Bhangra is not only exuberant in sound, but also in color. The bhangra dress reflects the Punjabi love for bright colors. The bhangra dress is derived from typical daily wear, and so it varies depending on which region of Punjab you are in. The information below is about bhangra dress, bhangra props and how to get (or make) your own. It is by no means authoritative, rather it is the version of bhangra dress that we use with a little bit of context and history to make it real.
Drawings by Radhika Nagpal
Bhangra is typically performed with pags, but not necessarily. The bhangra pag is not tied the same way as a Sikh pag, rather it is in the rural style of the Jatts who worked the land. Still the Pag holds a very special meaning in Punjab - it is the sign of pride and honor. And so in bhangra, touching the pag with your feet or throwing it, is considered a disrespect towards the heritage of Punjab.
Traditionally the turla is made from one end of the pag that is heavily starched. But often a more fancy fan-like turla is attached separately. On top of the pag, one can tie a broad golden gotta (lace) for decoration. Vests are optional and sometimes a chunni is tied around the waist. Usually the kurta is white and the lungi and vest and pag are some bright color. Common colors are yellow (sarson, mustard), green (prosperity), red (saffron). The lungi is just a rectangular piece of cloth tied around the waist, in fact a twin bedsheet works perfectly. Men also wear juttis (punjabi shoes), but dance barefoot.
Women wear typical punjabi outfits, a salwaar kameez with a slightly short kameez and a baggy salwaar. Usually the kameez is a contrasting color from the dupatta and salwaar. Sometimes women also wear sharraras (ghagara with split pants). The dupatta is not necessarily worn on the head, and in gidda the dupattas used are heavily embroidered. Women wear a lot of jewellery - bangles, tikka, jhumkas, necklace and nath (nose ring).
But what makes the outfit typically punjabi is the paranda - the tassle that is woven into the braid. The fancier the better, the longer the better, and often the braid is wrapped with golden gotta to make it even more prominent. It is not by accident there are so many punjabi songs about it (Kali teri gutt, te paranda teraa laal ne). A common metaphor for the paranda is a black snake (saap), that winds and weaves as she dances.
Unfortunately it is still difficult to get costumes made here in the US. Our club so far has only managed to get costumes directly from India and in all cases through someone going to India, getting them made and bringing the costumes back personally. Most recently, we got costumes made by Our Collections, New Delhi - you can contact Mrs. Preeti Gulati by sending her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
However if you are just starting out, its also very easy to make your own costumes. In fact for the first 8 years of our club we put together our own costumes. Women wore their own salwaar kameezes, with contrasting dupattas. Guys used twin bedsheets for lungis (later on we bought fabric of the same size), their own kurtas, pags borrowed from one sardar we knew, and just regular men's vests from sears (see below). We roughly stitched gotta (gold lace) on to everything! Also if you can stitch your own costumes, or know someone who can, the guy's costumes are very easy to make. Hopefully the above information will help.
[Costumes: 1991 versis 1999]
There are many different types of props used while dancing bhangra. The katoo is a long stick with a clapper on the top and a string attahed to the clapper. If you pull the string, the clapper closes making a sound like that of castanets. The saap is a wooden criss-cross that can be opened and closed while dancing. The chimta is a long metal instrument with many cymbols on it; it is used primarily as an accompanyment to the dhol but sometimes also used in dancing. Dancing with long sticks is common and sometime we mix gatka (sword dance) with bhangra even though it is not really a part of bhangra. Buying bhangra props is still very hard - you can buy chimtas and instruments on the web, but saaps and katos are hard to come by except by travelling to the source - punjab.
In Gidda however, anything is a
prop - an umbrella, a broom, a rolling pin, a sapera or a
sword! In fact props are a very important part of gidda because it
helps the audience understand the scene/acting without necessarily
understanding the full lyrics.