Street Chic: Simple style with LV

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Speaking Chic kicks off a new feature: Street Chic! In this feature, we’re going to hunt for great looks and outfits worn by people we spot at restaurants, theatres, malls and the streets, of course.

We bumped into Kanika at a hotel and were immediately taken in by her little LV! She chose her brand-new bag to be the centrepiece of her look and keep it muted with her knotted blouse and skinny Esprit jeans.

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Besides the eye-catching bag (colour not so great in the photo), we liked her other accessory– her criss-cross strappy high heels. They’re a great take on the gladiator style that’s so popular these days.

What do you think of Kanika’s understated chic look? Tell us!

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Celebs: The Sari’s State

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Indian women love the sari, and we love it even more when a famous international celebrity dons the traditional drape at a fancy party. But the shocking appearance of Liz Hurley in a sari sans blouse (aka choli) didn’t go down too well with quite a few women (such as my mom and your mom and most other moms).

But our homegrown Bollywood beauties came to the rescue, and showed us how graceful and non-bosom baring the sari can be. Kajol, Sridevi, Rekha and even Urmila Matondkar rocked the sari at the recent Filmfare awards ceremony. But the lady who can carry off the sari the best is Vidya Balan. Dressed in her favourite Sabyasachi (we would like to see her experiment with designers), the young lady seemed to be saying: “So what if I’ve lost oodles of weight? I like the sari and I’m gonna wear it, gowns be damned.”

 

filmfare-awards-2010 balan

While we like the sari, what doesn’t seem to go too well are the oversized rosary-type beads that Ms Balan might have taken from a sadhu at the Pushkar mela. And why tie back your lovely hair? Maybe she was just having a bad hair day, who knows?

Image courtesy: Santabanta.com

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Cotton Cottage: almost as good as Fab India?

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I came across a little store Cotton Cottage tucked in among a row of shops at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai. At first glance, it seemed like any other store, but a second look made me go inside. And guess what? I wasn’t disappointed at all, even as much to tell my friend that I was glad I didn’t buy anything from the Fab India store down the road.

As the name suggests, the store has a range of cotton kurta, kurtis, churidars and dupattas. That sounds awfully similar to what Fab India stocks, and it really is. But what makes the difference is the quaint experience I had at CC. A visit to Fab India a couple of hours ago had felt like déjà vu, I’d seen this kurta and that print before. And the store’s floor plan and stacking of garments had left me confused as well.

Cotton Cottage, on the other hand, had clothes with the familiar Indian cotton feel, but with a fresh look. Their prints were mostly not-seen-before, there was staff at hand to help, and the kurtas et al were neatly piled up. What I liked the most were the colours—there were bright blues, greens and yellows!  I tried on a couple of kurtas, but finally opted for a brown kurti with a gold block print on it.

While I don’t see Cotton Cottage sweeping away Fab India yet, their stores (they’re around the country) are worth a visit or more.

So when are we heading to Cotton Cottage, girls?

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Chic News: Good Times are here!

My late night TV viewing is usually limited to the 5764th rerun of Friends, unless an episode of I’m too Sexy for my Shoes is playing on NDTV Good Times. The designer challenges, the latest style and fashion recommendations and fashion explorations are too much fun to watch. And the charismatic and leggy Ambika Anand is the perfect host, teamed up with the stylish Mohan Neelakantan.

Turns out that the new season of the show kicks off February 12 and with it a series of on-ground events that complement the channel’s brand. The first event, themed “Sexy Shoes”, is a grand party to be held in Delhi. Other than the great food and dance and other standard fare, the party’s style quotient will get a fashionable boost with Salvatore Ferragamo, Just Cavalli, and Canali showcasing their Spring Summer 2010 look.

For all fans of the channel (including me), this new initiative seems to be a great way to enjoy our passion for food, fashion, gadgets and luxury. When, where and how of the events have not been revealed yet, but my ears are close to the ground already.

Now if only we could get an invite to the Sexy Shoes party!

UPDATE: Turns out I can get an invite after all, so can you! Participate in the Sexy Shoes contest and you could win an invite for the party!

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’!