Geeky Chic: Mouse rugs!

Who said gadgets have to be boring and umm, well, unstylish? I recently stumbled across this very cool accessory, guaranteed to lighten up the drabbest of office cubicles and workstations. Here it is.

Ta-da!

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Believe it or faint, this miniature Turkish carpet is actually a mouse pad! Called a mouse rug, there are hundreds of colours and designs available (check out their website).

The cool design’s not the only reason I love this geeky accessory. For starters, my optical mouse rolls smoothly across its surface, made with yarn-dyed nylon. And the bonus: the rug is hand washable, ideal for a rough and messy user like me!

So now my four-month-new sleek-n-silver laptop gets a dash of old world charm and plenty of style. I can’t help but glance at my mouse rug ever so often despite my busy-ness, and it never fails to make me feel happy. 🙂

I’m now tempted to try out their book rugs and coaster rugs, which are smaller, but otherwise identical.

Before you rush to the mouse rug website, be warned—they don’t deliver in India! All you need to do is ask your spiteful aunt/ long-lost friend/ sworn enemy (or my sweet cousin) in Dubai or USA for it. And remember to say please!

Transformed: Vintage to Ultramodern!

I still remember the moment I first spotted it. It was late evening and I was in my PJs, rummaging through mom’s cupboard. The beige fabric had perhaps lost some its shimmer, but a good dry clean could restore some of its erstwhile glory. I dug deep for more information on this six-yard fabric, a sari I didn’t remember seeing earlier. The sari was her wedding gift from an American family friend, Mom explained. Unfortunately, she had no idea who the designer was.

Vintage sari

My surprised reaction was, “I didn’t know you had such a lovely sari!” The netted fabric had flowers woven into it, giving it the appearance of lace. Best of all—it was vintage!

Vintage definition It was to be my first family appearance in a sari (a cousin’s wedding reception) and I wanted it to be memorable (for them and for me). Now that I had discovered the perfect sari, I had to face a formidable challenge. Being a vintage garment, my look had to preserve the essence of the sari, but I didn’t want to look an auntie either. I concluded that I needed to drape the sari the traditional way, wear classic jewellery, while creating a look that stated modern, elegant and “quarter-life-crisis-has-just-struck-me” simultaneously.

Blouse hunt

It’s only in the past few seasons that the sari blouse suddenly rose to prominence on and off the ramp. The plain, self-colour blouse was boring; variety in colours, fabrics and embroidery were à la mode. Blouse-hunting turned out to be harrowing process, going from store to store, looking for the right match, comparing materials. The brocades were in the wrong colour, the velvets were too plain. We emerged from a trifle disappointed from all the stores we visited.

At the last store on the list, I pulled out a swathe of orange, sequins-laden georgette. I held it up against the sari, took it out in the sun, and voila! The rows of the little gold embellishments did not just spice up the sari, but also made it super stylish, with a dash of colour and bling.

Vintage is forever, so are diamonds

It was the ultimate fashion conundrum— what do you pair with a vintage outfit? How do you give it your personal signature while paying tribute to the original creator who laboured over it decades ago?

For starters, the accessories had to be timeless. And there’s nothing more timeless than diamonds. I opted for a dangling pair that ensured I looked my age, and teamed it with a simple ring and matching gold-and-diamond cuff.

Plum it up

It was an image of Dita von Teese on a beauty portal that inspired my makeup. Her bright red lips were too hot to handle for me, but I stole her idea of drawing attention to my lips. I followed the natural-looking layer of foundation with muted lilac eyeshadow and pink blush from MAC, but jazzed up the lips much as I could with an intense purple Lancôme lipstick that would stay through the event.

I already had a great haircut, so I just blow dried it the right way—a sideswept fringe across the forehead that had people asking for my stylist’s number!

Hey there, gorgeous!

The compliments that evening ranged from “So who did your makeup?” to “You’re looking sexy!” to “That’s a lovely sari! Which designer?”

But that all didn’t matter. The best compliment came from the original owner of the sari, my mom, who said, “The sari is perfect for you. It’s yours now!”

Wearing an invaluable vintage garment albeit with a contemporary touch is a sartorial experience I’d advise all young women to try. Why? Because it made me feel good, it made me appreciate the real artisans, and because it was one of my biggest style moments. I left the reception as radiant as the bride.

