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Gorgeous in gowns

Aishwarya Rai was blasted for shunning her Indianness when she first sashayed down the Cannes carpet in cocktail gowns. The lady, though, threw criticism to the wind and went on to make quite a statement in lustrous gowns by Armani and Cavalli.

From Shilpa Shetty to Bipasha Basu, from Preity Zinta to Katrina Kaif, our stars seem to have slipped into the red carpet look with ease. And while they’ve made for many a pretty picture at award functions the world over, the Bollywood brigade has inspired the emergence of a market for red carpet fashion back home.

Red carpet silhouettes — the floor-kissing cocktail gowns and shorter versions of it — have crept into collections of many Indian designers of late.

At the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai last month, designer duo Falguni and Shane Peacock unveiled their spring-summer 2008 line called Peacock Couture inspired by “red carpet glamour”. Flowing cocktail gowns made of satins and chiffons in jewel tones made up a stunning collection. While the Peacock duo based their whole collection on it, the look was everywhere, with gowns being a common silhouette in many collections.
“There is an emerging demand for red carpet fashion in India. Bollywood stars are travelling to award functions abroad and are being seen sporting them. But not just celebrities, socialites and party people are now comfortably sporting the look at formal occasions,” smiles Falguni.

Mumbai-based designer Pria Kataria Puri feels that the cocktail gown is a strong alternative to saris and formal Indian wear for evening dressing. “There is a big market for red carpet gowns now for the simple reason that they are in fashion all over the world including India. A gown is the new option for evening dressing. Gowns can be formal and informal, breezy and relaxed, depending on the occasion and mood for which you want to dress,” says Pria.

While they are rampant on the ramp, gowns are a good dressing option for formal occasions like wedding cocktails, award functions, launch functions, sit-down dinners and more. “It doesn’t have to be a very formal occasion. Flowing, relaxed gowns in chiffon are great for a beachside brunch, too,” adds Pria.

Another reason why the gown is finding favour with Indian designers is the huge demand from NRIs and West Asian buyers. “An Indian bride might include two gowns in her entire trousseau, while an NRI bride will go for many more. And since a lot of NRIs shop for their trousseau in India, there’s a huge market there,” explains Mumbai-based designer Priya Awasthy. “The long gown look works very well in West Asia and there’s a fast growing market there,” she adds.

The sensuous torso-hugging shapes flow down to sweeping long skirts to make these luxurious silhouettes. Empire lines and corset styles are among the top looks in vogue, along with draped bodies and bias cuts. Halters, sexy low backs and asymmetric hemlines and necklines are some of the variations.

Jewel tones with touches of sequins, Swarovski and other gems on waist, shoulder and bodice are common. The top fabrics include satins, chiffons, georgettes, taffetas and satin lycra.

The popular palette is made up of cobalt blue, ash-grey, purple, emerald green, canary yellow, orange, chocolate brown, shocking pink and, of course, bright red and black, along with dollops of gold.

“The sequinned look, particularly on black, is very ‘in’. Subtle gold embroidery is a good way of lending the gown an Indian look,” says Falguni. Other techniques of Indianisation are the use of Indian fabrics like silk tissue and Benarasi and ethnic prints like bandhni and paisleys. “A little touch of Indian embroidery on the waist or teaming it with Indian jewellery, brooches and stoles would make the look suitable for wedding occasions,” smiles Pria.

“The gown looks best on women with well-toned upper bodies and slim shoulders,” warns Priya.

But Pria suggests ways to find the style that would suit you best. “The gown is pretty much like wearing a sari; you have to find the style that suits you depending on your figure. If you are slim, go for more volume around the waist. If you are mid-size, go for an empire waist and bias cut. And if you are a large size, opt for an A-line cut with sleeves,” she explains.

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