After more than 60 fashion shows in a fortnight, the verdict is clear. The silhouette to flaunt this season is the dress. The soft femininity of the dress emerged as the newest and strongest style statement from the Lakme and Wills fashion weeks. At LFW, designers Sabyasachi, Nandita Mahtani, Arjun Saluja and Savio Jon emerged as the dress champs, while at Wills India Fashion Week Ranna Gill, Gauri-Nainika, A&T, Malini Ramani and Shantanu-Nikhil displayed more variations on this theme.
The typical dress had hems reaching the knees or a little below, the waist enhanced with big belts and embroidery, and a V-shaped neck. Nandita, who has international clients like Keira Knightley, Posh Spice and Liz Hurley, showed a range in cuts like halters, wrap dresses, blousons and empire dresses. "Fashion has moved towards femininity and a dress makes a classic feminine statement," says Nandita.
At the Wills India Fashion Week, designer Ranna Gill presented 15 dresses in her collection. "The mood is very Victorian, women want to dress up and look pretty,'' says Ranna who accentuates the femininity with accessories like long pearl necklaces and Victorian brooches.
Sabyasachi, through his LFW show, became perhaps the first Indian designer to showcase the blouson dress—a shapeless silhouette like an oil barrel that was first seen on international runways in the 1980s. "The use of this shapeless silhouette shows how Indian designers are experimenting with form, and progressing from just being pretty to being arty," says Bandana Tewari, fashion editor, Marie Claire India
Most designers, however, went for less avant garde lines like the baby doll dress, which evokes the cute romantic '60s look. Designers Malini Ramani, Surily Goel, Ranna, Nandita showed plenty of these.
Another ramp regular was the shirt dress. A popular 1950s-60s style, it borrows details like collars, buttoned fronts and cuffed sleeves from men's shirts. During the
WIFW, this look was prominent in the collection of designer sisters Gauri and Nainika. "We have tweaked the design of shirt dresses by using textured fabric and frayed hemlines,'' says Gauri. Fashion consultant Harmeet Bajaj says, "The domestic market, too, is warming up to this garment. Women here are now comfortable with a little bit of leg show."
So what's the subtext in this season's penchant for dresses? The softness, fluidity and femininity of the dress could be interpreted as a reflection of the changing mood of the Indian woman. She has moved on from the sari/salwar-kameez, and the androgyny of trousers. The dress gives her a middle ground that is glamorous yet not outre, a global look in keeping with the times—and, finally, a chance to show off her toned legs and neatly turned ankles!