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Fashion Muse of the Month: September (and truly year round) Inspired by Diane Keaton

Fun, fearless, female. This woman had my heart many years ago when I stepped into the world of Woody Allen with Annie Hall. Diane Keaton wasn’t the quintessential Hollywood heroine, in her speech, style or stage presence. I went on to watch everything directed by him and featuring her, and fell in love some more. To be unabashedly dapper (and yet gracefully feminine) in a suit is a charm she’s taught women of the world, becoming a fashion icon of the late 1970s with the neckties, fedora hats, baggy pants she adorned. Wearing it with aplomb in the film and often in her appearances on the red carpet, she sure knows, even in her greyed glamorous avatar, how to pack an androgynous fashion punch. And like every style icon, it isn’t simply about what she wears but almost always also about what she says and does. Having started her family on the other side of fifty, she says of motherhood, “I think that it puts you in your place because it really forces you to address the issues that you claim to believe in and if you can’t stand up to those principles when you’re raising a child, forget it.” For laying out the truth on that and other matters and for being the duffelbag (as opposed to tiny purse) lady, she’s my forever favorite female and a more than perfect (and truly year round) Fashion Muse.

Images via Pinterest

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Closet Diary of Richa Gupta (Founder – Zumbasa.com), New Delhi, India

She wanted to become a fashion designer back in 10th grade. Instead she studied Economics and then became a shoe designer. The designer aspirations didn’t work out too well but her love for fashion and shoes remained, finally finding expression in Zumbasa.com.

Closet Diaries: Style Secrets from Richa Gupta, Founder - Zumbasa.com

Richa Gupta, Founder – Zumbasa.com

Richa Gupta started her fashion website at the age of 25 (then under the name Du Couture, which eventually became Zumbasa), after completing an Entrepreneurship MBA course from NTU in Singapore.

Trying to find a footing in the big industry of women’s fashion, styling, apparel and accessories, Zumbasa focuses on bringing niche overseas brands to India, allowing women to dress up in their personal style rather than aping designer labels and by keeping customer needs in mind by reaching out to each one of them to ensure the right fit.

When she’s not brainstorming over the next collection to showcase, she loves traveling. One secret that most people don’t get to when they first meet Richa is that she’s a huge introvert. But today she’s shedding some of that and letting me raid her closet for style secrets, kicking off a new series on the blog ‘Closet Diaries’.

<Drumrolls>

Your fashion icon(s) and what do you like most about their style

I don’t have any fashion icons as such, because each person has an individual style and sense of fashion. But if I really had to name someone it would be Audrey Hepburn.

Your style mantra

My style mantra is comfortable and classy! Jeans, Top, Flip flops for the mall or a Midi fitted dress with short heels for a night out.

The biggest fashion faux pas according to you

What may suit me might not suit you and vice versa. Just wear what you want, whatever your heart pleases and never think about what’s right or wrong fashion wise. You make your own fashion and style.

Your favourite colour/print/patterns for this season

Pastels! Baby Blues, Mint Greens, Peaches and Pinks. Print wise I’m all for florals right now!

A designer you would love to be dressed by

Elie Saab. I’m quite jealous of Sonam Kapoor in this regard!

3 things every wardrobe should have

Nude pumps

Reliable pair of jeans that have lasted you or will for years

A knee length or midi dress

A fashion accessory you never leave home without

My bag and my nude lipstick. I feel incomplete without them.

You would pair Blue Suede Shoes with

Medium blue jeans and a white button down shirt.

If you had to burn all your clothes but one, it would be

This is what nightmares are made of! I would save my favourite pair of J-brand jeans.

Your wildest style experiment yet

This one really had me thinking hard and realising I’m a very boring person when it comes to fashion. But my wildest experiment has been with a short pair of shorts and a whole lot of people looking at me at the mall!

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a fashionista, holler on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

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The Thing About Grey

It pulls me in from the crowd, makes me go weak in the knees, colors my dreams. Out of a thousand things in rainbow shades, I am extremely likely to pull out the grey. It’s hot stuff, if you ask me.

