The Fashions of Indian Summers

Indian Summers

Apologies for the lateness of this post. I had hoped to get it done before last night’s episode but life just seemed to get in the way.

On Sunday, if you weren’t watching Mr Selfridge or JK Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, there then was a good chance you managed to catch Channel 4’s new lavish 10 part period drama Indian Summers. This gloriously rich story is set in a turbulent India of the 1930s, the period when the British Empire’s hold on the country was coming to an end.

For the first week I religiously sat and watched Mr Selfridge and was left a little disappointed by Henri and Agnes leaving (I always looked forward to seeing Grégory Fitoussi on my TV on a Sunday evening 🙁 ). However, I did record Indian Summers knowing it was exactly the sort of show I would fall in love with. I mean, what more would I want than a TV show full of 1930s costumes (see previous post!).

When I settled down to watch it on Monday night I instantly recognised the actress playing the main female character but had to go online to check I wasn’t seeing things. If you watched the wonderfully gritty and beautifully shot Maison Close then you’ll know her as the forthright Rose. This got me excited straight away. I loved Maison Close and Jemima West was absolutely brilliant in it.

Jemima West and Henry Lloyd-Hughes

Jemima plays Alice Whelan, sister to Ralph Whelan who is the private secretary to the Viceroy of India. The very first outfit we see her in is a gorgeous bright orange dress which has a distinctive safari feel about it. This is teamed with a boater style straw hat which she wears at an angle to one side and flat lace up shoes. This had me hooked immediately just for the costumes alone. It is fabulously 1930s with its trumpet shaped skirt and is just the sort of thing I have recently become obsessed with.

Jemima West

I love subtle pattern on the skirt mixed with the bright floral pattern of the blouse in this simple casual outfit Alice wears in episode two. I find it so hard to mix patterns together and never would’ve thought to put these two together.

Fiona Glascott

Fiona Glascott plays Sarah Raworth, a woman who believes everyone has their place and those in the lower classes should know theirs. Her outfits are probably the most girly of all the female characters which suits her mousey and slightly stuck up personality.

Fiona Glascott

She generally wears dresses rather than separates and they always have girly detailing on them like bows, ruffles or lace.

Ellora Torchia

I absolutely love Indian saris (I have one of my own which I have never worn!) because they are always so vivid in colour and have such stunning gold thread detailing. Ellora Torchia plays Sita, the forbidden girlfriend of one of the main characters, Aafrin Dalal (Aafrin is a Parsi and Sita is a Hindu).

Aysha Kala

Aysha Kala plays Sooni Dalal, Aafrin’s sister, who is a feisty and intelligent young woman and has ambitions of becoming a lawyer. Her saris are particularly stunning as they are always made in dramatic tones of orange and red which sit well with her fiery personality.

Patrick Malahide

I love this outfit Patrick Malahide, The Viceroy, is wearing. It screams India in the 1930s with its mixture of formal English wear – a winged collar, silk cravat and pocket square and Indian safari wear – the pith helmet which makes me think of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum!

Henry Lloyd-Hughes

The eye candy comes in the form of Nikesh Patel (Aafrin) who I remember from Bedlam and Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Ralph Whelan) who is no stranger to the period drama having appeared in Parade’s End and Anna Karenina. His pale linen suit is the perfect attire for a young, rich and ambitious gentleman of this time and was often worn during leisure time as it was seen as more casual.

Indian Summers

The evening gowns certainly haven’t disappointed so far with my particular favourite being worn by Olivia Grant (on the left) who plays Madeleine Mathers, a wealthy American staying with Ralph and Alice. It was rather more revealing than all the other women’s dresses and you could just tell she was out to get her man that night. Madeleine is quickly becoming my style icon of the series (she’s a redhead after all!) and she wears the most incredible peach satin robe during the opening scenes of episode two which is to die for.

Indian Summers

Julie Walters character, Cynthia Coffin, is still stuck in the 1920s when it comes to her outfits and opts for more shapeless pieces than the younger women. She is quite an intriguing character with her common cockney accent but is seen as the Queen of Simla society due to her position as the proprietor of the British Club.

Indian Summers

I look forward to more costume spotting over the next few weeks and I’m sure we’ve got some real head-turners to come. It’s all amazing inspiration for my on-going 1930s obsession and I know I’m going to want to recreate so many of the beautiful outfits they all wear.

Find out more about Indian Summers at Channel 4’s dedicated mini site.


Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. A lover of all things old, especially the 1930s, seamstress, crocheter, maker of hats and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.


  1. Ffycnygets, I completely missed that one! I’ll have to catch up with it – being a Colonial by-product, I’m very interested in India.

    I’m guessing from the post that it pretty much ignored the mixed-race community. *Sigh*. We get written out of *everything*. (The mixed-race community tended to be the ones working on the railways, staffing the post and telegraph offices, that sort of thing – it’s not like they were invisible people.) I’ll give it a look anyhow.

    • I’m really enjoying it so far, the settings are breathtaking and the costumes really are stunning. There hasn’t been any talk of mixed race yet, but there’s definitely a mixed race relationship brewing (not going to say anymore, don’t want to spoil it for you!).

    • This is super-late, but Mim did you ever get around to watching this? If by mixed race you mean the anglo-Indian community, that’s a *huge* theme in the show. If you didn’t watch it and have now forgotten about it (a year a half later…!) it’s definitely worth a watch 🙂 I’m anglo-Indian and thought they dealt with the subject really well.

  2. This series looks utterly stunning, I have it recorded but have yet to watch it, I think I’ll save up a few episodes and then have a costume filled binge! I have just rented Dancing on the Edge from Love Film, which I am planning to spend the rest of day watching, so far its full of glorious 30’s gowns, glamorous locations and catchy music, I just hope the story is as good as the costuming!

    • Oh, Dancing on the Edge is my absolute favourite. I have seen it about five times already! The costumes, the characters, the settings and the music are all amazing. I downloaded the album as soon as it was released and listen to it all the time. I’m sure you’ll thoroughly enjoy both.

  3. I have not seen this show. I live in India and I am not sure if it is available on any streaming platform in India.
    Costumes wise there is a problem with every show or film made in the western part of the world that has India in it. I can see that in photographs above as well. The British characters are so very well researched, true to the period mostly, nuanced with the period details etc. And look at the horribly designed Indian characters. The blue Irakal saree with nicely pleated pallu secured with safety pins??? The katori cut in the saree blouse?in 1930’s????? Don’t know the character, but if she will wear Irakal kind of saree then she will be from a different part of society and will not have a Parasi sort of way of draping the pallu. C’mon… there is ample material available freely on internet. why can’t the designers take some effort to research it?
    Indian Clothing history has got a wide variety wrt region, rural/urban, caste, community and so on. Until Independence, even the metro city Mumbai had these differences and variety evident in day to day life.

    • Thank you for the feedback on the costumes on this show. It’s a shame they didn’t do more research into the Indian dress of the time.

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