This post is the official entry to Star World Betty of Elle Contest- http://www.starworld.in. Being an ardent fashion follower and blogger (feel free to explore the Speaking Chic blog and the Twitter feed) as well as a word lover, getting a chance to work at Elle would fuel my passion for fashion, style and writing. Elle India’s approach of balancing high-end fashion and spot-on trends with engrossing features and cutting-edge photo shoots is the perfect launchpad for a career in fashion writing and blogging. I hope to make this kind of writing be taken seriously in India, and developing an online Indian fashion destination. With the great insights into the fashion and publishing industry that I get from the internship, I would improve my fashion knowledge and eye for fashion, style, aesthetics and trends. I’d learn about the fashion business, how to identify trends and ideate, the ropes of styling, magazine design and photography, and even what it takes to produce a 200+ page magazine month after month with great content. At the end of the two months, I would be in a better position to combine my journalism and content development background with fashion to develop a distinctive writing style that would make me a better fashion blogger and writer (I aspire to be India’s answer to Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes :-)). Above all, the internship will be the experience of a lifetime, and I will emerge enriched in every way possible.

Chic Invite: Bachelor Cheers!

My cousin KK is getting married soon, and to celebrate his last few days of singledom (read: freedom), he and his lovely fiancée are throwing a grand bash for close friends and family (singles and doubles both invited).

So KK did the expected thing—he invited us on Facebook. And then caught us off guard when he followed it up with a very cool invite – a cocktail glass, all dressed up for a party!

DSC00976The little silver scroll on the stem, held together with ribbon, doubles up as a brief invite.

So why is this chic? For starters, it comes as a surprise to those invited (the glass came in an inconspicuous maroon paper bag with a personalised tag), it’s fun and it’s completely in tune with the idea behind the party!

So here’s a toast to KK and his lovely bride-to-be P! Wish you both a happy, fulfilling and fun life together! :-) 

2009’s biggest fashion lessons

Bling it on!

Naeem Khan_Michelle Obama (1)As they say in the west, “Keep it simple, stupid!” They like to keep the bling factor very low. But back home, we just loooove to pile it on. Luckily for us, 2009 brought with it a licence to bling. From the ubiquitous shimmery lamé to fully-sequinned mini dresses, and  Naeem Khan’s gown for Michelle Obama, it was all about bling. And who could miss the handful of gold chains women threw around their neck. Thrilling times for Indian women. I couldn’t be happier!

2010 prediction:

Keep shining, all through the year! (And anyways, bling is never out of fashion in India). 

Why match, when you can clash?

The bolder fashionistas dared to experiment with mismatched colours, textures and prints. Before we knew it, everyone was doing it. You could wear a green shirt and offset it with a pink bag. Or a carefully mismatched sari blouse. In a nutshell, No one matched their clothes and accessories. I made the most of my bright red H&M bag, carrying it with anything and everything. I loved this trend because I could finally wear garments that were a few shades apart. So my sky blue shirt with bold silver buttons and my favourite pair of blue jeans didn’t look funny at all!

2010 prediction:

This one’s for keeps, at least for all of 2010. Make the most of it!

Belts are not just to hold up your trousers

Belt-Lanvin Spring 2009Turns out that belts are not so boring after all. From the runways to the streets, women wore belts to accentuate their figures, define their waistline and to make a statement. On the runways, Lanvin  used belts extensively in his Spring 2009 RTW collection, while closer home, Tarun Tahiliani used our own Indian belt – the cummerbund – extensively in his S/S 2010 LFW collection.

2010 prediction:

Keep the belts on, ladies, at least for the first half of 2010.

Saris are not just for our moms

I have always avoided saris like the plague—they were difficult to wear, uncomfy to dance in, and were meant for Kareena Kapoor in Green Sarimom and aunties. Circa late-2009: I insisted on wearing a sari for a family wedding, sorry, no lehengas for me. I even wore a kanjeevaram for the pre-Diwali office lunch. Maybe Manish Malhotra’s lovely saris for Kareena Kapoor at red carpet events did the trick. Us girls realised how a sari can actually make you look gorgeous, not an aunty at all.

2010 prediction:

Let’s go sari-hunting!

2009: Bollywood round up

Best on-screen wardrobe

It wasn’t Kareena nor Katrina, but Sushmita Sen’s outfits in Do Knot Disturb that were tres chic! She donned the right clothes for the role of a rich woman being cheated on by her husband — high-fashion and luxe.

The movie was a real drag, but Sush’s clothes made me look forward to her next screen appearance. The final scene in which she wore a white dress, statement chain-link necklace and hat? Fantastic end to an otherwise boring movie.

Weirdest on-screen wardrobe

Kareena Kapoor’s outfits in Kurbaan gets a thumbs down from us. In Delhi, she tried the Indo-Bohemian look, with a fitted V-neck tee, shawl draped round her neck, flowing ghagra skirt, AND a churidar. How’s that for too much? Sorry, but it just doesn’t work. When she shifted to NY, she apparently forgot her clothes in India, and stuck to body-hugging tees with tight jeans and leggings. Great body, girl, but excite us, we’ve seen enough of bodycon!

