• win badge

Watch 100 Years Of Indian Beauty In Less Than Two Minutes

Decade after decade, ain't nobody like a desi girl.

In the latest in their series of 100 Years of Beauty from around the world, Cut Video looked at the history of beauty trends in India.

View this video on YouTube


In the 1910s, beauty in India was synonymous with simplicity – makeup was minimalist and hairstyles were utilitarian.

At this point, India had been under British rule for half a century and Indian revolutionaries had begun encouraging self-sufficiency and self-rule as protest. These movements, also known as swadeshi and swaraj, resulted in a rejection of western influences and an overall back-to-basics, humble aesthetic.

By the 1920s, India's struggle for freedom from British rule took on more aggression and individualism – beautiful braids and bright red lips were in.

In the 1930s, Gandhi (and several other freedom fighters) had successfully united the nation in a single, massive struggle for independence.

As opposed to being homemakers, women were active participants in what was by now a national movement – they provided supplies, shelter, and even assistance in combat. A need for practicality combined with a spike in confidence – lips became redder, eye makeup was understated, clothing was primarily homespun cotton.

In the 1940s, India saw revolts, violence, large-scale protests, and years of political drama that culminated in India becoming an independent, free, sovereign nation.

Most of the 1950s were spent restructuring India in its recovery from British rule. One side-effect was that western cultural influences were slowly allowed to have effect.

With the likes of Marilyn Monroe at the peak of their popularity worldwide, women wore their hair short and wavy.

In the '60s, Bollywood was thriving and in colour, India had come into its own as a nation and, by the end of the decade, even had its first woman prime minister.

Pompadours reigned, thick and winged eyeliner added drama, bindis became large statement pieces.

In the 1970s, American hippie culture made its way east, resulting in center-parted straight hair, simple makeup, and hoop earrings.

And by the 1980s, Indian trends were matching pace with those of the western world.

Bollywood's leading ladies co-opted America's embrace of loud eyeshadow, side-braids and ponytails, and TONS of bling and colour.

In the 1990s, India's beauty began gaining international recognition with women like Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen winning global pageants.

With the world watching, Indian women developed a self-conscious boldness about which aspects of being exoticized they embraced and which ones they rejected.

And by the 2000s, India – on the verge of an IT boom – had begun actively picking and choosing which elements of western culture were let in and which elements of Indian tradition were preserved.

Long, wavy, parted hair combined with soft makeup but bold accessories. The music industry reflected this pivotal point in India's cultural evolution, with old-and-new, Bollywood-and-western remixes dominating the charts.

Since 2010, women's rights and safety have been at the forefront of national, political conversations.

India's women are more vocal and empowered than at any other point in history. Across industries, women are assuming increasingly influential positions. While Bollywood has embraced strong women with bold (and often masculine) looks, the ordinary woman's aesthetic is natural, professional, and – as always – striking in its simplicity.

What's your favorite decade?

All images and research courtesy Cut Video.