The Big Fat Indian Wedding Gets A Leaner Look

In a normal year the India Couture Week, an extravaganza of high-end style and bridal wear from the country’s top designers, would have been held in July. That’s when the monsoon season brings cooler temperatures to New Delhi, and when the city’s beautiful and wealthy people return from their European sojourns.

July is also prime wedding-planning season, bringing brides-to-be out of the woodwork, each searching for her dream gown.

 01 amit Aggarwal 1
An Indian wedding often has up to five or six events besides the main one. This non-traditional couture outfit made from industrial materials and polymers, from Delhi-based designer Amit Aggarwal’s Couture 2020 collection, would probably be worn by a bride for the cocktails or a “youngsters’ party” (away from the eyes of disapproving elders!)
Courtesy of Amit Aggarwal

More than 20% of Indian brides surveyed in 2018 said they would spend between $13,500 and $27,000 on their weddings. About the same proportion expected to spend $1,350 or more on clothes for the event. The Big Fat Indian Wedding Market Survey collected information from more than 9,200 brides.

But that was then, and this is the year of socially distant wedding planning, even for the upper crust. Indian brides from elite families look forward to family-reunion extravaganzas that might attract 1,000 people and cost a quarter of a million dollars or more.

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Traditional Indian wedding garments are often about heavy textiles and embroideries, but not all brides want to be weighed down by tradition. For some modern brides, designer Amit Aggarwal’s jewel-toned gowns, crafted from industrial materials and signature polymers, are what make the cut.
Amit Aggarwal)

Not in 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic has turned rupee signs into question marks. (Who wants to issue masks to their wedding guests?)

Faced with the reality of empty runways, the Fashion Design Council of India took couture week all-digital. A dozen top designers streamed shows on its digital and social media platforms.

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At last count India had 6.39 million Covid-19 cases and about 1 million deaths, so masks may just be the new normal even in bridal wear. Here Indian supermodeI Lakshmi Rana stays safe as she takes notes from designer Anju Modi before their India Couture Week 2020 digital film shoot.
Courtesy of Anju Modi

It was a different vibe, but the same take-your-breath-away fashion, in late September instead of late July.

In India it’s not Carolina Herrera, Alexander McQueen, Vera Wang and Louis Vuitton. It’s Amit Aggarwal, Dolly J., Gaurav Gupta, J. J. Valaya, Rahul Mishra, Shantanu & Nikhil and Suneet Varma.

Collection by Dolly J @FDCI ICW 2020
While traditional ensembles are a must for an Indian wedding, streamlined western silhouettes are increasingly finding favor. Designer Dolly J uses handcrafted chikankari, an ancient fine thread embroidery mostly practiced by craftsmen from the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India, on silk organza.
Courtesy of Dolly J

They sound exotic to American ears, but they’re household names to well-heeled Indians who spend heavily and want one-of-a-kind everything for festivities that can last up to a week.

Young women in planning mode this year want traditional looks, vibrant colors, intricately woven textiles and one cultural reference after another.

Collection by Dolly J @FDCI ICW 2020
Hindus consider red an auspicious color, and Indian brides wear a lot of it. Here the model wears a “lehenga,” a heavily-embroidered skirt-blouse-stole ensemble favored by North Indian brides, from designer Dolly J.
Courtesy of Dolly J

“For an Indian bride, the bridal lehenga—a richly-embroidered ankle-length skirt, blouse and stole combination that North Indian brides wear—is of key importance,” says designer Reynu Taandon. “The outfit is usually in sumptuous bridal hues like red, orange and gold and embroidered with traditional Indian techniques like Zardozi [metal embroidery on cloth] and Gotapatti [appliqué embroidery].”

Digital fashion shows lack the pomp and drama of the real thing, and the bridal industry is on the ropes in India. But Fashion Design Council of India chairman Sunil Sethi says more people can see the clothes this way “instead of them being restricted to a privileged few.”

And designers like the format, he said, because “there were fewer models to spend on.”

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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