Most disappointing wardrobe

Skirts are a girl’s new best friend, agreed. But did we have to see Katrina Kaif in skirts and sleeveless tops and dresses in almost every frame of Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani? Ranbir Kapoor’s thin long ties and crazy prints were more exciting than Katrina’s bare arms, frankly.

Wardrobe revival

You can never go wrong with Sabyasachi saris, so that was a safe bet. But Vidya Balan going boho-chic in Paa flashbacks definitely wasn’t. The talented actor brightened the silver screen with a) the saris and b) earthy colours and long skirts, complemented by messed up and crimped long hair.

Both looks totally worked for Ms Balan, and methinks it’s partly due to with the newfound confidence thanks to her weight loss. Well done!

Saddest beauty trend

Yes, size zero is always troublesome, but that’s so 2008. The last month of the year threw a new bouncer at us: two lovely dusky women in TV commercials looking completely whitewashed! We mean Kajol and Deepika Padukone endorsing Olay and Neutrogena respectively. There was good money for sure, but why did they appear so pale? God help us!

Great expectations of 2010

A sneak peek into the sets of Aisha has Sonam Kapoor looking casual, well-dressed and fresh, while Abhay Deol is just as dapper.

Based on Jane Austen’s Emma, it’s the movie to watch out for in 2010.

Best of LFW: Part 2

Tarun Tahiliani

Summer 2009’s collections heralded the beginning of Grecian and draped dresses on the international ramp. Tarun Tahiliani took this trend forward with his LFW collection. But while the international designers chose pristine white and fiery reds, Tahiliani opted for black and gold, wine and champagne. Despite the similarities, he Indianised his clothes with his magical touch. Once again, Tahiliani proved why he’s called the master of drapes in the Indian fashion scene. Throughout the show, the designer’s partiality toward gold and earth colours was clearly visible, right from the copper lace sari to his shimmery togas.

Black and gold sari with low-cut blouse

Even with the drapes, the designer sought to complement the hourglass figure. He created faux waistlines with cummerbunds and belts, and buckles and brooches on gathers. And it weren’t just the dresses that were glamourous. Tahiliani’s jackets and sequinned pants oozed evening glamour for those who wanted to keep it casual for a Saturday night in the city.

His collection may come as good news to well-endowed women, as he highlighted the sari blouses of the season — decollete and pave necklines. And just when we thought we had kissed Yash Chopra’s shaded saris goodbye, Tahiliani brought them back, though sans the chiffon. Colour graduation was spotted everywhere — on tunics, kameezes, sherwani coats and saris.

Tahiliani’s showstopper saris were a pleasant surprise — made of lace, they stood out from the rest of the collection. Indrani Dasgupta’s six-yard was encrusted with Swarowski crystallized rubies, pearls and diamonds even as the other three looked extremely wearable, subtle and sophisticated. He paired the lace saris with sequined corsets and bustiers. And that was not all — lace earlier appeared as a thick dupatta and ghagra border and sleeves.

Vipasha Agarwal in a lemon and gold lace sari

How to wear it: It’s always the right time to experiment with your sari draping. If not the adventurous kind, then opt for saris in cream, beige or peach lace with daring blouses. Or the simplest of all — get ‘shaded’!

Best of LFW: Part 1

Vikram Phadnis

In fashion, we all seek the avant garde, the cutting edge. But great fashion isn’t always cutting edge or avant garde. Great fashion is clothes that are given a fresh appeal, looks that alter your perceptions of a garment, and those make you think twice about what you’ve been wearing. Vikram Phadnis did all this and more.

Phadnis played with colours, silhouettes and fabrics to create a stunning bridal collection. The dazzling colours were put together in unusual combinations — unexpected even in the era of colour contrasts. He mixed purple and blue, maroon and cream, sky blue with sea blue… Imagine the stunning effect of a long green kurta and an indigo textured ghagra teamed with an orange net dupatta.

Green kurta with indigo ghagra and an orange dupatta

The luxurious fabrics became richer with zardosi embriodery and crystal work, and the added length of kameezes. In contrast to the elongated kurtas were the very short and sexy cholis, designed to make men at a wedding drool.

The oft-neglected dupatta of a bridal outfit, usually just a slightly modified version of the lehenga itself, was reborn with a new personality. Phadnis showed the world how a dupatta can transform an outfit, like a whole new layer to your clothing. It isn’t just an accessory, it’s a garment — he seemed to be saying. There was variety in draping, embroidery and colours. His dupattas are something I would want to carry, despite the heavy lehengas. The best dupattas were those of net, complete with exquisite borders and sprays of crystal or embroidery work.

