Watching a Manipuri bride descend in potloi for the first time leaves one in awe. The surreal beauty of a woman walking in this stiff, handcrafted skirt is perplexing – it is almost as if the dreamy bride is flowing. It goes without saying that creating the traditional Manipuri bridal dress takes hundreds of hours of painstaking work. But how did this tradition start?
The potloi bridal dress of the Meitei community can be traced back to the time of the Meitei kingdom. It is believed that the dress was introduced by Meitei king Rajah Bhaigya Chandra during the later half of the eighteenth century. The cylindrical stiff skirt was, and still is also used in Manipur’s classical dance – Ras-Leela – where Radha can be seen in a green potloi, and the Gopis in red.
In its truest form, the art of making potloi is not taught but passes down over generations. Traditionally, seven to nine layers of cotton fabric are dipped in starch to form the cylindrical stiff skirt. After drying for two days, the potloi gains its form. The motifs are handcrafted; it takes many eyes and acuity to perform the delicate thread work, attach sequins, create geometrical shapes, use small mirrors and pearls, and create the design from waist to toe.
In a more modern world, a rubber sheet is used instead of starched fabric to maintain the unique shape.
The skirt is secured around the waist with an embellished belt and worn with a blouse and an innaphi. Dressing up a bride in a potloi dress takes around three hours, because getting everything together is art in itself.
The idea of stepping into a new stage of life wearing a dress that took so much patience, dedication, expertise and love makes the wedding day more special, more full of meaning.
Would you like to wear a potloi dress? We would!
Did you loce this Meitei wedding dress from India? You will also love the traditional jewellery worn by Indian Kannauri brides.