Bridal bling

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By 10 NEW WAYS TO BE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL THIS WEDDING SEASON. BY SUSHMITA BISWAS Photographs by Gajanan Dudhalkar
  • Published 12.10.08
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The Big Fat Indian Wedding just got another luxe facelift. Now the couple of the moment — the bride and groom — are set to be the show- stoppers of the trendsetting kind. Going by the recently concluded, trend-forecasting HDIL India Couture Week in Mumbai, the bride will flash more skin and turn out in colours that would have once been a strict no-no.

As the season of weddings moves stealthily upon us, designers have gone into wild experiment mode to morph bridalwear into cutting-edge fashion statements. Brace yourself for eye-poppers like white bridal lehengas worn with figure-defining corsets and cholis held up with delicate strings.

The groom for his part might just lead the wedding party in a floor-brushing robe or better still — a billowing skirt.

A battery of 11 stalwart designers — including Ritu Kumar, Ashish N Soni, JJ Valaya, Anamika Khanna, Pallavi Jaikishan, Manav Gangwani, Suneet Varma, Varun Bahl, Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Malhotra and Rohit Bal — rocked the runway providing oodles of glamour. Tahiliani says: “In the days of mass production, I love the idea of couture. Indian couture is synonymous with bridal and occasion-wear and relies heavily on exquisite surface ornamentation. Weddingwear is supposed to be lavish, taking painstaking man hours to produce.’’

Here’s what lies in store for the bride this season.

Material girls

Velvet is the fabric of the moment in bridalwear and each designer has given it an individualist twist. Says Manav Gangwani: “Velvet is very versatile and I have used it liberally to give a regal look to the outfits.” The rest of the fabric line-up includes organza, Chanderi silk and lace, which have made a major comeback.

Varun Bahl and Tarun Tahiliani created a new vintage look in velvet, chiffon, tweed, silk and silk jersey to create a red-carpet line of long evening gowns, sexy blouses and lehengas. And while Anamika Khanna created contemporary couture in tulles, velvet and net, Ashish N Soni’s range combined fabrics like fine cashmeres, angora, wool and silk wool.

Rohit Bal’s models came in gowns and skirts in blue, maroon and black velvets, Chanderi silks and organza and the men walked in velvet dhoti-pants. Veteran designer Pallavi Jaikishan created kalidar lehengas worn with dupattas and blouses in fabrics like tulle, lame, lightweight duchess satin, satin and lace.

Gangwani and Suneet Varma favoured velvet and gossamer fabrics like chiffon with gold touches. On the other hand, Malhotra’s bridal line was heavy in Benarasi silk and brocade mixed with velvet and silk.

Bold is beautiful

The New Age bride wants to reveal her well-toned body in flattering silhouettes,” confirms Soni who opened his show with a layered, asymmetric low-back gown in satin. So, the bride can look demure — and yet hot — on her big day.

All she needs to do is to re-jig the styles and cuts of the bridal attire and go forth boldly. Backless cholis, off-shoulder corsets, asymmetrical and halter blouses and low-waist lehengas are the way to go. Even fishtail lehengas constructed with long trails shouldn’t be ruled out.

Malhotra pandered to his Bollywood customers with backless, bikini tops to go with heavy lehengas, Gangwani walked Karisma Kapoor on the ramp in an ornate low- back anarkali.

Tahiliani’s line included a gold lame paisley sari with fluted neckline blouses. Jaikishan designed European-styled skirts depicting Indian embroidery worn with deeply cut blouses. And, of course, Ritu Kumar dressed Bollywood actresses Priyanka Chopra and Neha Dhupia in gherawala, low-waist embroidered lehengas with sexy string cholis.

Colour story

How about this: Black and white are the new red/maroon/rani pink of the bridal ensemble. Now designers are egging on the bride to think in terms of ornate ghagra cholis in pristine white or in black. If Valaya is all for white, Ashish Soni has designed kalidar anarkali kurtas (tight at the bodice and flared at the waist), bodysuits and evening gowns in black and white.

Soni wowed the audience in a minimalist line of sherwanis for men and black cocktail gowns for women to be worn on a night-out. Says Soni: “This time I decided to go minimalist with whites and blacks because these are the hottest colour palettes internationally.”

Some designers have teamed hot whites and kohl blacks with pastel shades. Going beyond the reds and maroons, the bride can explore tones of silver, ivory, pink and pastels like aqua blue, lilac, peach, cream and powder blue.

Varma experimented with whites and pastel shades like lilacs, grey, beige and pinks for his line of short frilly dresses and gowns while Tahiliani designed ultra-feminine saris and lehengas in gold and ivory colours.

Khanna too constructed the trousseau in muted shades like beige, gold, white and black. Whites and blacks may have reared their heads, but rest assured that bright colours like maroons and pinks also remain constant.

East meets West

Our designers are not just taking their cues from Mughal and Rajput embroidery but also combining these with European influences in terms of cut and styling. Ritu Kumar’s line was inspired by traditional Mughal and Rajput embroidery techniques like dhapka, mukaish and a range of metallic embellishments. She also used kalamkari motifs from the Coromandel coast in a line of bomber jackets and coats. “The aim is to highlight India’s rich embroidery techniques which are unmatched,”she says.

JJ Valaya chose to go distinctly Indian with his opulent sherwanis and lush evening gowns with floral motifs and plenty of paisleys.

Jaikishan’s collection, titled La Vie Est Belle (Life is Beautiful), was inspired by the French and Indian aristocracy of yesteryears. Her bridal line had French tape embroidery, crystals and shimmering gota-work blended with French roses on saris and lehengas that resembled long European skirts.

Rohit Bal took inspiration from his Kashmiri roots especially the Cheshma Shahi Mughal Garden in Srinagar and titled his collection Cheshma Shahi. It included gowns, dresses, bandh-galas and sherwanis.