Purple dupatta

Phadnis mixed silhouettes using fabrics and patterns — like brocade and velvet; or like the modern wave pattern blouse with zardosi on a velvet maroon lehenga. And then there were voluminous ghagras with sherwanis and saris with sherwani-style blouses. Who thought that Indian garments could be layered like this?

How to Wear It: When you get dolled up this festive season, carry a dupatta that does not match. Because, as Phadnis has shown, it really does.

Rohit Bal’s “made up” range for Lancome

When MAC partnered with Manish Arora to create an India-inspired makeup range, the results were fabulous. The dazzling colours of eyeshadows, lip glasses and blush blew away women around the world.

So when I read about Rohit Bal’s Lotus collection for Lancome, I knew I had to check it out. Here’s what I had in mind- new colours, some never-thought-of makeup tools and eccentric packaging, perhaps even guy makeup! Oh boy, was I disappointed. The collection is more or less a glammed up version of a discount scheme.

This is how it works:

  1. You choose your shade from a fixed set of products, such as concealer, blush, lipstick etc from Lancome’s existent range. You can have either 12 products (silver set) or 21 (gold set).
  2. If you choose the silver set, you get 12% discount, which means Rs 15,000. And the gold set comes for Rs 25,000.
  3. This is all put together and wrapped neatly in a cute vanity case.

This is a great idea especially for brides, who want everything handy, customised and coordinated. And even the women who want to indulge themselves.

But why tag Rohit Bal along? The crazy-creative notorious designer has added nothing to the Lancome brand, nor to his own. The only claim being that he “handpicked” the collection. Why would Rohit Bal want to lend his name to something so silly? How does the Delhi designer become anything different from cricketers and actors endorsing brands? (At least they display their acting skills). We would have loved to see Rohit Bal getting creative with something other than fabric.

Speaking Chic’s opinion: It’s a foolish marketing gimmick to draw footfalls to the stores. The concept does have some weight, but I would have pegged it as the “Lotus Bridal” collection or something similar, and kept Mr. Bal out of the equation.

Weekend Views: Practical Fashion

Practical Fashion
The few times I’ve seen Latika Khaneja of Collage Sports Management on TV, I’ve noticed her articulateness, her straightforwardness and her commanding yet feminine voice. What I haven’t noticed much are her clothes.

Which is why an interview on her style in this weekend’s Lounge took me by surprise. This smart business woman spoke candidly about the practical side of fashion for working women. And Ms Khaneja definitely doesn’t mince words- she says no to pencil skirts, believes flat shoes at office are perfectly acceptable and has stopped shopping at “children stores”.

Her pragmatic tips make complete sense for those of us who have to run to catch a train, or have to get into the bus with a quick jump.

Next time I’m off for a client meeting, I’ll perhaps give my three-inch black pumps a break and opt for practical comfort instead.

PS- Thanks, Ms Khaneja!

Painting Flushing Meadows Red!

While Sharapova made an unglorious exit from the US Open over the weekend, she didn’t fail to surprise with her choice of dress. Known to work closely with the Nike team, her lilac dress was perfect for her long legs and her tall and lean frame. However, I think the neon green bands across her dress are best left to cyclists, not tennis stars.

Despite the loss to a player ranked 30 spots below her, Sharapova’s creative and entrepreneurial streak continues. The Russian player is now designing accessories for Cole Haan, starting with an over-the-knee boot.

Her opponent was Melanie Oudin, who wore the cutest sneakers– a pleasant mix of dark pink and yellow, with three blue stripes, perfect for her young years (this feisty player is only 17!).

Oudin used her sponsor Adidas’s customisation site for the bespoke shoes. Fellow American Sam Querrey did the same with his shoes- a pair of red with a dash of dark blue.

Speaking of red, this fiery colour is ruling the roost seems to be ruling the roost at this hard court event. World No. 1 Roger Federer is wearing an eye-catching yet elegant red, adding an element of fun to his elegant backhand. Jelena Jankovic, who made an early exit, wore a red dress with ruffles at the waist and on the skirt- oh so feminine, but lacking a good fit. And then there’s Kim Clijsters with her red FILA tee and co-ordinated skirt, and a host of East European players like Kateryna Bondarenko and drama queen Vera Zvonareva.

The bright colours of the summer don’t end with the red. There’s the bright pink (donned by the Williams sistas, Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova), and the very summery yellow of Rafael Nadal’s t-shirt. While the t-shirt gives women (and men) a cheeky view of his toned biceps, the blue head and wrist bands are in sync with new fashion mantra- Make contrasts work!

While some players stick to the safe choices (like blue), I love the experimentation with colours at the last Grand Slam of the year. But autumn’s round the corner, and the bright colours of the season will soon fade away… Enjoy them while they last!