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“A girl should be two things – classy and fabulous.” -Coco Chanel.
Let me share a super bizarre fact with you. Okay, not any more bizarre than our “Oooooo Himessss” displaying his usual I’m-such-a-loser prowess in a new movie, but bizarre nonetheless. Here it is – you DO NOT need to make a lot of effort to be classy and fabulous. You DO NOT have to loot a bank or make your dad’s/husband’s head hit through the roof at the credit card bill or beg your boss for a bonus because you need to buy a new dress or sell your soul in order to look good all the time. All you need are a few ever-lasting essentials and a few disposable pieces, and you can make Coco Chanel proud.
I define essentials as the things I would not part with if there was a calamity and I may have to look awesome for the TV nincompoops who may come and ask me – “So, how do you feel after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake?”
Basically, essentials are the rock-solid lighthouses in the turbulent sea of changing fashion trends (nitwit kind of metaphor but you get the gist). They are the “must-haves” you turn to when you have stared at your wardrobe for two whole hours with that existential question on your lips – “Main kya pehnoon?” Even on the days when all you feel like doing is curl up under a blanket and die, the essentials will whistle at you and cheer you up and make you feel like the world is still pretty.
I have come across so many loopy articles about must-haves in every woman’s wardrobe. You know, the same old jazz – black skirt, white shirt, LBD et al. The problem is that we don’t live in the world of those magazine editors. Just like it’s necessary to tweak make-up essentials according to the country, it’s necessary to tweak the usual must-have wardrobe list for the awesome breed that is us Indian girls. Saris, white shirts, shawls etc. are understood items in our wardrobes.
Here’s what ELSE I deem necessary for our classy-and-fabulous list:
1. Patiala Salwar:
Leaving Kareena Kapoor’s crazy teeshirt-Patiala combo aside, this can be a VERY classic item. Unlike a regular salwar, which is basically like a loose pajama, a Patiala salwar with its many wonderful pleats can instantly transform an outfit. Team it up with any kind of kurta and voila, you are the epitome of Indian chic! I am not usually a salwar-kameez kind of person. So, I only have one black Patiala, which goes with my usual kurtas. You can buy one Patiala salwar each in both black as well as white though and not have to worry about your everyday Indian ensembles until eternity – or until your salwar looks like it needs to be used as a dusting cloth now.
2. Ballet Flats:
Admit it. India just isn’t high-heel friendly unless you are a dollar billionaire and don’t need to step out of that chauffeur driven Lexus of yours. We all need flat shoes for days that we need to walk a little to the market or drive our car or go to a college fest or to run after that toddler who just wouldn’t keep still at an outing. Ballet flats are one of the few shoes, which are both comfortable AND elegant. If it was good enough for the impeccably stylish Audrey Hepburn, it ought to be good enough for you. 😉
Alright, so we can’t run around in stilettos, but ballet flats and sandals all the time are boring too. Espadrilles are the perfect solution to that pesky issue. They are among the prettiest of all summer shoes with lovely twisted cord-like sewn wedges that are super comfortable to wear despite being high-heeled. You can pair them any kind of summer outfit imaginable and look glamourous without risking blisters on your feet.
4. Sun Hat:
A sun hat may SOUND ridiculous but it’s one of the best weapons in your arsenal against your many enemies. You can start donning it the moment April comes with its scorching sunshine which seems so cruel after the pleasant warm rays of February and March. Make it your best friend during the entire summer and you’ll be tanned lesser than usual with fewer freckles and sunspots. A sunhat also saves your hair against the sun and pollution and keeps your mane happy. What else do you want from a headgear?
That we definitely need sunglasses in India is as obvious a fact as Rakhi Sawant being ugly plastic all over. The important question is which style to choose – aviators or wayfarers? Which one of these two you choose will depend totally on your personality and style. If you screamed, “Oh my God!” every time Kate Hudson appeared on screen in “Almost Famous” or if you loved Tom Cruise’s look in “Top Gun,” get aviators. Yes, you may also buy them even if you loved wannabe rebel Kangana Ranaut in ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ or Shahid Kapoor’s I-look-like-a-pervert mustachioed look with aviators in “Mausam,” but that would be just sad. If you worship Audrey Hepburn (or even our home-bred style diva Sonam Kapoor), buy wayfarers. Aviators are more suited to a slightly vintage, androgynous look but really, if you carry them off, go for whichever style you want. Just keep it away from bling. Nothing kills a good pair of aviators/wayfarers than poseur kind of reflective glasses.
A blazer is the perfect proof of the theory that makes the world go ’round – what men can do, women can do better. 😀 We stole this piece of wardrobe from men and still wear it with amazing style. In Indian weather, a blazer is your best bet for those pleasant months of November and February when it’s not too cold, but there’s still a nip in the air. It’s unique, it can be both formal and casual, it can be charmingly androgynous, and best of all, it can make you look both sexy and smart. In a world of pedestrian looking cardigans and pullovers, a blazer makes you stand out wonderfully.
