Verve Wedding Diaries #23: Tarun Tahiliani On The Ideal Wedding Wardrobe
As far as I remember, I started sketching wedding clothes from the age of four or five, without even thinking of them as bridal attire. When I was in school I won the best artist prize for doing these large processions. When I look back now, I realise that I liked to draw clothes and these were sketches of different kinds of things — clothes, shoes, bags, turbans, elephants, horses…. I’ve always loved the idea of the Indian procession, with the colours and textures that one sees in miniature paintings, which is very much a part of Indian folklore.
When I returned to India after completing my education over two decades ago, my first challenge was to change Indian preconceptions. For instance, I like simple tailoring, but from an Indian point of view, I did too much beige, khaki and toned-down colours — Indians love colour and wanted mostly shocking pink, orange and lime green. For me that was too ‘costume’. So I took the best of both East and West and came up with something unique. India is the embroidery capital of the world, and couture is about hand embroidery, as much as it is about shape and form.
The draped figure
I knew from the very beginning that I was attracted to the draped form and that the sari, as is worn on the body, would be an incredible influence on me, because of the way it wraps and moulds different people. The beauty of it is that it looks different on each person. So there are really infinite possibilities with the sari. Rather than the appeal of a fitted sheath dress, draped dresses rely on the allure of romantic silhouettes and layers. I love it as an aesthetic form and I am obsessed with draping. The best part of a woman’s body is the waist. Belts can be used over saris by slim and tall people. It accentuates the waist, looks sexy and adds style as well as youthfulness to the outfit. I think pre-constructed saris are in response to the women of today who have much less time to dress, for whom comfort and style are paramount.
I love and have always loved dull zardozi, jamawar, cut work; I love anything textured, beige on beige and layering. I love the Indian idea of seeing a layer through a layer through a layer as is often witnessed, if you look at any old paintings or miniatures. I love chikankari worn with zardozi, with velvet, with mirror work. It’s fabulous because we have a wonderful culture of jugaad and splicing things together. My other favourite word is ‘collage’ because we collate from so many different influences and sources.
Timelessness over trends
Classic bridal wear is something that should not be about trends and, while allowing for a modern fit, it is something that (at least in India) would be regarded as timeless, because Indian fashion has been timeless. I wouldn’t say it is possible to pull things out in the Western world that are 100 years old and wear them often, but in India it is considered absolutely normal. You can wear beautiful kurtas from Kutch and you can wear beautiful shawls; you can wear lehngas and you can get a new choli…that’s how Indian fashion has been.
The wedding wardrobe should be done to individual taste. It should not be according to current trends or what actresses are wearing on a movie set. They should be very personal choices. There is no ideal bride. Rather, women who are themselves, dance with gusto and whose radiance outshines their jewels — Mehr Jesia, Shilpa Shetty, Atashi Saraf, Tanya Godrej Dubash, to name a few.
I have created so many things that there are iconic pieces in each of the collections. I would say that one of the most beautiful lehngas was the velvet appliqued on net with fine little pattas of dabka work and very dull crystals, all in monochromatic shades, which was photographed on Lisa Haydon for one of my shows. I think it was iconic because it had a structured drape on the shoulder, it had a slight trail which was way ahead of its time (15-20 years ago), it was monochromatic and it was draped beautifully. Some ensembles we have made have been so extravagant — even though we have mastered the art of keeping the weight down. People may want to see images of exquisite workmanship and it comes down to the work on the piece. But what an image cannot capture is the general ease with which the outfits fall.
DRAPES FOR THE DAY
Tarun Tahiliani suggests the ideal Indian outfits for specific bridal occasions:
Mehendi: “I’ve always preferred a short lehnga with a kurti or a long kurta-like anarkali with a roll-up churidar as it allows for graceful movement. The most beautiful thing is to see a giant skirt graciously spread out at a mehendi.”
Sangeet: “There is nothing prettier than a lehnga twirling while dancing; this is particularly where structured drapes come in.”
Puja:“I always prefer kalidar kurtas or very simple saris because people have to sit on the ground.”
Pheras: “I’m a strong advocate of the sari, though almost the entire country has switched to wearing lehngas. Essential to pheras is very light veils. When there is beautiful jewellery adorning your face and wonderful hair ornamentation too, then you need very fine tulle or sheer silk veils to allow your biggest jewel — your face — to be visible.”
Reception: “While the current fashionable silhouette may be the long coat worn over a slim but full lehnga, I believe a modern-day anarkali or beautiful sari work best; the shape that the side drape takes is sexy and modern, and also easy to wear in the future.