Ah, the monsoon. It brings the joy of rain - and sudden, mischievous downpours that leave you soaked to the skin in your cotton shirts and tops. It begins with the sweet smell of wet earth - and ends with muddy splashes on your white linen trousers. It has you luxuriating in the romance of grey clouds and cool breezes - and leaves you slithering, skidding and falling on slippery floors, thanks to your cherished stilettos. Yes, the monsoon. The season we love, which our wardrobes hate!
The affair between the monsoon and fashion has always been bitter-sweet. The rain brings with it a sense of confusion, panic and dread in our daily chore of dressing. Jeans are hastily rolled up. A shapeless windcheater is pulled on over a summer dress or a formal suit. And boring rubber floaters are worn out of a grudging necessity.
Even in the highest levels of world fashion, trends for the wet season seem not to exist. Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter are the safer seasons to design for.
But don't let the monsoon drown your personal style. The trick is to identify the right outfit that can transition from summer wear to monsoon wear with ease. And this year it's easy, thanks to these summer trends that can easily be carried forward into the monsoon.
Short & sweet
Skirts and shorts are perhaps the most versatile garments of the season as they can be worn any time, come sun or rain. For a formal look, choose a solid hue and in materials like gabardine, crepe silk or denim, which can resist splashes of mud and water.
"For casual occasions, go for vibrant printed skirts and shorts in fabrics with quick drying properties, like georgette. Fabrics such as knit should be avoided as they take a long time to dry," says Dongre.
Men can play the short and sweet card too with three-quarter pants, capris, cropped trousers and shorts. Rahul Khanna of the designer duo Rohit Gandhi +Rahul Khanna says, "A cool look for men this season is ankle-length bright coloured chinos or full-length chinos rolled up at the ankles, paired with lighter coloured linen shirts. You can throw on a waistcoat as well for a formal look."
Bright & beautiful
The monsoon means gloomy, grey days, so the best way to offset the dark mood is to wear bright colours. While the heat in the summer forces us to stick to whites and light pastels, the arrival of the rain gives us the liberty to play with vibrant hues.
"We have done a monsoon collection of silk-georgette trapeze dresses in bright neon colours like yellow, orange and fuschia. The silhouettes are loose so they can breathe freely after rain when the humidity rises uncomfortably," says Rahul Khanna.
Men who are not particularly adventurous with colours can stick to the basics, but throw in a few bright hues. "To add a little interest to an otherwise basic colour palette, wear a hint of the primary colours of blue, green or red as a belt or a pair of coloured slippers," says fashion designer Varun Bahl. Adds designer Anju Modi, "Most men prefer solids, but incorporating textures and subtle prints like variations in checks and ombre (shaded or graduated) colours add character to the clothes."
*Loafers and slippers can be worn with shorts and shirts, rolled up chinos, and even kurta-pyjamas. "Be sure to get a pedicure before discarding your shoes for the monsoon," advises fashion designer Varun Bahl.
*"A hat is so stylish and can easily go from a sunny day to a rainy one," says Rahul Khanna of the designer duo Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna.
*Bold, big dial, waterproof watches. According to Designer Anju Modi, "They are an absolute essential for men this monsoon."
*Flip flops and rubber wellies. Flip flops add a casual, sporty feel to your attire and are water-friendly. "Rain footwear like red or purple rubber wellies are my favourite monsoon accessory," says designer Anita Dongre.
*A trendy umbrella to keep the rain away and a bright stole for those cool evenings.
Lost in a trench
Around 1901, Thomas Burberry, the founder of one of the oldest apparel brands in the world, invented gabardine, an all weather textile made from waterproofed yarn. Burberry was thereafter commissioned to clothe the British troops fighting in Europe's trenches during World War I and thus was born the trench coat. Over the years, it has been elevated from a wartime necessity to a fashion statement,worn by style icons from Audrey Hepburn to Mischa Barton, Liv Tyler and others.
Burberry brought its iconic trench coats to India when it opened its stores here. One of its line of casual trench coats with rolled up sleeves and with or without hoods is a monsoon wardrobe essential. Shweta Mukherjee, a copy writer with a Gurgaon-based advertising firm says, "A trench coat is the best thing you can invest in for the monsoon. You can throw it over a dress or a formal ensemble or even over crop tops and shorts. And there's no fear of getting wet anymore. In fact, you can step out to enjoy the rain, and still look chic!"
Just crop it
The sexy, midriff-baring crop top first appeared in the West in the 1980s and went mainstream over the next decade when pop stars like Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, the Spice Girls and others wore it. Over the last couple of seasons, the crop top had been stealthily making a comeback on the ramps, but this Spring/Summer the trend has resurfaced with a bang!
They are everywhere now; short, fitted tank tops paired with high-waisted trousers and shorts, belly shirts teasingly grazing the navel above low-slung fitted jeans, cropped kurtis over flowing skirts for a desi look, and loose crop tops worn over a fitted camisole for those who wish to reveal less.
"Crop tops can easily be transitioned into hip monsoon wear by pairing them with rain-friendly silhouettes like culottes, skirts and shorts," says Anita Dongre, fashion designer and owner of the brands Global Desi and AND. "The trend for the season is to wear matching sets - you can go monotone and pair your single-coloured crop top with either a skirt or cropped pants of the same colour. Alternatively, you can go for bright prints with a matching skirt or shorts and add a blazer for a formal appeal."
by Pernia Qureshi, fashion stylist
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From HT Brunch, July 13
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