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What will the covid-19 bride wear?

Bridal-wear trends through the pandemic show a new affinity for a simpler, traditional look — and matching masks

Lightweight printed silk gowns by Anita Dongre.
Lightweight printed silk gowns by Anita Dongre.

The pandemic seems to have put paid to the Big Fat Indian Wedding. According to a 2017 KPMG report, the Indian wedding industry was estimated to be worth $40-50 billion (around 3-3.7 trillion), growing annually at 25-30%. It was deemed almost recession-proof—until covid-19 hit.

It has taken its toll on couture, which has constituted a big part of bridal wear for decades, given not just the cultural influences but the fact that bridal and occasion-wear tend to be bespoke.

Increasingly, however, big weddings and social gatherings are being replaced by intimate family occasions, even Zoom weddings. All this is changing the way brides dress. The simpler, traditional look is in. And masks are now sought after.

Designer Tarun Tahiliani, who stepped into his 25th year in the Indian fashion industry in 2019, says: “At the customer end, no one is in the mood to buy new things, except for the immediate family of the bride and groom."

A handwoven navy blue silk sari by Ekaya Banaras.
A handwoven navy blue silk sari by Ekaya Banaras.

Designer Anita Dongre, who reopened her stores in India as well as New York recently, believes it’s too early to say what will change. “Most of the brides who had appointments with us postponed their weddings since they have always dreamt of it being big. The ones who went ahead with it resigned themselves to simple weddings at home."

With people hardly stepping out, Tahiliani says “dressing up, especially in ornate and very extravagant Indian clothes, is the farthest thing on their minds".


What designers do seem reasonably sure of is that the trend of lightweight and simpler wedding lehngas will continue—brides would prefer to be fuss-free and comfortable. Tahiliani says: “People are aware of the economic and social destruction around them and this is really not the right time for people to be going over the top. Rather, I think it is going to push us into a more circumspect way of doing things."

Dongre has always prided herself on the fact that her fashion house brought in the trend of lightweight wedding lehngas. “I don’t see that aesthetic changing for us," she says.

Designer Palak Shah of the clothing label Ekaya Banaras says, “Along with ensembles that can be used durably and trans-seasonally, brides won’t buy anything that makes too niche a statement." Bridal wear at the moment is more about retaining a piece’s value in terms of design, and classic styles preserve that quality.

KEEPING IT Traditional

Bridal wear trends, however, will matter, says Shah. “Even as brides get married now, they want to be in sync with the current trends."

A multi-hued ombre ‘lehnga’ with ‘kashida’, ‘zardozi’ and French knots, by Tarun Tahiliani.
A multi-hued ombre ‘lehnga’ with ‘kashida’, ‘zardozi’ and French knots, by Tarun Tahiliani.

The enquiries Dongre is getting at present are still for a traditional aesthetic—lehngas with embroidery or embellishments. “It’s because home weddings are usually just one ceremony that brides want to be traditional in their approach. It’s sacred for them," she says.

Tahiliani says the approach to bridal wear will be more about the bride’s perspectiveof what makes her comfortable. “Be it the use of coloured crystals instead of mukaish’s silver-and-gold, introducing fine resham threadwork to achieve the classic look of kashida (which in its original form can be double the weight) or adopting digital printing on the fabrics to bring the perfect colour gradient for an ombre lehnga—it’s incredible what techniques of modern techniques can achieve."

Shah, who specializes in textiles and weaves, says: “I see a lot of classic patterns coming through. You can’t go wrong with a jaal sari, colour combinations of red and pink. Brides will veer towards timeless choices rather than being experimental."


Not surprisingly, matching masks—in colour and embroidery—with bridal ensembles are now popular.

Dongre says she has begun getting requests for masks as part of the trousseau. “I am staying away from making embroidered ones but just offering them in the same colour, not selling. For me, the mask is still more utilitarian and a grim reminder of our times. One needs to be cognizant of that." Shah agrees: “You can’t really breathe in a heavily embroidered mask. It’s great for pictures but it isn’t practical at all."

Tahiliani has a different take: “Let’s face it—no one is wearing a mask because they look good. Self-preservation and civic responsibility towards others’ safety has made them a fact of daily life. In light of this, I think it is highly likely that a bride and groom would be wearing masks on their wedding day. Since this is a special day for the couple and they would be dressed in all their finery, I see absolutely no issue with it if they choose to have their masks customized and adorned to suit their wedding day ensembles."

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