Embroidered coats, zari-adorned kaftan dresses, embellished shararas and many of the saris at the recent edition of India Couture Week in New Delhi were not targeting the bride. They were meant for another important set of women: the mothers of brides and grooms.
Indian designers are finally realising there is more to a wedding than just bridal dressing. Yes, we all know that India couture has long been about bridal fashion, but as the industry matures, many players are understanding the need to cater to the mother, a high-spend individual who’s an integral part of every wedding function.
Having just returned from a few summer weddings of my friends’ children, I noticed how much fun all the mothers were having with their clothes. They were thoroughly enjoying their fashion moments. Many of them, however, complained about how hard it was to find options that worked well for their bodies.
“This is the new generation of mothers,” says couturier Rahul Mishra.
“As an important individual at the wedding, the mothers come with their own set of require- ments. They want to make a special kind of statement. We, as designers, understand this need and must rise to the occasion.” Mishra adds that the mother of the bride and the groom are looking beyond the sari, kurta and lehnga. They want floor-length dresses and pant suits as well—and this was evident at Mishra’s recent India Couture Week show, which included pieces that could work well for a high-fashion mother.
Today’s mother of the bride, or the groom, belongs to Gen X, those in their 50s who grew up at a time when contemporary Indian fashion was just starting to grow into an industry.
Many mothers of this generation were the first brides for designers like Abu Jani, Sandeep Khosla, Rohit Bal, Anamika Khanna and Suneet Varma. While their mothers probably turned to heirloom jewellery pieces and repurposed their own bridal trousseau at their children’s weddings, today’s mother is looking for something more unique.
If brides from wealthy families are splurging ₹6 lakh to ₹12 lakh on their wedding outfits, the mothers are spending anywhere between ₹4 lakh and ₹10 lakh, says Mishra.
In India, weddings are like a festival, and people are always on the lookout for something new to wear.
Often, we repurpose something we own, but when it comes to a family wedding, people prefer to go all out. The bride, of course, is willing to spend a lot of money on outfits for her big day and other occasions; her wedding dress is probably going to be the most expensive garment she’s ever bought.
After her, the next biggest spender is probably the mother of the bride and the groom.
When Divya Kapoor Gurwara, in her 50s, started the Bridal Asia exhibition in 1999, she knew weddings were the driving force of the fashion industry. At the time, there was no other platform that acknowledged this.
Today, Bridal Asia has editions in Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai, with many designers specialising in bridalwear such as Rose Room Couture by Isha J and Anushree Reddy participating in their events.
Gurwara says, “Mothers of the bride and groom possess heightened awareness and accessibility mainly due to social media. They are well-versed in current trends, from attire to jewellery.” Their interest in dressing “elegantly parallels that of the bride and groom. Bridal Asia has observed this shift... mothers are increas- ingly enthusiastic about their attire,” she adds.
The other reason for mother’s increased interest in the wedding wardrobe is the new-age media. “There is a significant change in the way women, and especially older women, are being portrayed in fiction across OTT platforms and films in the past years,” explains Gurwara. “This must have an impact on the way they perceive themselves. Hence, while there may still be the same respect and value held in an heirloom piece, women are willing to make more individualistic choices with regards to their dressing.”
According to Tina Malhotra, owner of multi-brand store Evoluzione, mothers of the bride spend almost as much time and attention on their clothes as brides. In fact, she says, they are pushing the style envelope more now than they did when they were getting married.
For the weddings for her two daughters, Malhotra turned to Anamika Khanna. Her pieces were made bespoke.
Malhotra, who is in her 50s, ensures that designers at her store cater to this demographic. “Most of the senior designers are making pieces that work for the mother of the bride, especially Anamika Khanna, Rohit Bal, Varun Bhal and Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna,” she says.
But, as I mentioned earlier, many of my friends still believe a lot more needs to be done in terms of the clothes offered. Many of the present designs are either too matronly looking or meant for super-skinny bodies. The off-the- rack choices are very few, and they often have to order pieces.
I hope designers are taking notes. Malhotra says it is often the mother who controls budgets for a wedding, so it is a good idea to keep them happy. As a rule, Evoluzione only works with designers who are willing to work on clothes for all ages, from children to the grandparents.
Most of these are on order, and when you walk into a designer’s store, the selection for the more mature audience is quite limited.
She says, “Designers who do not look beyond the bride need to change their approach to weddingwear.”
It is high time fashion designers said yes to the mothers.
Dress Sense is a monthly column on the clothes we wear every day.
Sujata Assomull is a journalist, author and mindful fashion advocate.