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Sunday, October 24, 2021

On the Loose: Style File

The sari versus the gown on the red carpet .

Written by Leher Kala |
Updated: May 25, 2015 12:00:04 am
talk, fashion, saree versus gown, Cannes 2015, #100sareepact, Indian fashion international fashion, red carpet fashion, Indian Express Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Richa Chadda at Cannes 2015.

Social media is inundated with photographs of the #100sareepact. Started by two very innovative women to encourage bringing the sari back into the workplace, this virtual platform is a space to celebrate memories and recount personal narratives of the unworn six yards languishing in our cupboards. Participants in this pact are attempting to wear a 100 saris before December 2015. They post a picture with a line on how they feel wearing one. From what I read of this experiment, it’s amazing what dressing up does for your morale. Their website has been visited 4,000 times and at the last count over 1,400 women had participated.

More than reclaiming the sari for office wear, I say, let’s start a pact to get it back on the red carpet. A previous generation of Bollywood actors like Rekha and Hema Malini always showed up for award ceremonies in gorgeous Kanjeevarams or delicate chiffons. They still do.
They wore what they thought looked good, based on instinct rather than trends when the word ‘stylist’ didn’t even exist. The look was one of unaffected, ethereal beauty that may not make you swoon at its edgy brilliance but it didn’t make you cringe either. Cut to Cannes 2015 when actor Sonam Kapoor made a startling appearance in a feathered, voluminous gown, best described as inexplicable. Kapoor’s other, fluffy, princessy outfit to a press conference raised many eyebrows, perhaps because it was right only for a teenager heading to a prom.

There’s a reason the red carpet revels in the theatrical and absurd — the idea is to show the actor to maximum advantage and hopefully, generate hysterical attention from the international press. Every look is thought out, planned and executed in excruciating detail in accordance with this aim. So even though a straight lined, unfussy black gown might look better, it lacks the requisite, feisty brilliance to make heads turn. Enter the plumes and feathers, verging on pornographic itsy bitsy outfits, and the Cleopatra wannabes. In this scenario, should our desi divas be appreciated for exerting themselves to be different? And daring to risk the wrath of the metaphoric fashion police, the all-too-observant public?

When one sees Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai polished to perfection in the Elie Saabs and Oscar De la Rentas, more than trying to stand out, it appears they’re trying very hard to fit in. Elegant beauties they might be but their red carpet effort felt superficial and humourless. How much nicer it would have been if they looked like they were just trying to have fun with their fashion. By contrast, actor Nandita Das, in a simple red sari, effortlessly cool and perfectly natural, made a far greater impact. It’s a good time for stylists to rethink the goddess approach to red carpet dressing in a year when the Cannes Film Festival is facing criticism for denying entry to women not wearing high heels. Even the legendary arbiter of taste, Coco Chanel, declared: “It is always better to be slightly underdressed.”

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