Ever heard the story of a beautiful highland lass who was raised by eight foster mothers? Down in the valleys of snow-covered mountains, she hummed the tunes of Khullong Eshei and prospered like a princess in the midst of her foster moms, who decked her up with the best of pebbles and finest of hawk-feathers and named her Manpur. Yes, the 'bejeweled city', which is nourished by eight rivers.
This north-eastern state of India is distinct with its inherent tribal aesthetics. Manipur's traditional attire is called 'Phanek', which is a vintage wrap around skirt that resembles a hand-woven shawl.
The uniqueness of Manipuri traditional clothing is that it keeps functionality and comfort ahead of fashion. Youngsters work out their creativity upon this simple single layered cloth, adding to the many variants of phaneks available in Manipuri markets.
Women wear additional components to match with their phaneks, like 'innaphi,' which is a stole-wrap around the neck, 'mayek naibi,' a bright colored party-wear variant of phanek, and 'kanep phanek,' a skirt stitched out of a peculiar cloth.
The beauty of Manipuri fashion is the simplicity it upholds. You cannot find a redundant piece of attire a fully groomed Manipuri person. Each part of their costume has its relevance and function. Manipuri men wear jackets, turban and dhotis.
Also known as 'Subarna Bhu' or the land of gold, Manipur is famous for its intrinsic expressions on jewelry and other accessories. Necklaces made of beads and gems are a prominent in Manipuri jewelry. Metal strings and golden threads carrying heavy pendants decorated with gems and beads form an integral part of Manipuri ethnic fashion. The tribal designs connoting myths and folklore uphold the true flavors of Manipur. Loud, bold and colorful designs, projecting beautiful designs and subtle craftsmanship make Manipur truly a 'bejeweled' city.
With the passage of time, Manipur has opened its windows towards the outside world. The younger generation Manipuris have moved onto mainstream fashion, making western couture and Indian traditional wear a part and parcel of Manipuri fashion.