Is it a lehenga? Is it a gown? What?

  • Sonal Kalra, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 11, 2015 11:36 IST

With the wedding season almost here, this one’s for all you brides-to-be. You better make a wise choice

It might just be good to come out of our fairy tale obsession with weddings. I was scared of saying this before. Because some of you would turn around and question why I’m giving gyaan on a subject I may not be qualified to comment on.

But then in a stroke of enlightenment, I figured that by that logic, I’m not really an expert at anything. Does that ever stop me from dispensing advice as if it’s my birthright? Matlab aap samajh gaye nah? I’ll say what I have to, if it affects my calmness. And this time toh I have managed experts to back my pet peeve. I spoke to several prominent names in Indian fashion, and most of them said that they can’t understand the obsession that girls seem to have these days, with wearing a ‘gown’ at their prewedding functions.

Read: May you only grow fatter

Nor, for the life of me, do I. You got what I’m talking about? Those frilly, voluminous, loud, embroidered, embellished ‘ball gowns’ that girls across cities and towns seem to have replaced the good ol’ lehenga or sari with. We didn’t realise when we moved from looking like the perfect, ethnic bride to looking like an overgrown version of Cinderella-gone-mental.

My humble attempt to trace the origin of this horror leads me to believe that it started with some genius thinking that now that we do a ‘cocktail’ function instead of the desi ‘ladies sangeet’ before a wedding, we might as well turn the dress-code also to something western. Nothing wrong with that. Except that we didn’t want it to get too western and sober, because, you know, Indians and bling.

So, we decided to have our own version of lehenga-goes-berserkand-grows-into-a-gown. Result: Garish, extra-tight, heavily embellished fairy tale outfits on the bride-to-be, her sisters, best friends, best friends’ sisters ... and even mummyji. Before the gown-fan army attacks me with their frilly weapons for being so judgmental, let me clear it upfront that I already know all the right things — that a person’s dressing sense is very personal and subjective. And that people have a right to wear whatever they want, as long as they feel happy carrying it. I know all of that and agree with it. My points are very simple...

1. Are you wearing something because it’s making you feel good, or because it happens to be the trend? I asked a soon-to-bem-arried girl what her outfit of choice for her cocktail-sangeet function is. ‘An indo-western fishtail gown,’ she replied. Before I could even ask her what that means, she added, ‘It’s what everyone’s wearing these days at cocktail or reception.’ I wish I could tell her that it’s no feat to look like a replica of 20 other brides getting ready in the same beauty parlour as yours. It’s your special day, wear what’ll make you feel special, not a part of the assembly line of brides inc.

2. Over- the-top dressing does not help — neither you, nor the designers. Or even the neighbourhood tailor or masterji. I know of a lot of very talented designers who feel so helpless when their clients demand the whole solar system on their dresses. No good designer wants to make tacky, over-the-top dresses. It’s the commercial compulsions that makes them give in to the demands of the wearer. But it’s important for you to realise that putting pressure on the designer to combine the features (and sequins!) of three dresses into one is not going to make you look thrice as regal and beautiful. It might make you look like a Christmas tree, which is also festive, but not through the year. Whether it is a lehenga or gown or sari or bandhgala — too much ‘work’ looks just that, too much.

3. Excessive stress on how you are looking only works towards making you look worse than how you would look when relaxed. Seriously yaar. Ek toh shaadi karne ki galti karte ho, then you get into a mission called ‘tayyari.’ The whole world adds to the stress by constantly asking ‘tayyari kaisi chal rahi hai?’, mostly because they have no other conversation topic. You scan looks — of filmstars, celebs, friends — to figure out the look that you want on your special days. Less attention is paid to what suits your body-type and complexion and more to what Deepika Padukone or Ranbir Kapoor wore in a certain film. Then you get onto a shopping spree at fancy shops, where the extent of ‘work’ on the outfits is directly proportional to the money you are ready to spend. ‘Lagna toh chahiye kuchh special hai’, say the elders, which roughly translates to more embroidery and more embellishments.

Eventually, most people end up buying something in which they may cringe and twist in discomfort for the entire duration of the function, but it looks fancy on the outside. Let me tell you something that no friend or rishtedaar under obligation to say ‘Wow’, is ever going to tell you. Sometimes you are not looking good. Sometimes the dress is too gaudy or too tight or too flashy or too uncomfortable. Only you have to judge it for yourself. Base it on your gut feel, not on the going trend. The comfort of carrying something that suits your gut makes you look twice as pretty as something that’s trendy for the heck of it. Trust me. And invite me for the wedding. I promise to behave.

Sonal Kalra has a secret collection of ball-gowns. She’s just jealous of those who have more frills than her. Mail her at or Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra

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