Earlier this month, Alia Bhatt won a National Film Award for her performance in the 2022 film Gangubai Kathiawadi. Her appearance at the ceremony at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan went viral for the elegant ivory hand-embroidered Sabyasachi sari she wore, her wedding outfit, which she had chosen to repeat. Her fashion choice garnered more attention than her award.
In a parallel fashion moment, Deepika Padukone was spotted in a black backless bodysuit by Helmut Lang at dinner with friends. Her appearance caused a buzz. Why? She had worn it earlier.
Why do we applaud celebrities for repeating their outfits? Why aren’t they doing it more often, especially with investment pieces like wedding-wear? Celebrities are trendsetters and wield considerable influence through their choices. When we are all striving to be more conscious of our consumption, celebrities should set an example. Figures like Kate Middleton, Cate Blanchett and Kate Moss recognise this and repeat outfits regularly.
Indian celebrities, on the other hand, seem to take a different approach. According to celebrity stylist Divyak D’Souza: “Our designers are very supportive of sourcing requests. You can get a couture dress shipped to you in less than 24 hours. But it’s not just about access; it’s about personal choices. Most actors are keen on appearing fresh at every red-carpet event. The idea that reinventing and repeating an outfit is a form of creative expression often takes a back seat.”
This excessive approach contradicts India’s slow fashion principles. In Indian households, repeating and repurposing clothes/fabric is a norm. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers often re-wear clothes for weddings and other events and carefully store them as heirlooms. Bhatt’s sari is a hand-dyed organza masterpiece with handcrafted tilla details, a timeless design. Why, then, the surprise when she chose to repeat it?
Repeat value is something Masaba Gupta, who recently launched her luxury bridal line, The Masaba Bride, emphasises. “The bridal outfits that we have created are repeat-worthy,” says the designer. “For my first bridal collection, I didn’t want to create pieces that are tied to a certain genre or trend. They should be timeless and classic”. This explains her colour palette of classic reds and pinks. “Bridal is not cheap… It is something that you spend a lot of money on,” says Gupta. “You should repeat it in the way that you feel best. A good way to repurpose is pairing a crisp white shirt with lehngas that you might have collected over the years for various functions,” says Gupta. Incidentally, the Masaba Bride’s first muse is actor Kareena Kapoor Khan, who repurposed her mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore’s sharara for her nikah ceremony.
Susan Thomas, a content creator and former director of NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) Bengaluru, has repeated her cream silk Kanjivaram sari with a gold and silver border, worn at her wedding in 2003, for occasions. She says, “Repeating your wedding sari is pretty normal for the common folks... What we need to normalise is celebrities repeating, which hopefully then has a percolator effect.”
D’Souza, who hosted the Indian edition of the reality show Say Yes To The Dress, acknowledges that celebrities are happy to repeat clothes for off-duty events. When it comes to high-profile ones, though, they lean towards wearing something new.
London-based Eshita Kabra Davies/hyphenated?, founder of the social fashion rental app By Rotation, believes clothing is still viewed as a status symbol in India, and signals access to designers. “Only as style confidence matures does repeating outfits become a matter of pride,” she says. Perhaps Bhatt’s choice will encourage other celebrities to consider repurposing their pieces.
Celebrities have the platform to make a difference, and we must start insisting that they do, especially when it comes to their iconic wedding ensembles. Alia Bhatt’s repeat sari moment should not be a one-off. Hopefully, other celebrities will take note of the positive press she received and begin to repurpose their own iconic outfits.
Dress Sense is a monthly column on the clothes we wear every day.
Sujata Assomull is a journalist, an author and a mindful fashion advocate.