Let’s suffice it to say, I have ‘a thing’ for grey, referred to (quite unfairly I feel) as the color “without color”.

The crowds may chant bleak, boring, old and sad to its face, but I find there’s much beauty and fun to be had in it. Of course if this were the 18th century, and Paris, I would have been quite the ravishing enchantress about town in my swishing grey gown.

Charlotte_Walsingham,_Lady_Fitzgerald_by_John_Hoppner

Or a happy fly on the grey wall buzzing over Whistler’s Mother as she sat in perfect composure for this portrait.

James_Abbott_McNeill_Whistler_-_Portrait_of_the_Artist's_Mother_-_Google_Art_Project

Wikipedia offers a grim reflection on one of my favorite hues by (horribly) stating:

In Europe and the United States, surveys show that grey is the color most commonly associated with conformity, boredom, uncertainty, old age, indifference, and modesty. Only one percent of respondents chose it as their favorite color.

And goes on to make matters grey-er by quoting color historian Eva Heller.

“Grey is too weak to be considered masculine, but too menacing to be considered a feminine color. It is neither warm nor cold, neither material or spiritual. With grey, nothing seems to be decided.

Bah, Humbug I say!

Let a girl salivate o’er grey

Ogle at the grey sweater-chest,

slip on a plain grey dress,

jump off the steel-grey train,

dance under the glowing grey rain.

Images via https://www.pinterest.com/manikadhama/

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The Shy Blue Sky and Painted Earth

You could blame it on the Shibori pants I slipped into this morning and the brown boots of yore waiting for true winter chill, but my head is all royal and earthy now. For a fix I lost myself in all sorts of brown and blue and now that I’ve resurfaced there seemed to be much good in sharing some treats.

There’s something about a hint of blue peeking in from behind an old cupboard or on an iron fence.

This is the color the walls have been missing. And I dare say stories read better in a cozy blue corner.

Of course you would get the first peek into my boudoir if it ever went royal

You could stay for tea…

…And partake in adventures that began, when brown boots walked out into the winter sun.

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A Short History of a Six Yard Love Affair

2014-03-25 23.35.53-1This was the first time I wore a saree. ‘Wore’ is perhaps not the proper word for wrapped-around-clumsily. ‘Wearing’ a saree is an art one can only cultivate with practice over time. But this picture from the early nineties is certainly the earliest recorded saree moment in my life.

Most of what followed is lost in the tattered transparent sheets of countless albums and in unopened boxes in the corridors of my mind. And yet some of it resurfaced as I began to look back at my relationship with the six yard wonder.

At a Fancy Dress event in primary school (still in the early nineties) I found myself in a plain white saree (borrowed from a nurse at the local hospital) to play the part of Lady Justice. With the customary black ribbon across my eyes and a weighing scale in my hand, I walked onto the stage very slowly, trying hard not to trip or touch anything as my head, hands and face were all covered in multaani mitti (Fuller’s Earth) to complete the look. Perhaps I won, and if I didn’t it must have made me quite mad going through all the effort for nothing.

Next we fast forward to the school farewell, our official ‘Prom Night’. I say ‘official’ because this involved the school and teachers while another ‘unofficial’ version ended up being wilder. Every school girl awaited this glorious event with bated breath and only a hint of trepidation. ‘What must I wear’ was narrowed down to ‘Which of my mother’s sarees can I rock’. For me it had begun with a close battle between a plain black chiffon with a gorgeous zari border and the make-you-blind plain peacock-blue georgette. I had always loved how elegant, not to mention sexy, the black always looked on my mother. But the blue, oh the blue. If you had the figure for it, that wrap was a showstopper. Farewell time came after my two year pizza-every-week fatty phase, so the blue won. And of course everything went as planned till I walked into the party and found a classmate wearing a similar saree. Should have gone with the black. Bah Humbug!

After that, saree moments became largely restricted to family weddings, except for two instances in college. One involved a combined birthday treat of two friends at a pub in Delhi, where “Lets all wear a saree” turned the night into the wildest time a bunch of sarees must have had. All attempts to retrieve pictures of this event came to naught at the time of going to print.

