At one of the many stalls set up by the biggest fashion designers, at one of the many exhibitions held in the Capital this wedding season, Manika Sharma, 28, walks in confidently. She’s dressed in a pair of casual black jeans and a white chiffon shirt, her hands are painted with deep brown mehendi patterns, and her ring finger sports a big, solid rock.
The Delhi-based freelance photographer eyes the red, pink, beige lehengas for a moment, almost uninterestedly, even as other would-be-brides flock towards them. “Do you have anything in black?” she asks the stall manager.
“Yes ma’am. We do,” he says and fishes out a lehenga in black and gold. “Lovely.” Her eyes shine as she lightly touches the fabric, “I’ll try it on, please.”
For Manika and many other modern, independent brides of today, the trousseau selecting decision is increasingly becoming their own. And they are boldly going for what they want. It doesn’t just mean lighter, more comfortable silhouettes, less jewellery, trendy makeup and hairdos anymore.
It also means the most unconventional colour palettes for their wedding outfits. Reds, pinks, fuchsias and oranges are almost passé. Off-whites, beiges, ivories are still ruling the roost, riding on the wave of success from the last few seasons.
And surprise of surprises, a never-before worn colour for a trousseau has sneakily emerged this year – black!
"India is slowly moving away from tradition and accepting and embracing the young, strong woman," says Nikhil Mehra of the designer duo Shantanu & Nikhil. "The contemporary bride, who wasn’t even looking at black a year or two ago, is now taking a chance. Black is an experiment for us and it may be catching on."
They’ve done a lehenga with a crop top in black and gold and a zip-up saree in black. "Our black anarkali is flying off the shelves already. The good thing about black is that people can wear it every year; it never goes out of fashion."
"It is being received incredibly well," agrees designer Anju Modi. She dressed her showstopper Kangana Ranaut at the India Couture Week in a heavy embroidered lehenga and boat-neck crop top in black and gold.
"Although traditionally black is considered an inauspicious colour, it is also a classic shade in fashion that signifies elegance. With more and more brides expanding their colour palette, it isn’t surprising that this otherwise favourite colour is making a notable entry in their trousseau," Modi says.
Designer Monisha Jaising has also dabbled in the new trend but has some reservations. "No one is really going for stark black though. Black is mostly being used as a canvas or base colour; so if you’re going for a black lehenga, then the choli and dupatta would be red or orange or gold. It’s a brand new trend and it will take some getting used to."
The reservations – and there are many – are mostly for the fact that in India, as in the West, black is traditionally regarded as an inauspicious colour, reflecting sorrow and ill omen. “Of course, some people from the older generation prefer reds and more celebratory shades due to their conventionality,” says Modi.
So even though many in the new brigade may want to rebel and opt for black as wedding wear, the old guard still stands firm against it. “Black will never be accepted in India as bridal wear,” says master couturier Sabyasachi Mukherjee. “Black is something we design for women to wear to other people’s weddings. If I was to do it as bridal, I would convert it to red,” he says. “
Just ruffling feathers for the sake of ruffling them is very immature, and I think a good, secure bride is never going to show signs of insecurity by wearing black. I mean there’s nothing more beautiful on an Indian bride than red and gold. Why upset those norms?”
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His contemporary and king of Bollywood wedding costumes, Manish Malhotra, agrees. “I’ve only gone as far as navy blue. It is the new black for me.” He introduced navy blue couture last year when he dressed his showstopper Deepika Padukone at the Vogue Wedding Show in a lehenga of the hue. “It’s doing phenomenally well, I have a waiting list for it. But even that is only meant for sangeets or receptions; no bride will wear it on the wedding day.”
There is always a difference of opinion when it comes to outrageous new trends, but when it comes to black as bridal wear, the divide is stark between the old generation and the new. Browsing for a well-fitting sherwani at a wedding exhibition, investment banker Amit Tandon says, “A lot of taboos are broken regularly. The bride’s ensemble has moved forward from traditional colours to beige and off-whites. It may soon be black too.”
Green light, Go
Fashion stylist and designer Anaita Shroff Adajania remembers her own wedding about 12 years ago for which she wore a white lace saree with just a pair of art deco earrings. “I had my hair undone and I felt so light and delicate. It was almost ethereal,” she says.
The idea, she says, is not to wear something just because it’s the norm but to be true to your personality and style. “Every bride needs to be who she is. If you want to wear your hair messy, wear it messy. If you don’t want to sashay around in 20 kilos of lehenga, then don’t. If black makes you happy, then so be it,” she says.
“Yes, you can always compromise a little and wear black to one of the other functions, instead of the main day. Or tone down the inauspiciousness by wearing traditional gold jewellery. You wouldn’t want to upset anyone on your most important day, after all.”
For young Shristi Verma and her mother Vandana, the diktat is clear and quite distinct. “She can wear black for a cocktail party or one of the other parties. But for the wedding, no, no, absolutely no,” says the mother.
The daughter chimes in meekly, “I think it’s okay to wear black even on D-day. The grooms wear black sherwanis, then why can’t the bride?” Well, the brides may wear black too. Soon.
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From HT Brunch, January 4, 2015
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