Pretty lenghas on a lazy Sunday

It’s a muggy, dreary Sunday in Toronto. It’s the kind of day that promotes laziness, sleepiness, and downright unproductive-ness (yes, I just made up a word). It’s been a non-stop week for me and the idea of blogging away, rather than cleaning my room and my bathroom, is very appealing.

Throughout this wedding planning process, I’ve collected and saved copious amounts of inspirational images and photos on my computer–so much that I’ve actually forgotten about some of the pics that I have! In my effort to avoid housework, I started perusing through my pictures again and came across pretty saris and lenghas from Lakme Indian Fashion Week.  I realized that from all the shows, Rocky S’s designs were my favourite.  His collections don’t seem to get much attention from media (at least media that I’ve come across), and I’m not quite sure why. His designs incorporate traditional fabrics and embroidery, but the patterns and and shape of the clothes are fresh and unique. They are also different enough without looking like they are trying to be different.  Effortless style–I like.

The files are pretty large, so I’ll split this post into two. I’ll post the lenghas now and the saris in a follow up post. Enjoy!

I absolutely love the numerous ways the dupatta is draped with the outfits! Definitely inspirational!

(All of the above images are from Vogue India)

I’ll put up the sari post in a few minutes!

xoxo,

LBB

Indian Fashion 101 (Part 2)

Sorry for the delay in getting out Part 2 for my Indian Fashion tutorial! I have been having some technical difficulties with posting the pics. Here goes:

In Part 1, I reviewed the Sari. Today, I’ll be talking about: suits, lenghas, and kurtis.

A. Suits

By suit, I’m not talking about a man’s 3-piece suit, but the Indian version. Like saris, suits are made from various fabrics and can range from casual to so- blinged-out-I-need-my-sunglasses. There are several variations of the suit, but the following two are the most common:

1. Salwar Kameez

The salwar kameez is the archetypal Punjabi outfit. The salwar kameez reportedly originated in Iran, and it was introduced to the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Empire. Before then, I’m guessing Indian women ran around in saris. Men must have been pretty disappointed by the salwar kameez: no more exposed bellies and backs!

Though the salwar kameez is considered typically Punjabi, it’s worn in regions throughout India.  Interestingly, during my travels in south India, salwar kameezes were marketed as “Punjabi suits”, though us Punjabis just call them suits.

Anyway, the salwar kameez is comfortable and can be worn casually or dressed up with lots of embroidery and bling.

Here’s an example of a typical salwar kameez:

The main components of the salwar kameez are:

a. Salwar

Baggy pants that are tied be drawstring.

b. Kameez

The top that falls anywhere from your mid-thigh to mid-calf. Kameez lengths are often dictated by trend. For example, about 5-7 years ago, kameezes falling at mid-thigh were in style. Longer kameezes, falling at or above the knee, are common now. A knee length kameez is usually the safest bet; anything shorter or longer can look outdated if it’s not trendy at the moment.

c. Chunni/dupatta

The shawl that you wear across your neck, over your arms and around your back (like in the picture above), or on your head if you’re in the temple. You can also sport it o your head 24/7, but then you’d look like a Punjabi grandmother:

Omg. How cute. One day I’ll look like that, just not right now. I’m not ready to give up my teeth.(Pic from http://www.desiledger.com)

Some more examples of salwar kameezes:

I might dance in the rain for you if you ask nicely. (Pic from http://www.easenews.net)
Still from the movie Jab We Met. (Pic from http://www.im.rediff.com)

2. Churidaar Kameez

The churidaar kameez is similar to the salwar kameez (it has a kameez and dupatta/chunni). The difference is in the pants: a churidaar is the Indian version of the skinny pant. The churidaar is more stylish right now and is frequently worn by young girls and younger adult women. It’s predominant on the Indian runways. I scoured the runway shows online for a salwar kameez, but I wasn’t able to find any!

Like the salwar kameez, the churidaar can be worn casually or to a fancy/upscale event. Again, it just depends on the embroidery. Here are some awesome examples of churidaars from Lakme Fashion Week held in Mumbai in March.

Love these! All designs by Rocky S. Photo from http://www.vogue.in. Photo credit: Vinod Kumar
L-R: Payal Singhal design; Rocky S design; Rocky S design. All photos from http://www.vogue.in. Photo credit: Manav Manglani
All designs by Abdul Halder. Pics from http://www.vogue.in. Photo credit: Manav Manglani

B. Lengha choli

Lengha cholis (I call them lenghas) also have 3 parts: blouse (choli), long skirt (lengha), and a dupatta. Lenghas were also apparently brought to the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Empire.

Lenghas are commonly worn to formal events, such as parties, weddings, or religious festivals. They are not part of daily wear. I rarely wear lenghas and will usually wear a suit or sari to parties.