2014-03-25 23.12.12The second college-saree hoopla was the farewell. This time I had no doubts what I was going to wear…Mamma’s black and breezy yellow polka-dot wonder. College was the time I realised that for all my I-wish-we-could-wear-pyjamas-everywhere belief system, what I was really beginning to get obsessed with was polka dots. Big, small, black and blue, I have a pair of dot shoes too. And so I drove more than 40 kilometers to and fro in that crazy yellow saree, which ended its day with a “We may forget everything else from this day but everyone’s going to remember you wore this saree” from a friend donning the blue in the picture.

My own, and many other, wedding-saree-events later, we get to my last rendezvous with a saree, which was at a wedding nearly three years ago.

Over the years I have been gifted several sarees, mostly by my mother carrying the unique designs prevalent in different parts of India back from her travels. Those and countless others have been locked up in suitcases that are rarely opened. I have also gifted my fair share of sarees to others and that had been my only encounter with sarees up until now.

Then last month we had a first. At a fair, amidst the clamour of drums, music and street food scents, I fell in love.

Under a stack of shiny materials my eyes caught sight of shimmering white cloth. I bent forward and pulled it out from the layers, discovering a bright orange, pink and zari border. I ran my fingers over it, trying to identify the texture of the piece with my limited knowledge of materials. I turned to the man at the stall to clarify if it was indeed the silk I thought it to be. He nodded in agreement. I held the fabric between my fingers yet again, just to be sure.

“Where is this from”, I asked.

“Benaras”, he said, and then added, “We only bring the best from our city here.”

I didn’t bother to interrupt the sales speak. I had already made up my mind.

2014-03-25 23.17.01Nearly 25 years after I draped a saree for the first time, I bought a saree for myself, my very own Benarasi.

That same day I also lost my heart to a peacock on cotton that journeyed from Bengal for me.

This is only the beginning of what promises to be a long and fulfilling love affair.

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Raise the White Flag Oh Wild Locks!

It isn’t always a vain person who asks, “What must I do with my hair?” Decisions regarding the precious locks can have earth-shattering consequences. Whether you should wear them long/short, curvy/poker straight, black/burgundy are questions that can hardly be answered without trepidation.

Life was a lot less complicated when parents got done what they wanted on my head. I was too young to appreciate God’s gift to mankind in the form of countless strands that can be messed with any which way.

But this perfect-hair utopia didn’t last too long. Before I knew it, there were hair-styles to be experimented with, and I do emphasize the word ‘experiment’. The hair-scientist (read barber’s) scissors worked away with the promise of a solution to all hair woes. And just like any experiment the results over the years varied from the expected to the plain bizarre.

No matter what the experiments yielded, one thing was clear…there are primarily two kinds of people in this world (no not blondes and brunettes). There are those with great (by which I simply mean ‘manageable’) hair and those like yours truly. When I bargained for the wild quotient in my life I was certainly not talking about my hair.

Yes there are some near-perfect moments like shampooed-not-dry, just-had-a-hair-cut, combed-till-one-dropped. But these moments don’t make up for the countless others when directionless strands wage war against neighbours and refuse to live in the vicinity of each other.

There are products on shelves that promise hair-divinity. But a shampoo bottle that reads “For dry and damaged hair” on your personal shelf promises little that can be termed divine.

Perhaps self-help books on the subject (to the tune of ‘Count your strands while they’re still on your head’) may provide some form of solution. If positive reinforcement were a panacea for all hair woes I could’ve stood in front of the mirror everyday and said with conviction: “I have great hair”. This would’ve set off a chain reaction ultimately ending in belligerent strands raising the white flag. ‘Truce!’ they would’ve screamed and there would’ve been peace on my head.

Alas, head-peace oft appears a mirage in the desert. The search for the oasis continues while I save myself from sandstorms and sometimes contemplate going bold (read bald) in my approach.

If fate has it writ that I shall drink from the great-hair-all-day pool, so it shall be.

And until that day comes, the wild nature of a whole lot of keratin will keep the frizzy groove on.