Alia Bhatt’s subtle nod to her personal aesthetic while paying obeisance to her Indianness makes her bridal look a winner on all fronts
What’s in a dress? Everything it seems, if the dress in question is Alia Bhatt’s ivory bridal saree made by Bollywood’s designer of choice, Sabyasachi Mukherjee. For a minimalist bride, Bhatt has created a fashion frenzy of maximal proportions with her choice of wedding attire. From her outfit’s unusual colour to its traditional (as opposed to trendy) silhouette, from her unconventional hairstyle to a nearly bare face, there is no denying that Bhatt’s look for her nuptials with Ranbir Kapoor on 14 April have set a new standard for ‘minimalist brides’. Fashion enthusiasts, however, are left wondering if this out-of-the-box trend will seriously catch on.
India is an ancient country with as many cultural idiosyncrasies as number of people, yet a love of tradition binds Indians as one cohesive unit. No matter the scale of progress or the extent of western influence, large sections of our population continue to base their life decisions on pre-decided dates and times deemed optimal by religious figureheads. They choose the colours of their clothes and gemstones as per the dictates of astrology, and rarely tamper with time-honoured cultural practices. Staying away from shades of white on one’s own wedding day is one such time-honoured tradition. After all, white has long been associated with Indian widows’ weeds.
This is also perhaps one of the biggest cultural differences between international and Indian brides. In many countries, a virginal white paired with minimal makeup and flowy hair is the obvious preference – take it from a 2018 US Brides Magazine survey that recorded a whopping 83 percent of surveyed brides choosing shades of white for their wedding outfits – but in India, varying shades of deep, rich reds hold astrological and cultural significance, and are therefore preferred.
The distinction between the two kinds of brides, however, isn’t restricted to a choice of colour. Indian brides enjoy preening their ostentatious gold and silver embroideries, silken fabrics, and armour-like gilded jewellery that often covers nearly every bit of skin visible to the naked eye. To compliment this sartorial display, their makeup is necessarily heavy on the glam and the hair is done up and tucked away under embellished dupattas to ensure that attention never wavers from the beauty of the bride’s face. Western brides, on the other hand, prefer to shun outward appearances of ostentation in favour of youthful, even childlike looks that highlight the simplicity and solemnity of the occasion. This means doing away with heavy makeup and softly framing the face with open hairdos. Keeping this aesthetic in mind, it seems Bhatt’s minimalist bridal look was inspired by western brides.
To an Indian audience, the reference may not be immediately apparent, but an in-depth look at Bhatt’s overall appearance will make it so. The colour of her outfit, its understated embroidery and virtuous bridal look, remind one of Kate Middleton’s iconic white dress with lace sleeves and demure appearance courtesy her soft makeup, wavy hair, and royal diamond-encrusted tiara on loan from the Queen herself. It is also reminiscent of Grace Kelly’s royal demeanour in her lace and taffeta silk gown with its impressively long train, and Princess Diana’s youthful innocence in her pearl-laden ivory gown.
Despite the similarities however, Bhatt’s modern-day iteration of this age-old western trend is inherently Indian in its ethos. Her zari embroidered saree is perfectly complemented by statement polki jewellery, traditional choora and kaleere, and bright red sindoor adorning the parting of her hair.
This subtle nod to her personal aesthetic while paying obeisance to her Indianness, has caught the industry’s attention as well. Designers across the country are unanimously hailing Bhatt’s bridal look as a winner on all fronts.
Shruti Sancheti from Nagpur calls it, “Ethereal, refreshingly youthful, and a game-changer for future bridal looks.” Anushree Parekh of Label Anushree lauds her for staying true to her style, Sanjev Marwaaha of L’effet praises it for being regal and Prreeti Jaiin Nainutia of Nirmooha believes it will be an inspiration for other brides to follow. Harpriya Kaur, Fashion Consultant and Guest Faculty at NIFT, New Delhi shares, “I personally loved Alia’s wedding outfit. I think it was a breath of fresh air in this stiflingly hot weather! Minimalist looks like hers give brides a chance to keep happy memories of their day rather than those of the thousand pins keeping their heavy outfits together!”
Though a minimalist choice may seem comfortable and easy to pull off, it is not for everyone. I firmly believe one’s choice of bridal outfit should not be dictated by trends but by personal preference. When I was married over eight years ago, light pinks and peaches were the trendy colours of choice for daytime Anand Karaj weddings. Despite the numerous entreaties of my designer – Harleen Anand, who has been in the custom-order fashion business for over 35 years – to adhere to this refreshing colour palette, I stubbornly stuck to my demand of a bright red anarkali. Fortunately, in her signature creative style, she snuck in a pink underlay to soften the heavy red angrakha style jacket I had chosen, making for an alluring compromise between our preferences. I have never regretted that choice, and were I to tie the knot today, I would probably wear the same colour scheme. This makes me believe that Bhatt’s outfit was meant as a strong personal statement and need not be treated as the harbinger of a stark change in Indian bridal trends.
Harleen Anand is acutely aware of this truth. She explains, “Over the last 35 years, I have noticed that bridal outfits have become more individualistic. Brides prefer to go by their personal style and not stick to what is trending. This is most evident from the fact that brides are turning to made-to-order designs with specifications in mind, as opposed to browsing through readymade collections at bridal stores.”
Ultimately, one must keep in mind that trends come and go, but an icon stays forever. This is why Alia Bhatt’s bridal look must be applauded – not for her minimalist aesthetic, nor because she looked long-standing tradition in the face with oomph and style. It is because she chose to be herself on her special day.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on email@example.com.
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