cultural attire, and her embodiment of grace continue to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts around the globe.

Image: Public Domain

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