The writer discovers that more brides are choosing to wear gowns instead of saris for their wedding

Meera Jasmine wore one. So did Ann Augustine.This is one trend that seems to have caught on in tinsel town. Usually stars set trends but, in this case, it’s the stars who are following the trend of many brides in Kerala walking down the aisle in white wedding gowns. The wedding gown is ruffling more than just material in the world of fashion by giving the sari stiff competition. Designer Salju Jose, perhaps one of the first to introduce wedding gowns to the city, recalls how she had just a handful of customers in 1993. It was when she started supplying ready made wedding gowns to a couple of retail stores in Kerala that people gradually started opening up to the idea of wearing one for their big day.

Designer Shalini James feels that it is because women are now comfortable in Western wear that they are willing to think of gowns for their wedding. “Many young women who work in multinational corporations are exposed to high-fashion clothes and cuts; they have the confidence to carry off such dresses. Moreover, some of them, particularly NRIs, are not used to saris so they prefer wearing a wedding dress to sari. Churches have also started accepting them as ‘suitable’ bridal wear,” she says.

But it is not just Christian brides who are donning the gown for their wedding day; Muslim and Hindu brides are also considering the gown as a bridal wear option. “In the last three months, I have received quite a few requests for wedding gowns from Muslim brides-to-be and a few Hindus too,” claims designer Sushmi Siraj. While some of the brides-to-be do wear gowns for their wedding, most wear them for their engagement party or for their wedding reception. “In fact for their wedding reception, there are brides who wear outfits that are a cross between a ghagra and a gown; a fusion of East and West,” says Shalini.

The patterns vary from person to person as women pick styles that flatter their body. Kerala is still “conservative” when it comes to weddings. Says designer Beena Latheef: “Strapless dresses get a small shrug for the church ceremony. The shrug does the vanishing act during the photo session.”

Beads, embroidery, Swarovski stones, lace and the like are used to embellish the gown. And yes, Ann embellished her gownwith flowers! From shades of white, the spectrum of colour has expanded to include gold, silver, pastel colours to even darker shades.

Although a couple of retail shops catering to wedding gowns have popped up in the city, many seem to prefer to get theirs tailor made for that couture feel. Take Sandhya Jacob, for instance. Sandhya has always dreamed of walking down the aisle wearing a dress as she felt it was easier to handle. Trusting that a designer would be able to give her the perfect gown, she consulted one. Although Jiya Ann Mohan had sketches of her dream gown ready, she could not bring it to reality as she was tied up with studies in Delhi. “I finally had to pick up a dress off the rack. Although the silhouette was more or less similar to what I had in mind, the fit was not that perfect,” she says. While some hold on to their dress for the memory associated with it, the more “practical ones” get them redesigned so that they can be worn on other occasions. For a society used to seeing its bride draped in six yards, with many a bride donning a white gown, it looks like the bridal scene is in for a change.

The sari-gown

Fusing a wedding gown and a sari is the sari-gown which combines the drape of the sari with a more practical zipped up gown. These are for those who want to try something innovative without deviating too much from tradition. These gowns are perfect for those who don’t want to worry about the sari being held in place.