There are variations of lenghas, depending on the length of the blouse and cut of the lengha itself. Here are some examples:

Full blouse with an A-line lengha (Rocky S design. Pic from http://www.vogue.in; photo credit: Vinod Kumar)
Short blouse with another A-line lengha (Rocky S design. Pic from http://www.vogue.in. Photo credit: Vinod Kumar)
Short velvet blouse with a fish-cut lengha (Shennai Couture design. Pic from South Asian Bride Magazine Spring 2010 [online version]

I will blog more about lenghas in a future post. I am planning on custom designing my reception lengha, and so I’ve got ideas and pics to share with you!

C. Kurtis

Kurtis are basically tunics that can be casual or glam. If you’re not South-Asian, kurtis are the easiest cross-cultural option. You can pair a kurti with leggings or dress pants, some Indian-style jewelry, a dupatta/chunni, and voila! You’ve got yourself an Indian outfit. That very same kurti could be paired with jeans, sans jewelry and dupatta/chunni, and you’ve got a nice casual outfit for work or dinner.

Below are some examples of simpler kurtis that could carry you into your brown and not-s0-brown worlds:

All kurtis from http://www.benzerworld.com

And for your visual pleasure, pics of some not-so-typical suits that I am loving:

Menswear-inspired. Hot!
Somewhat unconventional. And, yes, all the Aunties would stare at me and whisper loudly in front of my face. I can’t help it–I am so attracted to this outfit. (Payal Singhal design. Pic from http://www.vogue.in. Photo credit: Manav Manglani)
Hotness. I would rock this without hesitation.

xoxo,

LBB

Where’s the f-u-n in shopping?

I love to shop. Shopping is actually one of my forms of relaxation. My shopping doesn’t necessarily involve purchasing (although that’s always a bonus); my shopping involves going to different stores, seeing what’s new, considering what looks I’d like to try, trying on a couple outfits, maybe buying something I like. I don’t consider myself a fashionista, but I would classify myself as someone who appreciates fashion and style.

I hoped shopping for wedding outfits would be fun; but, ah, it’s so not.

Yes, you read right. Outfits. Plural.

In South Asian ceremonies, we traditionally wear two outfits: one for the religious ceremony and one for the reception. As you saw in Part 1 of my Indian Fashion 101, when it comes to Indian clothes, variety is the norm and there are limitless options to choose from.

(I promise part 2 and possible part 3 will be posted this week. I spent the day shopping for outfits today, and I need a place to vent!)

Problem is bridal wear is not cheap. It especially hurts when you’ve got two outfits to buy and a mother who is somewhat clueless about styles and typical costs of Indian bridal wear. Yes, I said mother. Traditionally, in Punjabi weddings, parents contribute a significant financial portion to the wedding. So, yes, I’m blessed and damn lucky. However, the financial portion is not necessarily out of generosity, but expectation. Punjabi parents expect to pay for their daugthers’ weddings. Doing otherwise, particularly for my parents, would probably be shameful. Also, traditionally, my mother’s brother (i.e., my maternal uncle) purchases my bridal trousseau, which I am not supposed to see until the actual wedding day. And my in laws purchase my reception outfit, which I also don’t see until the wedding. In these modern times, things are little different in that brides usually choose what they want. My mom has also expressed desire to purchase my outfits and J’s outfit (more details to come). I have told my mom not to worry about the reception outfit; J (i.e., J and I) will take care of it.

Shopping for Indian clothes, in general, does not count as a pleasurable experience.  Indian clothes are usually made one size fits all. Alterations are expected. I’m smaller than the norm (hence my name: littlebrownbride), and I’ve gone unique proportions, so trying stuff on is always a sweet pain in the ass, and I feel ugly and distorted.

I’ve been to a few places already. I have a particular style. I’m somewhat picky. I don’t mind spending money, but I like a good deal! Everywhere I’ve been so far, bridal outfits start at $1200. $1200!!! Reception outfits are usually more expensive! Purely out of guilt, I do not feel comfortable asking my parents to buy me one outfit for more than a grand. It’s just incomprehensible to me.

Interestingly, my mother thinks she can buy me a ceremony outfit for $500. $500.$500!!! You do recall that I mentioned in the previous paragraph that most bridal outfits are starting at $1200.

If my mom had her way, she would have me wear something like this:

Pretty. But not bridal. Also, finding an outfit like the one above in a bridal style is close to impossible. Most stores carry lenghas, which look like this:

Most Indian brides request lenghas, so that’s what stores carry.

I’ve been hoping to find something like this:

That’s called an anarkali suit, which is composed of a long top (called a kameez) and tight fitted pants (called a churidaar). Even finding an anarkali suit, which is considerably more bridal,  in stores has been challenging. In a store in Little India, there were maybe 100 lenghas displayed. When I requested an anarkali suit, the store employee gave me a funny look, asked me to follow her to the back of the store and watch her as she crawled into the backroom. She came out with one suit–the only anarkali suit carried in the store. It wasn’t even red.

The other problem I’m facing is that many outfits simply have too much bling on them. Again, I’m small. A red outfit (already a powerful colour) with excessive embroidery and loud bling wears me, I don’t wear it. I get lost and I look gross.  Not to mention these outfits tend to be pricey.

