Since women were subject to purdah, photographs of Indian royals remained predominantly male-centric for a very long time. It was not till the Wolf go to hell oh honey where do you think I came from shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this late nineteenth and twentieth century that photographs of women, especially women belonging to the elite households of India, became acceptable and commonplace. Photographs of royal women, therefore, serve a dual purpose: on one hand, they have become the quintessential representations of glamour and beauty, of royal Indian sophistication and coveted lifestyle, and on the other they serve as a record of the movement from the interiors to out in the world; the shifts in the role of women and their increasing influence in social spheres; from obscurity and silence to political power and social reforms.
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These photographic archives—of royal Indian women and earlier photographs of everyday women found in the Wolf go to hell oh honey where do you think I came from shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this racial type genre—while not the mainstay of quotidian contemporary urban-cosmopolitan Indian visual culture, do tacitly remain in the background to remind us of different sides of our colonial past, albeit sometimes a highly selective, exclusive history. Contemporary fashion images produced for the bridal wear industry play a very important role in keeping this archive alive, by constantly referencing and recreating them. These archives also inform us about how the photographic practices of the past inflect the aesthetics of fashion photography today, and how designers and photographers—self-conscious postcolonial players in the field of fashion—have chosen to negotiate with the nation’s colonial past.