Varun Bahl’s line was a marriage of Mughal-Rajput and Tudor England in his creation of European-styled long gowns, long trench coats and Elizabethan cloaks. “The look is Elizabethan — complete with feathers, plumes in the hair, stand-up collars and puff sleeves,” he says.

Varma meanwhile was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and crafted a line of voluminous gowns and short dresses in sheer chiffons with a huge array of Crystallized Swarovski Elements as embellishments.

Red carpet glamour

Every bride should keep space in her trousseau for a voluminous gown, cocktail dresses or even a long very European, gathered skirt. Says Gangwani: “Weddingwear is not restricted to ornate lehengas and cholis but also includes red-carpet dresses which you can wear on cocktail nightouts or at any awards function.” Gangwani’s models swayed down the catwalk in his lavishly flowing balloon skirts, gowns and flouncing Elizabeth net skirts in white and gold.

Khanna had loads of underskirts, skirts with cowls, skirts and bodysuits. Bahl slipped in a resplendent line of long fishtail skirts and gowns, while Rohit Bal wowed his audience with impeccably tailored, ruffled dresses and gowns. Tahiliani too couldn’t resist Crystallized Swarovski encrusted bodysuits and gowns. But Ritu Kumar stayed with her trademark embroidery techniques even in her line of evening gowns, chogas and long tunics.

Coat tales

Now watch out for trenchcoats and jackets as they are teamed with lehengas, skirts and even saris. Kumar had Kutchi-gathered coats, printed trenchcoats and vegetable-dyed short bomber jackets worn over saris and loose pants. Her quilted jackets came with miniature paintings and can be paired with Indian or Westernwear. “Trenchcoats or jackets on saris and lehengas look very stylish,” says Kumar.

While Khanna had long, cutwork jackets worn over black bodysuits, the highpoint of Bahl’s collection was model Tinu Verghese sashaying down the ramp in a red, velvet jacket worn over a gold lehenga. Tahiliani included faux snake-skin sequined jacket worn over silk jersey dress, as well as a velvet frock-coat and orange panelled coat teamed with a brocade skirt. There was more from Tahiliani as jackets and capes were stylishy worn with saris.

Haute collars and sleeves

Long, short, flared or puffed — designers have added drama to the bridal sleeve.

Gangwani gave new dimensions to his sari blouses by giving them net sleeves with high-collars while Malhotra also went for net sleeves in his ensembles, apart from churi sleeves and sexy-cut blouses. Bahl settled for puffed, cowl, one-shoulder and rather ornate sleeves for blouses. The king of drama, Rohit Bal, added spice to his glam ball gowns by exaggerating the sleeves.

High-collared, backless or asymmetrical, the blouse saw it all. The luxe factor was at its peak in Tahiliani’s line, particularly the black crystallised asymmetrical hem blouse.

Male bonding

Men too are just as spoilt for choice this season as brides-to-be are. In vogue are sherwanis — that are a huge hit — while other must-haves are dhoti-pants and even skirts!

Soni showcased a modern interpretation of the classic sherwani. His ivory-coloured sherwanis were pleated, pearl-embroidered and pin-tucked. Some were woven in a pattern called the basket-weave (that resembles a weave used for making baskets) while others came with cowl-backs.

While Gangwani went a step further by designing jackets in woven tanchoi fabric for men as well as appliqued sherwanis, Tahiliani had black raglan sleeve kurta-style sherwanis and short sherwanis worn with shirts and trousers. And Malhotra had well-tailored, quilted sherwanis.

Valaya played it differently with bare-chested male models walking the ramp wearing ghaghra-like flowing skirts with paisley motifs that were accessorised with cowboy belts and kirpans slung on the side. There were also floor-sweeping black robes for men. “I have taken nomadic inspiration in designing skirts for men as I believe it looks quite cool,” says Valaya.

The week closed with Bal’s finale with male models strutting the ramp in bandhgalas, zardozi sherwanis and fitted dhoti-pants.

Bring on the accessories

And for accessories, the bride must look beyond the heavy-as-heavy can be precious jewellery as there’s loads she can embellish her ensemble with. The range includes sari belts, ornate headgear, hair ornaments, shrugs and even embroidered socks. Bahl says: “The range of hair ornaments add a royal touch to the outfit.”

Varma designed knee-high embroidered socks (that are meant to replace the churidar) which can be worn with short tunics. Some of the hottest looks included elaborate hairdos and hair ornate jewellery as well as jewelled headgear for the bride by Gangwani and Bahl. Malhotra sent out a stream of models wearing aalta on their feet and carrying gada-shaped jewelled bags (taking a cue from Ektaa Kapoor’s Kahani Hamaarey Mahabharat Ki for which he has designed the costumes).

Tahiliani kept it real with jewelled sari belts, while Valaya went for shrugs, leather and jewelled sari belts, embroidered long and short dupattas (that were either tied with the blouse or choli or slung loose).

Bling is king

The love affair with bling continues — in the use of both golden zardozi and crystals. Malhotra, who is synonymous with bling, admits: “Couture is all about opulence — and that comes with bling.” While Malhotra went for crystal-encrusted lehengas and anarkali kurtas, Valaya scored in terms of embellishments in embroidery and crystal in his entire line of saris, anarkalis and skirts.

Jaikishan’s glittering saris were teamed with chunky neckpieces and dramatic earrings. Varma too embellished his garments with Swarovski crystals and Gangwani was at his best designing crystal-encrusted saris and gowns. Though Tahiliani used a lot of chikankari, gota-work and pearl embroidery, he also went heavy on zardozi and one of his showstoppers was an ornate zardozi lehenga-choli worn by Noyonika Chatterjee.