Net saris try to get a toehold this wedding season, vying for attention with ethnic silks, finds Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

It won't be easy dressing up for weddings this summer. We aren't just lamenting over the pricking heat but the sheer variety available that will leave blushing brides and invitees confused. Retail stores have gone in for a quick transformation. The buzz isn't so much about spring summer collections as it is about summer wedding collections. Weddings translate to brisk business and no store wants to be left out. New varieties of handcrafted silks from Kanchi, ethnic kotas, khadi silks and cotton blends adorn malls while niche boutiques have stocked up collections of national designers.

The good old maroons and deep greens never go out of fashion but keeping with the season, there's a palette of pastels, onion pinks, lime yellows and sea blues. A single dominant factor is the appeal of net saris. They are light, easy to tie and a popular choice for both day and evening occasions. Designers Tarun Tahiliani, Anju Modi, Kiran Uttam Ghosh, Anamika Khanna and Ekru have blended nets with mull, banaras silk, georgettes, chiffons and lace. Borders with appliqué work, floral motifs on velvet or cut work come as a respite from loud sequins and crystals.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee's saris come alive with diligent use of antique work in the borders and the saris are paired with ethnic blouses in contrast shades. Picture ikkat blouses with delicate mulls. Think mehendis, sangeets and receptions and there are cocktail saris to choose from. Net saris with striking motifs adorning stitched pallus are season specials. Designer Gaurav Gupta's collection of cocktail saris includes nets and chiffons with stitched pallu.

“Net saris are a rage in Delhi and Mumbai. In Hyderabad, it's a mix of nets, georgettes, hand-woven cottons and silks. The younger crowd is experimenting with nets,” says Smita Shroff of Elahe. The business of summer wedding collection is bigger this year, she points out. “Wedding collections are usually brought out from September to December. This year, since a number of South Indian weddings are scheduled for April followed by Marwari weddings in May, there's a market for bridal wear,” she says.

Designer Mohit Falod, who showcased his work at Hyderabad Designer Week, suggests sheer and net saris for evenings. “Rather than cluttering the entire sari with heavy work, I used rose and peacock motifs in two or three places,” he says.

Go ethnic

Bling still rules in lehengas, but understated elegance is back in saris. “Heavy silks are preferred for the wedding ceremony but women want cotton-blends for the smaller functions. Kotas with kalamkari, cut-work and intricate borders are dressy while remaining easier to handle in the heat,” says designer Mamata Reddy of Kalam Creations.

Handcrafted uppada silks, devoid of elaborate workmanship, stand striking in solid colours and interestingly designed half-and-halves — the pleats and pallu in contrast shades to the rest of the sari.

Traditional silk stores have been flooded with bridal collections. While the Samudrika, Sowbhagya and Parampara pattu varieties remain, Arundhati pattu and Vastra kala pattu are new additions. Vastra kala pattu tries to blend North and South styles by adding kundan and ari work on kanchi saris. Malls have light kanchi silks as well.

Finally, weddings aren't just about dressing up the bride. There is plenty for the family, friends and relatives as well. Cocktail dresses and ethnic kurtas are ideal for pre-wedding bashes.