So, I went shopping today to two stores. Two stores in one day is more than enough. Believe me. I get hungry, dehydrated, and cranky after about 1 hour. We learned that the hard way last week, when I turned into the Hungry LBB Monster after being in one store–which was really a basement in a Mississauga subdivision–for 3 hours. Today, J and I made sure to pack snacks and a bottle of water. It helped me last a long longer.

Our first stop was Zedd’s Boutique. Zedd’s has been operated by Rita Singh for 17 years out of her spacious (and clean!) house in Mississauga. She’s incredibly friendly and soft-spoken. She’s not pushy, but is honest about what looks good and what doesn’t. She also recently rescued the cutest little dog, named Twinkie, from a shelter who kept us company throughout the trying-on process. Anyway, Rita showed me items in my price range. She was up front that most of her bridal wear ranged from $1200 to above $3000 (wtf!), but she showed me some sale items. Well, there was one that J and I loved. It was a lengha, the right red colour, with royal blue stones stitched within antique gold embroidery. The pattern was located all over the lengha. Beautiful. It was the only outfit I’ve tried on that I’ve actually felt like a bride in. And, ladies and gentlemen, the price was right.  Unfortunately I didn’t have as much luck with her reception options.

While travelling back from Zedd’s to meet my mom, I called her and described the lengha we liked. My mom replied, in her quiet and what-you’re-telling-me-is-hurting-my-heart-voice: “I thought you wanted to wear an anarkali suit. I don’t want you to wear a lengha.” I channelled my How not to be a bridezilla tips, took a deep breath, and responded, “Ok, mom, I’ve been trying to keep an open mind. I really liked it, but let’s see what they have at the next store.”

I went to Dulhan Fashion, which is located in Richmond Hill with J, my mom, and older sister. Dulhan Fashions has been around for several years, and they are known for custom and unique designs. Shibani Sahney, from Silver Tulip Boutique, has actually been operating out of the Dulhan storefront for a few months now. (I don’t know what happened to the Dulhan team.) Shibani is a delight. She and her mother designed all the pieces in the stores, so there were several unique and trendy pieces.  There were many lenghas in the store…unfortunately, none of the ceremony ones did it for me. However, we can custom design an anarkali siut. On the spot, Shibani sketched an example for me…which was eerily quite similar to the vision I’ve been carrying inside my little head. I also tried on a reception lengha that was bang-on. It was a fuschia coloured, heavily embroidered, with antique gold threading, faux pearls. and well-placed bling. Sounds like a lot, but it looked amazing!! J, my mom, and sister all loved it.

The shape of the lengha was like this:

It had a short blouse/choli with a mermaid style skirt. Though my mom liked the look, she didn’t appreciate my exposed navel and kept making efforts to use the dupatta to cover my stomach, which served only to cover the beautiful work on the skirt! Gotta love my mom’s attempt to keep me modest.

Though the lengha was gorgeous, the price wasn’t so pretty. We do, however, have the option to custom design outfits, so there is room to bring the price down.  However, there is a downside to custom designing: the outfits orders are sent to India, created there, and then shipped to Toronto 2 to 3 months later. There are no consultations after the order is placed. You basically wait till the package is shipped and what you see is what you get. Suffice it to say, custom designing outfits can be risky. Though you can give specific instructions and detailed drawings, there is always a possibility it will go wrong. And what are you supposed to do with an outfit you don’t really love? It would be too late to design something new, and to buy new outfits,  you’d have to drop another couple grand. Ouch! Oh, and to add to the pressure, Shibani can only take orders until April 20 to ensure I get the outfits in 2 to 3 months. After that, I’d have to wait till July to place an order…and that’s cutting it way to close for my comfort (and sanity).

So, I leave Dulhan feeling slightly excited, mostly overwhelmed, and quiety happy that my mom saw how much things actually cost. As we drive to pick up my younger sister at work, J and I were discussing the lengha at Zedd’s with my mom. My mom proceeds to say: “Lenghas are disrespectful in the gurdwara (Sikh temple).”

Say what??

This is surprising to me. Most women wear lenghas. Lenghas are the norm. Does she mean to tell me every Sikh bride is going around being disrespectful in front of God? What is going on here? Or is she just trying to manipulate me into wearing this:

I’m totally annoyed by this point and I just say to forget the lengha at Zedd’s. I didn’t feel like dealing with my mom’s commentary. Although I described the outfit to her in detail, she continued to assume that it showed a lot of skin (it doesn’t at all. The blouse is long, has cap sleeves, and the neck line is appropriate). She created a catastrophically  slutty outfit in her mind, and I just didn’t have the energy to modify the image.
Anyway, so I’m now going to more stores in that lovely ghetto of a town called Brampton tomorrow (no offence to the B-towners reading this. I’m an east end girl. I don’t do well in the west end). My mom wants to keep looking around.
This is my dilemma: How do I make myself and my mom happy? I might love the lengha from Zedd’s, but having to hear her comments and see the pained expression on her face will just take the joy out of wearing the outfit. I also don’t want to keep looking around. It’s tiring, confusing, and plain stressful.
Blaaah.
Wish me luck, folks.
xoxo,
LBB