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Saree or Gown?

What looks better on the red carpet? Parul Khanna tries to find out the answer from six designers.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2009 16:56 IST
Parul Khanna

Saree power
Shobhaa De, author and columnist:
Most of today’s actresses seriously lack a style quotient. There’s a herd mentality at work which dictates what they wear. Most are Hollywood wannabes who blindly mimic their western counterparts. Most have designer buddies who are rip off artists themselves. Most don’t like paying for their clothes.

International brands trying to make it in India are only too happy to oblige. Some give away last season’s fancy frocks free to these ladies, or at any rate they make them available at heavily discounted prices. Today’s actresses have discovered gowns like they were invented yesterday.

Gowns make them feel sexy. Besides, what is the point of that size zero figure if it can’t be flaunted? They think they look ‘hot’ in gowns, whereas nothing can get ‘hotter’ than a saree!! Since they lack individuality along with taste, they follow the diktats of their stylists who are often on the payroll of top designers. It becomes a vicious circle. The much admired ‘gown’ specialist duo in the business do nothing more original than download images of international stars at red carpet events and copy their outfits down to the last frill, bow and ruffle.

Gautam Rakha (Rabani & Rakha): They would look stunning if they wore sarees to red carpet events. Everybody knows that the saree can make a woman look uber sexy. And with so much innovation happening with blouses (backless, halter, tube, full-sleeves, V-neck), sarees can be customised to body types.

Recently, Kareena said she’ll wear sarees more often. But Preity Zinta, Freida Pinto and Kangana Ranaut only flaunt dresses. Freida faced flak for wearing a western gown by an international designer, but I don’t blame her. She was not representing India. She was just trying to fit into the Hollywood mould.

Also, you have to understand that Kareena can carry off a saree because she is confident of her position. She is very comfortable in her skin. She can make a statement. But, Freida and younger Bollywood actresses aren’t that established. Nandita Das wore a Benarsi saree at an international event, and looked great.

Anita Dongre, designer: Women should wear what suits their body types best and makes them feel good. So Indian actresses should not emulate the west by wearing gowns at every event closer home or even at international dos, especially if they cannot carry them off properly or if gowns don’t suit them. Some of our stars look their best in sarees.

Gowns rule
Gauri Karan (Gauri & Nainika): I think Indian actresses look lovely both in gowns and sarees. And I can’t understand it when people say that they shouldn’t wear western gowns for red carpet appearances.
Gowns look beautiful on them, especially now when they are so fit. Indian fashion and the film industry have become international. Our actresses are attending premieres and events abroad. Expecting them to wear only sarees is ridiculous. By that logic, Indian girls should only wear salwar kameezes, and not jeans and skirts. Gowns look lovely because our actresses are mostly tall and extremely toned. Gowns help them flaunt their lovely bodies.

Nikhil (Nikhil & Shantanu): It’s a personal choice. A saree is definitely a sexy outfit. But when India is so much in the eye of the world, Indian actresses should try and fit into the international look. Nobody is asking them to shed their Indian identities, but by wearing gowns they show they can easily slip into the global mould. And why shouldn’t they wear gowns anyway?

Right from the inception of film awards and other dos, we have seen actresses in sarees. Remember Waheeda Rehman, Sharmila Tagore and even Madhuri Dixit? Gowns are a welcome change. As it is, a number of younger women now prefer western outfits.

Also, a saree doesn’t suit all body types. It only looks good on curvaceous women. Katrina Kaif has a square body type. A saree looks odd on her. Whereas, while making a dress for her, her figure can be accentuated. That’s why you might have noticed that some of these foreign celebrities photographed in sarees look awkward. These women have long and straight torsos. The midriff-baring saree makes them look like giraffes.

Sarees suit certain actresses better than gowns – Rani Mukherjee, Aishwarya Rai and Vidya Balan come to mind. But a saree’s silhouette is very limiting. One can’t work around it to emphasise or hide body flaws.
Also, a saree can be draped only in a certain way. Women should be able to experience different silhouettes and lengths. The audience looks up to these women. More is expected from them.

Siddhartha Tytler, designer: I staunchly believe our actresses should wear gowns. These girls work extremely hard on their bodies and a gown can flaunt a good body better. It is comfortable, easy to maintain and wear. Also, sarees make a woman look mature. Younger actresses should wear gowns. That would make them look their age.

Also, sarees are staid. Wearing a saree is like wearing a uniform. The same length, drape and silhouette. I recently saw Sridevi in a gown and I must say she looked fabulous and fresh.

I don’t understand or agree with people who complain that actresses who wear gowns are trying to be “westernised”. The line between ‘them’ and ‘us’ has blurred.