It’s my favourite garment ever. It makes me want to stand on my roof and declare myself to be a new superhero every day – Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Darkwing Duck, and sometimes, even Count Dracula. 😛 Although a cape may appear to be an item solely made for superheroes, loonies and eccentrics, it can be wonderfully adapted to the Indian wardrobe. Personally, I find it a good replacement for the drab and boring shawl. It’s a lovely way to add a little flavour to your outfits and on chilly winter evenings when you are attending parties, a cape can be a great outer layer to a sari, dress or gown. Especially on occasions when you want to be stylish but not look like a fashion victim, a cape is your best friend.
8. Wide-Leg Trousers:
You know the archetypal Indian figure, right? We all understand fully well that if we do not take care, we’re going to be more or less voluptuous with a tendency to gain weight on our lower halves. Actually, EVEN if we take care, it’s hard to look like a stick insect with our usual physical characteristics. Say hello to wide-leg trousers. This is another item that women stole from men and wore it better. 😉 If worn with style, wide-leg trousers can hide a multitude of flaws in the figure. Usually, a fitted shirt is the best option. For shorter women, these trousers are a blessing because they not only make your lower half look slimmer, they add length too. For both length and illusion of slimness, wide-legged trousers with narrow vertical stripes are probably the best option. Just avoid pockets on hips. You’re trying to hide the flaws, not make them scream, – “Hey people, look at me!”
Have you been to Paris? If yes, high five. If not, go and Google pictures of French women. The best way to understand the value of a scarf is to observe French women on an any given day. You’ll truly understand the real meaning of a scarf as a style accessory – scarf tied to a handbag, scarf used as a belt, scarf as a headgear, scarf in the neck, scarf even worn as a top! I have always wondered why we Indians are not so innovative when it comes to scarves. After all, we’re the land of sari, a kind of a VERY long scarf (in a manner of speaking) and we have almost half a million ways to tie it. Bah! Better late than never. Let’s begin a revolution, I say. I generally buy silk ones which are available at reasonable prices from any of the 3897558 handloom exhibitions in my city every year. There are also those that we call “stoles,” kind of long pieces midway between scarves and dupattas. Collect them in all sorts of fabrics, styles, colours and designs. Pair them with your salwar-kameez, kurtas, jeans, skirts, flowery dresses and what not. A scarf can instantly add that oomph-factor to an outfit. In hot summer months, use it to protect your pretty face and head from the Yellow Enemy. In winters, cover your slender neck and cherry-red Rudolph nose with it. If you’re wearing a monochromatic dress/outfit, tie a bright scarf to add a pop of colour. On days that you don’t want to wear a scarf, use a gorgeous one to decorate your staid old handbag instead and heaven forbid, just in case you break a limb, use a scarf as a sling like Grace Kelly. 😉
10. Trench Coat:
A Trench coat is a regular in these must-have-items columns and rightly so. It’s a brilliant item. Everyone from Humphrey Bogart to our very own Dev Anand and Audrey Hepburn to Meryl Streep wore it. I have never watched a movie featuring a femme fatale who wasn’t sporting this chic item. In an Indian setting, a Trench can be a very good wardrobe addition. Not only is it classy winter outerwear, but also saves you from getting soaked in those chilly winter showers due to its water resistant properties. It’s also versatile and can go with all of your outfits from saris to A-line skirts.
11. Makeup/Beauty Bag:
This is one item that I do not need to explain. It’s a must-have for every girl on the go and you can stuff it with different items as per your need. Here’s a sample make-up bag checklist.
12. Mad Money:
Strictly speaking, this is not a wardrobe or style-related item, but let’s not be pedantic. Mad money is a habit I acquired from my dad years ago when I was still in school (although I learnt this term much later). Take a few notes of Rs. 500 each along with some loose change, stuff them in a little inside pocket of your handbag and then forget about them. You must ONLY spend that money in case of an emergency and replace it the moment that little pocket gets empty. Mad money is basically any kind of money a girl carries in case she runs out of cash at a shop not accepting plastic money and must buy that pretty dress/pair of shoes/bag/lipstick OR in case she forgets her wallet at that-place-she-can’t-recall and needs to take an autorickshaw back home alone. Basically, in a country like India, with its clinically insane ATMs (I have had my card eaten thrice due to the damn machine’s fault), its “Change nahin hai kya, madam?” culture, its thugs with the grab-that-forgotten-wallet deftness and so on, keeping some mad money is the least you can do to ensure that you’re never left empty-handed.
That is all I can think of for an Indian must-have checklist. Is there anything else that YOU consider essential?
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