The stars of India

Exotic jewel tones make a splash

DANIELLE HEYNS
Last updated 10:51 25/06/2014
Pawan Atwal
KELLY HODEL/Fairfax NZ

SARI STYLE: Pawan Atwal wears a purple lehenga (skirt) in net fabric with a polyester shantoon fabric lining under the skirt. The lehenga has gota patches with stones, a gold/velvet border and a lime green velvet waistband with dori (drawstring). The choli (top) is in fuchsia velvet with gota patch in the front and is finished with gold lace. Her dupatta (scarf) is in lime green with pink velvet and lace trim, as well as gold and pink tassels. She accessorises with gold and pink pearl earrings and matching bangles.

indian fashion
KELLY HODEL/Fairfax NZ
BEAUTIFUL HUES: On the left, Pawan Atwal wears a yellow chiffon sari designed with zari, stones and a cut patch pink border. Kiran also wears a Pragma Fashions’ designer blouse in pink and green.

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An increasing number of women who aren't from Indian heritage are now buying saris.

Taruna Mistry, co-owner of Pragma Fashions in Hamilton, says women will come into her store looking for salwar kameez (the loose pants/tunic combo) but end up leaving with a sari.

"There is something just so elegant looking about a sari," she says.

There has been an increase in Bollywood parties among Westerners, says Taruna. "And with so many Indians around now, they might be invited to an Indian wedding and think it would be nice to dress Indian style."

Originally made from cotton or silk, these often heavily embroidered pieces of fabric have kept up with the times. You can now get a sari in chiffon, georgette, or crepe in silk or polyester.

Some women buy the less expensive polyester saris to use for interior decorating, turning them into cushions or drapes. And though this doesn't happen often, some have a ballgown made from a sari - all the beading is already done.

Essentially, you can do anything with a sari - derived from the Sanskrit word for "strip of cloth", it's usually 5.25 metres of cloth, which is then draped - with or without pins - into the style you want.

Most popular is the Nivi style, which drapes over one shoulder, baring the midriff. Saris are often more heavily embroidered on that side because of this. The cloth is wrapped around the lower body once, then hand-gathered into even pleats below the navel. The pleats are tucked into the waistband of the petticoat, creating a decorative effect which poets have described as being like the petals of a flower.

Prices for a simple cotton sari start at $20.

But if you were shopping for a wedding sari, the price could be up there with a couture wedding dress. It's not unusual for brides to spend $2000 or more on a wedding sari. Ornate embroidery and beading is the norm.

"The bride has to be the best. You can never be overdressed for your wedding," says Taruna.

The bride will accessorise with heavy, ornate jewellery, although there is a trend for more minimalist jewellery.

Traditional bridal colours depend on which area you're from and are often red or maroon with white or gold trimming. These days, brides pick any style they want. Hot pinks are incredibly popular for weddings now, and bridal couples follow the colour co-ordination trend of Western weddings. Many Indian brides have also started to pick flowergirls, who look adorable in brightly coloured traditional outfits.

"They're following the Western fashion, but they're still wearing Indian fashion, and I'm glad about that."

In India, Fiji and some other countries, you'll see women wearing saris or other traditional styles every day, but here they're mostly kept for special occasions, such as weddings, cultural celebrations like Diwali, or going to temple, says Taruna.

"Saris now come in all sorts of modern styles. The blouse worn underneath is now often strapless or with spaghetti straps, instead of the traditional sleeves." But all things come back in fashion, and Taruna is seeing a return of the styles that were popular when she got married 30 years ago: high necklines and long sleeves.

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For her own wedding, Taruna wore a red and white sari with a red veil.

For her son's recent five-day wedding celebration, she wore hot pink, among other colours.

In the 16 years she's owned Pragma Fashions with husband Yogesh Mistry, she's seen sari fashions come and go.

The two often go to India to pick up bits and pieces for the shop. "Different parts of India specialise in different things. The South goes in for silks."

She likes to keep her eye on Indian designers like Sabyasachi.

"He does a good job in silks."

INDIAN WOMEN'S FASHION: THE LINGO

Salwar kameez: A loose pants/tunic outfit

Choli: Fitted blouse worn under a sari, traditionally often midriff baring with short sleeves

Lehanga: Petticoat worn under a sari

Churidar:Tightly fitting trousers

Dupatta: Long multipurpose scarf 

* Thanks so much to our models, university students Kiran Dhaliwal and Pawan Atwal, who had to rush back to their studies after looking so glamorous for us. And special thanks to Taruna Mistry, co-owner of Pragma Fashions, 101 Greenwood Street, Frankton, for carefully dressing them in their saris and toting all the garments out to Hamilton Gardens and coping with the rain. And finally, thanks to Hamilton Gardens for letting us use the Indian Char Bagh Garden for our fashion shoot. 

- Waikato Times

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