The costumes in Odissi dance are elaborate and are similar to that of the traditional Bharatnatyam costume. The beautiful Pallu in Odissi dance is called the Thallaippu. This pleat is made in the front that makes the costume very rich and colourful. Young dancers will have a blouse with a small pleat in the front, instead of the Thavani (piece covering the blouse). The top portion is called attached Thavani.
The women Odissi dancers wear the patta sari, a brightly coloured silk sari which is nine yards long and a black or red blouse called the kanchula, which is embellished with diverse stones and gold and silver thread. An apron-like silk cloth, known as the `nibibhanda,` is tied from the waist like a frill worn around the legs. The waistband, called the jhobha, is a length of cord with tasseled ends. The kanchula of the Gotipuas is quite different as is the method in which the patta sari of Odissi is draped. `Komchila` is the richly embroidered blouse. The decorative headpiece of the dancer is made from styrofoam, which is shaped like flowers. The headpiece also contains a temple-shaped projecting structure.
There are three hairstyles in Odissi dance; namely the ardh-bathaka or semicircular bun; the pushpa-chanda with the hair coiled into the shape of a flower and the kati-beni, which is a single plait down the back. An elaborate design is often made on the forehead with a vermilion mark in the centre. The eyes are decorated with kohl and there is a small mark on the chin. Some contemporary Odissi dancers, however, do not use the authentic costume and ornaments.
Odissi dance is complemented by elaborate filigree silver jewellery pieces. The Odissi ornaments are made of "thin wire," and in Oriya it is called Tarchasi. This highly skilled craft dates back to more than 500 years old and is traditionally done by local artisans on the Eastern shores of Orissa. The jewellery pieces themselves are an important part of the Odissi dancer`s costume and is comprised of the tikka (forehead ornament), allaka (head piece on which the tikka hangs), unique ear covers in intricate shapes, usually indicating a peacock`s feathers, with jimkis (bell shaped earrings) hanging from them, two necklaces- a smaller necklace that is worn close to the neck and a longer necklace with a hanging pendant, and two sets of bangles that are worn on the upper arm and wrist.
The dancers are supposed to wear three ornaments on the head, one along the hairline of the forehead, one down the centre parting and one in the hair. The process of making each piece takes the cooperation of many artisans each specialized in one step of the many that turns a chunk of raw silver into a handcrafted work of art. The jewelry is made from silver with a coating of gold. Ornaments adorn the head, ear, neck, hands, fingers and waist of the dancer. The ornaments include a choker, `bahichudi` or `tayila` (armlets), `kankana` (bracelets), `padaka-tilaka` (a long necklace), a belt, bells, anklets, `kapa` (earrings) and a `seenthi` (ornament work on the hair and forehead). These ornaments are festooned with natural un-cut stones lined with gold. The designs are often implications of the jewellery that adorns the deities in the South Indian temples.
The crown of the Odissi dancers is known as the mahkoot. This is exquisitely made in the devotional city of Puri in Eastern Orissa. It is made from the dried reed called sola in a tradition called sola kama. The reed is engraved by a series of cuts into the rode-like stem and forms various types of flowers when a cord is tied in the middle of the rod and pulled stretched. As the string tightens, flowers blossom into jasmines, champa- one of the five flowers of Lord Krishna`s arrows, and kadamba.
The mahkoot consists of two parts. The flower decorated back piece is called the ghoba. It sits around the dancer`s hair pulled into a bun at the back of the head. This piece represents the lotus flower with a thousand petals that lies above the head in the form of head chakra, or energy center. The longer piece that emerges from the centre of the back piece is called the thiya and this depicts the temple spire of Lord Jagganath or the flute of Lord Krishna.
The saree worn by Odissi dancers are usually coloured in bright shades of orange, purple, red or green and the dance costume are draped around the body in the traditional manner. Nowadays, it is stitched in the form of a pyjama that helps in quick change of costume during a performance involving multiple costumes. This sari features traditional prints and shiny embellishments. The makeup of an Odissi dancer is in the traditional form as well. `Kajal` (black eyeliner) is applied around the eyes with a broad outline to give them an elongated look. Makeup is done on the face to highlight its features. A `bindi` (red dot) is applied on the forehead with a pattern made from sandalwood around it. The applied lip colour is dark and bright, usually red or maroon.
The costumes of Odissi dance perfectly compliment the steps and poise of the dancer. The bright combinations of the dress material create a spectacular sight of the performance on the stage.