That last look over the shoulder, the slight curving of the lips and the absolute confidence that the person you are saying goodbye to will never forget you.
Indian women have always known the charms of the backward glance, from the mythological Maneka to ‘casually-swingingher-hair-forward’ Aishwarya Rai.
It is a gesture that can make men falter in their steps or bang into the nearest pillar, a look that is rendered more effective by a deep, plunging neckline… on the back.
What do you do when you think that your back is not as toned as it should be? You can still indulge in this flirty fashion by going for a peek-a-boo style that does not quite reveal all. Use scarves or stoles innovatively.
This is a subtle statement of oomph that can be worn by every woman, regardless of her body type. All you need to do is tweak the essential idea – go from a corset top that leaves your back encased in zigzag ties, to a sharp V or a more gradual U that stops right above your bra strap, to a neckline that cowls gracefully and hovers near the small of your back. Backless fashion is not for the obvious.
This is not the inyour-face sexiness of a low cut blouse or a skirt slit up to your thighs. This is about discreet sensuality… of the curved silhouette of the upper torso slimming into your waist. Once you understand its power, choosing the right backless outfit is a snap.
Designer Rina Dhaka, a self confessed fan of the bare back look, whose wardrobe is stuffed with such outfits, knows a classy style statement when she sees it. “It is elegant, feminine, almost a siren call to beauty.” She remembers an outfit that she believes is her best backless creation, created in 1998.
“It was beautiful! It had no straps, no ties. It was absolutely backless, with concealed drawstrings that kept the dress together near the waist.” Ask her how one should choose which cut to flaunt, and she advises the fuller figured to present their backs in a “half-manner.”
This could involve draping a scarf in such a way as to hide a portion of the back, or the use of material that drapes loosely and frames it. Lycra infused side panels will make the dress skim over slight bulges, so that only the middle of the back is exposed.
“When you are busty, you need to have a good bra, so the back doesn’t plunge below your bra strap. But the skinny can really play around with this style – they can go for the more fitted variety that shows off their toned body,” says Dhaka.
DRESSING IT UP
That it looks good is doubtless, but is going backless too risqué? Not if you believe what stylist Prasad Bidapa has to say. “It is a far more acceptable way, socially, of showing skin in India than any other style. We have always had backless cholis with strings and saree blouses with plunging backs. You have so many popular culture references like Neeta Lulla’s designs for Madhuri and Aishwarya in Devdas, which were very nice.” He advises using a little shimmery moisturiser or body glitter for an added dollop of glamour.
Niharika Khan, the jewellery designer, believes that no neckpiece should rival the beauty of the back. “A simple lariat chain with one strand hanging down the back is enough. Or better still, the jewellery should be attached to the garment, such as strands that dangle from a key-hole near the neck and flow over the back with coloured crystals at the bottom.” According to her, it is better to keep the neckpiece simple and instead accessorise with other pieces, like a big cocktail ring or lots of bangles or a chunky bracelet. But while you might get the jewellery right, there is one big catch to pulling off the backless look. The bra.
Says Prasad, “I saw a picture of a well known Indian actress once, in which her white bra strap was showing. It was absolutely hideous.”
To avoid disasters like that, Dalbir Singh, co-owner of Boudoir London, an exclusive lingerie shop, says the best option is to just go for stick-on bras. Essentially these bras are like suction caps that give support without any help from bulky or even stringy straps.