I'll have what she's having...

A woman does not need to criticise, change or feel ashamed of any part of her body, and should easily be fashionable without being a victim," declares the iconic diva of the fashion industry, Ritu Kumar.

Echoing similar sentiment is Yves Saint Laurent, the French iconic fashion designer who had once said, "I have always believed that fashion is not only to make women more beautiful, but also to reassure them, give them confidence."

What both Yves Saint Laurent and Ritu Kumar mean with these statements is that reassurance and confidence come when people are comfortable in their clothes. And these are the two qualities many of us overlook when we try to dress trendily. Many a time even fashion designers throw up strange designs to shock, to grab attention, and to become popular. Quite a few gullible men and women try these looks, without weighing the consequences, and end up looking utterly uncomfortable and tacky.

The latest to join the bandwagon of 'shock attire' is the thong jeans, which were introduced by Japanese designer Meiko Ban at the Tokyo Fashion Week last year. It's completely ripped jeans worn over a bodysuit where nothing is left  to the imagination. Looking at them, even Bollywood actor Bipasha Basu pleaded, "Don't do this to jeans." But for all you know, very soon, when these jeans become available in the market, they may be grabbed like hot cakes by fashion-crazy teenagers and celebs to draw attention to themselves at the agonising cost of their comfort.  

Talking about fashion and comfort, Delhi-based designer Tarun Tahiliani, famous for couture, bridal wear and Western silhouettes with Indian craftsmanship, categorically says, "Always dress to please yourself, not others!"

Unfortunately, the trend all over the world is to follow the style of film stars, be it Bollywood or Hollywood. Many forget that what might look good on Jacqueline Fernandez, Alia Bhatt, Emma Watson, Selena Gomez, Liam Hemsworth and Hrithik Roshan may not look good on us, and we may not be comfortable in it. Also, they all get paid to wear those clothes. Every designer we spoke to says people should be themselves and feel beautiful by choosing what makes them feel spectacular while maintaining their comfort. Styling shouldn't be too overbearing, but should reflect one's personal style.

"There is no rule book for styling, and it doesn't follow seasons. It comes from within after understanding and celebrating oneself. A style is not something that anybody would be able to get by imitating someone. It's personal, and it's unique," says Ritu Kumar, famous for her Indian wear in Indian textiles.

"Style is something which presents you with an individuality and exclusivity you are born with. When it comes to comfort level, the choice is entirely your own. If it is not making you too awkward, or distancing you from the real you, then a little discomfort is fine. It's a very personal and circumstantial choice," comments Mumbai-based designer Vaishali Shahdangule who, of late, is busy putting Indian heritage textiles on the international fashion platform.

We still remember the 1960s and 70s actors - Sadhana, Asha Parekh, Mumtaz, Babita and others - wearing that body-hugging salwar-kameez. Or those tall, large, coiffured hairstyles. How could they even walk in those real tight kameez was a mystery. And even the present- day stilettos. Just imagine getting into overcrowded trains and buses in such a get-up! Absolutely impractical, and absolutely uncomfortable!

Dubai-based designer Amit GT opines, "Fashion isn't about discomfort, it's about when you make an extra effort to choose what works with the season's trends. Style, on the other hand, is your own individual expression of your personality through your appearance, an appearance you are comfortable in."

Models and actors who make these clothes look good on ramps and films dress differently in their personal lives. Shawar Ali, one of the most popular models who has now turned to acting, (Om Shanti Om, Monsoon, Rebel and many others) sheepishly confesses, "I love to be in my old jeans, T's and chappals. Even when I go out on errands, or to chill with my friends, this is my most preferred attire. But when it's official, then I have to dress accordingly, however uncomfortable it is." He admits that many modelling assignments may make him look really dapper, but the ramp-good-clothes can sometimes be really uncomfortable and out of sync with the real world outside the ramp.

