The way gown makers tell it, every Indian girl wants a white wedding – even if she’s not Christian. Young Hindu girls marrying Christian boys are happily abandoning their red lehenga for swathes of floorlength lace and tulle. Even if neither party is Christian, they’ll still order a frilly, off-shoulder number for the reception or cocktail party.
In Mumbai, Ruth Lopes, who runs the legendary Dann’s (the store is 40 years old and has clothed two generations of brides), finds that gown seekers, like lehenga wearers, are now more demanding. “Back then, we’d tell them what they’d look like,” Lopes recalls. “Today they come in knowing what they want to look like.”
And what they want these days is the very antithesis of the lehenga. The big white dress is still grand and gorgeous – but it’s gone simpler and simpler over the last decade. No flouncy frills, no ridiculous bows, minimal crystal or beadwork, and no nightmares in white satin. "The focus is on sedate styles that show off the fit and the fabric," says Tinamarie Pereira, Lopes’s daughter and second-in command at Dann’s. "Grecian styles are in. We’re seeing lots of chiffon and georgette instead of satin and net."
Still, the women play it up – we are Indian after all. Lopes finds customers picking “a neckline from this pattern, a sleeve from another, an embellishment from the third” and skipping snow white for light pink and light blue. “Many brides also wear off-white [a colour traditionally reserved for one’s second marriage ceremony], as it looks better against our skin tone.”
Rock the frock
In vogue everywhere are lower necks, exposed shoulders (what Lopes calls the ‘willpower style’ because that’s what it takes for the dress to stay up!) and tight fits. Seamstresses add velcro straps or flat sleeves so the bride can pass muster at church but rock the reception.
Not all problems are as easily solved. Part of the gown maker’s job is giving brides a reality check – silhouettes that look stunning on East European models in a magazine will not flatter Indian hips; corseted silhouettes will spell disaster for a living, breathing, walking, dancing bride. “Women are also getting married later so we have to be particular,” Pereira adds. “They don’t want to show their tummy, their rear.” No wonder the princess-cut gown is so popular. Nipped at the waist and flared out from the hip down, it flatters most women.
Most women, however, prefer Duchess to princess. “So many women ask for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress,” says Lopes. “I think I’ve made 20! Some want an exact copy. I tell them if you want the same dress, they’ll have to order it from Alexander McQueen!”
What if the wedding gown of your dreams was finally within reach... online?
You could reject pattern after pattern, argue with your seamstress, go crazy trying to replicate the structured organza gown you saw in a Vera Wang ad. Or you could order your outfit online. Three-month-old Knots & Vows (knotsandvows.com) claims it’s India’s largest online gown store and their red-carpet style wedding dresses offer hope to Indian brides who wanted matte organza but found only reflective satin.
“We wanted Indian brides to have a wider, more international choice and be able to order a good quality dress even in a small town,” says Alastair Bangera, one of the three IT geeks who’ve founded the site. Knots & Vows’ dresses are manufactured in South East Asia in UK/US sizes and offer gowns to buy or rent. They also take custom orders (submit measurements online) and get a consultant to talk to each bride before the order is confirmed.
Current bestsellers include strapless styles (local tailors can’t replicate the construction easily), the classic A-line, and full-skirted ball gowns, “because it gives you the full fairytale experience,” Bangera says. “That’s what women want on their wedding day.”
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From HT Brunch, November 17
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