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The new style mantra: dress desi

Samyukta Bhowmick | June 20, 2005

Iow many different ways is it possible to pass off the same A-line skirt, or the same sari?

And that too in only marginally different colours? Many, apparently.

Besides this, if your wardrobe is full of beads, sequins and hippy skirts, your luck is in.

You may have had a rough time of it in the businesslike Nineties, when everyone was trying to pretend the eighties had never happened, and overcompensating madly with sensible shoes and trousers that started about six inches higher than they should have. But now you are officially in style.

Oh, and another bit of good news -- the poncho has finally gone.  

One thing that goes hand-in-hand with this dressing desi is the need to accessorise.

No one can go completely desi unless they are wearing chunky silver jewellery: a huge hit at the Lakme India Fashion Week 2005. Think Rohit Bal or Anuradha Vakil. Bal's jewellery, courtesy Amrapali (of Troy fame), was set off beautifully by his all-white collection; Vakil's was also well paired with simple prints and earthy colours.

Or, at the very least, beads -- long strings of beads were used by designers like Ranna Gill and Suneet Varma to complement their gypsy fixation on the ramp.

Apart from jewellery, what else goes with layered skirts and flirty summer dresses?

If you are going to go by what Manish Arora has to say, it's all about handbags.

"Handbags, handbags, handbags," he says, slightly hysterically. "If you're talking about accessories, handbags are what's in."

Arora is not the only one who thought so; handbags were as much a part of the ramp this year as the models themselves.

And they came in all sizes and shapes:

~ Large, chic and solid-looking

~ Long jholas (the Bengali art student look from Sabyasachi Mukherjee)

~ Tiny little sequined purses

"At the moment, bags are moving towards clutch ons in evening wear and long slung ones in casual wear," agrees designer Anjana Bhargava.

Many, though, are also moving in a more flamboyant direction. For instance Malini Ramani, who uses feathers and beads to dress up her bags.

And since we are talking accessories, we might as well talk shoes. The emphasis this season is mostly on comfort.

We don't want to totter along precariously on stilettos anymore; we want to plod along comfortably, and we also want to kiss corns and blisters goodbye (although not, obviously, literally).

"A new shape has just been launched, where the sole of the sandal is moulded according to the shape of the feet. The foot fits snugly, and the whole effect is one of pure comfort," says a representative from Preview, a shoe store in New Delhi.

But when we say comfortable, we don't mean sensible (read ugly). We also want shoes that stand out, have lots of glitter or colour.

Retail stores are thinking more in terms of silver and gold, or bright summery colours, and flowers as add-ons.

Retail stores such as Preview (with shoes ranging from Rs 1,300 to 3,500) have made this their focus.

Ashley, a brand of woman's footwear, has recently introduced its Vanilla Moon line (be prepared to pay in the vicinity of Rs 3,000), which features jewelled footwear -- shoes studded with gold, silver, pewter and copper beads, sequins and rhinestones.

This was also seen in terms of Swarovski crystals with designers like Rina Dhaka and JJ Valaya using crystals in their clothes, shoes, belts and elaborately embellished handbags.

"We have finally moved beyond our fixation for gold. Crystal today is emerging as the next big thing, especially since it already has a built-in trust in its name and, therefore, adds that much value to the garment or accessory," says Sanjay Sharma, country head, Swarovski.

Apart from crystal, Swarovski is also producing pearls, jumping on another trend. The emphasis on crystal, pearls, fur on bags and general flamboyance is the herald for a larger trend: that of faded luxury.

Chiffons, velvets and silks have made an appearance in the collections of Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Anjana Bhargava, Raghavendra Rathore, Manish Arora and Tarun Tahiliani, among others.

Given this, if you are wondering how to accessorise, know that little fur (faux of course) jackets, beaded sandals, drop earrings, or anything that shimmers or shines (as long as you don't look like a Christmas tree) works:.

The mantra is to create your own style statement -- whether you are going for faded chic, like Sabyasachi, or gypsy multihues, like Ritu Kumar, or Ranna Gill, as long as it is not boring, anything goes!


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