The most popular petite supermodel, fashion choreographer and VJ, Alesia Raut says, "While on assignments, many a time, though we look great, some of the clothes that we model, especially on the ramp, can be quite heavy, long and uncomfortable. But those clothes are the creations of the designer. We are professional models and it's our duty to show them off. Besides, it's only for a short period of time. But in our personal lives, I don't compromise on my comfort at all. No doubt I keep up with the trend, but not at the cost of my comfort."

Another model, Marcela Ayesha Ali Khan, stated, "I love to be trendy even in my personal life. But I don't compromise on my comfort. While modelling, I might wear heavy ghagra-cholis or suffocatingly tight clothes, but that's alright. It's a part of my job. Off the ramp, I love comfortable, trendy clothes, but a little discomfort sometimes is also fine."

Shawar Ali also advised against buying expensive clothes. "How many times will you wear them? While hunting for clothes, opt for good brands, but something that suits your budget. Once in a while, you can splurge, but otherwise, practicality should be taken into account even while shopping for one's trousseau, unless of course you are loaded, and have a bottomless purse filled with cash."

Practical purchases

At his wedding to Marecla, while he wore a bandhgala and sherwani, and she a lehenga-choli, they kept it simple, the kind of clothes they can wear for any other function too. "The happiness and the smile on our face didn't need any added accessories to look good on our wedding day!" declares Marcela.    

Tahiliani, who is famous for bridal wear, advises, "One must be practical while shopping for their wedding. For instance, choose a reception saree that has a heavily embellished blouse which can later be worn with a simpler and elegant saree or lehenga. The saree can be worn for a wedding or a very special occasion in the family. Shopping for more subtle options or classics can go a long way. Mixing and matching by individualising it helps in cost-cutting."

The best advice comes from Ritu Kumar about reusing the dressy attires of weddings. She says, "Special-occasion-wear can easily be upcycled or reused. A wedding lehenga can be turned into an elegant Anarkali suit or a lightweight skirt by doing away with the inner can. One can also team up the lehenga with a light-weight, long-slit jacket or a simple shirt. Always pick versatile pieces that are rooted in aesthetics. Identifying brands and designers that one can relate to is a good start," suggests Kumar. The one thing about India and Indian fashion is that saree is always trendy. In whatever age group you fall in, wearing a classic saree like Benares, Kanjivaram, Patola, Chanderi, Paithani, Jamdani, Uppada or others will always make you look trendy, graceful and classy. If well maintained, they can be worn for ages, and they always look good. But today, due to the exposure to many international magazines and the Internet, Western attire has made heavy inroads into our daily wear.

This is where the problem of trend, suitability, cost and comfort comes in. Though very work-comfort, easy-to-maintain and effortless to mix and match, one has to be careful about their suitability to our Indian body types. Even the diva Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had come a cropper when attired in unsuitable gowns on the red carpet at the Cannes International Film Festival! And though everyone advises dressing as one pleases, one can't be too tacky and blatantly flaunt an 'I don't care what you think of my attire' attitude.

Amit GT says, "First of all, leave the baggage of where you have come from behind. Discover your individual style to dress well and look good. Even if you are working in a company that does not allow you to make a bold fashion statement, do not jettison your fashion sense. Nobody is asking you to leave your routine salon appointments, or to tone down your grooming. Strong appearances are always welcome in the corporate world. Fashion is not about making you wear something that you feel absurd about."

While talking about the corporate world and its lifestyle, working late hours, going out for office dinners, parties and outings have become the norm. The common complaint of office-goers is that they have to attend these parties dressed in office-wear as it is almost impossible, especially in big cities, to go home and change before the outing. And carrying a change of clothes also isn't always practical.

"The easiest way to transform your attire from day to night is by changing the accessories - a statement neckpiece, classic jewellery, a clutch instead of your office bag, shoes and bold lip colour - that can take your evening attire a notch higher. And, all these can be carried in your office bag. People also opt for versatile wardrobe dresses such as jumpsuits or silk blouses that work well in the office and for early dinner," says Ritu Kumar.

Alecia Raut has the best advice to youngsters, "There are certain silhouettes that suit every body type. Just do a little bit of homework, and decide which silhouette suits your body type. However, there is nothing like a smile that oozes confidence to pull off any garment."

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