Walk like an Egyptian, again

Jan 29, 2012, 08:07 IST | Anjana Vaswani

Maxis are everywhere! While solid colours dominated the Indian red carpet at a recent awards event in Mumbai, the Golden Globe Awards saw some of Hollywood's top stars draped in arresting prints. With lowered hemlines and bold prints slated to remain in focus in 2012, fashion experts here have adapted the trend to accentuate the Indian form. Here's how to find your perfect maxi print, writes Anjana Vaswani

Maxis are everywhere! While solid colours dominated the Indian red carpet at a recent awards event in Mumbai, the Golden Globe Awards saw some of Hollywood's top stars draped in arresting prints. With lowered hemlines and bold prints slated to remain in focus in 2012, fashion experts here have adapted the trend to accentuate the Indian form. Here's how to find your perfect maxi print, writes Anjana Vaswani

At the Golden Globe Awards held earlier this month, Mexican-American Hollywood actor Salma Hayek wore a stunning Gucci outfit that boasted a regal Egypt-influenced print. At the same event, E! host Giuliana Rancic decided to go with a more dramatic, floor-length gray and black Monique Collignon gown. 

Closer home, on the red carpet and off it, this winter has seen celebrities warm to the trend that hit the ramps at London and New York Fashion Weeks in September last year --  Priyanka Chopra wore a printed maxi to the launch of a celebrity calendar recently (see picture). Just days ago, actor-singer Vanessa Hudgens was seen shopping around in Sydney dressed in a printed orange maxi, accessorised with a waist clinching belt, her hair tied in a casual bun.

"Boho Chic," designer Ramona Narang confirms, is a favoured look with celebrities around the globe right now. "Printed maxis can be accessorised with belts and bracelets to achieve the look, which is all about dressing down rather than up," says Narang, whose Spring/Summer 2012 collection includes vibrant floral prints. To accommodate the Indian form however, Narang's collection isn't limited to floor-trailing gowns. Dresses she showed us from her new collection were either cut off just over the knees or knee-length, with the emphasis clearly on the eye-catching bright prints.

Big prints
Italian fashion label Dolce & Gabbana, whose Spring/Summer 2012 ad-campaigns had models Bianca Balti and Monica Bellucci showing off bright floral printed dresses, had a similar emphasis in its September shows in Milan, where gypsy dresses and even menswear boasted prints reminiscent of bright Versace and Herm s scarves with motifs like gold medallions, crests, butterflies and flowers.

BCBG's current collection, on the other hand, conjures bold geometric patterns by fusing bright, flowing fabrics, while the new collection of Los Angeles designer Pamella Protzel for Ella Moss, a label that's favoured by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst and Cameron Diaz, is bursting at the seams with bold stripes, paisley prints, contrasting prints, crochet, and even ornate, peacock-inspired prints.

Designer Ritika Bharwani, whose label Ritika is stocked at high-end designer boutique Aza at Kemps Corner says that while florals and abstract prints are in vogue, "There's also a bold mixing of prints and daring colour combinations." According to Bharwani, the length of the dress doesn't really matter here. "Maxis and long flowing dresses are in, but so are dresses that cut-off just below the knees."

Talking to us about bold prints and whether they'd suit the Indian frame, she adds, "Nautical stripes and structured shapes are definitely in this season, and these can actually work to flatter the typical Indian figure if the print is incorporated along vertical lines." London's luxury department store, Harrod's too welcomes back bold stripes with a message on its website offering, "Henry Holland's House of Holland collection is sure to kickstart your 2012 look with its eclectic mix of rainbow stripes and hip prints. Try his slouchy maxi dresses or chic prom styles for a bold style statement."

Mumbai does the printed maxi
High-end German brand Marc Cain, located at Bandra and Juhu, and Mango's stores in Mumbai, both, boast an array of bright, printed dresses, catering to very different budgets (Mango's printed Spring/Summer 2012 dresses are priced at under Rs 4,000; Marc Cain's designer range is priced onwards Rs 17,000). But Marc Cain's safari prints are truly extraordinary with Zebras, not just zebra-stripes, featuring on some garments. Black and White Woman, Cain's more formal range combines monochromatic prints beautifully, with a dash of lime green brightening up some designs.

Printed maxi dresses from designer Ritika Bharwani's label
Ritika are available for Rs 12,000 onwards at Aza stores located
at Altamount Road and Juhu Tara Road.

Personal stylist Khushnaz Turner says you're likely to see a lot of lace and crochet as well this summer, paired with bold colours and bright prints. "The great thing about trends like bold prints and lace is that even the least adventurous among us can incorporate these in our wardrobe." While calf-length dresses are immensely popular right now, Turner explains, "One doesn't have to wear a long, printed maxi to keep up with the trend; the best part is that it's easily imbued in an ensemble with a printed accessory, for instance."

Easy on the extras
Designer boutique Ensemble's Tina Tahiliani, meanwhile, believes that Indians can carry off the Boho chic look really well. "Just pick accessories carefully," she cautions. Cecilia Morelli Parikh of multi-brand store Le Mill at Masjid Bunder agrees. "An all-over print would be most flattering for the Indian form," she says, emphasising the need to focus on accessories, as she adds, "En Inde necklaces and beautiful headbands would look fun and natural."

"I would not accessorise heavily patterned dresses with anything over the top," adds Tahiliani, suggesting one opt for only subtle accessories. "A monotone necklace or bag or just a pair of fabulous earrings may work nicely. With a huge variety of mix and match elements -- jootis, scarves, draped pants, tees, silver accessories, belts and handbags -- at one's disposal when combining Western and Indian fashion, the trend affords tremendous potential to create eclectic ensembles."

Turner suggests, "Curvy women can wear dresses that have bold prints on top and flow into a solid colour from the waist down. Maxis would work on them too, but then one needs to define the waist with a belt." Highlighting that, "Prints enhance curves," she adds, "The trend allows you to draw attention away from the parts of your body you don't like." What about Indian men, who typically prefer to play it safe and shy away from making bold style statements? Turner says, "A bright, printed tie could be something even the most fashion-challenged man may be game to try, and these look great with dark suits."

Go for graphics
According to Turner, "The Christmas sparkle hasn't gone out yet. Dresses with a bit of glitter are also very big right now." Model-turned-actor Chitrangada Singh, who attended the Screen Awards recently in a sparkly platinum gown therefore was clearly on the right track, but Turner's statement is also supported by UK brand Topshop's gleaming new Egypt-inspired collection which abounds with rich gold prints, abstract hieroglyphic designs and motifs such as coiled cobras and scarab beetles.

Celebrity designer Azeem Khan's summer collection includes maxis with both, summery, floral patterns as well as embroidered metallic accents. "Chiffons and Georgettes adorned with vivid colours, embroidered as well as in bold retro prints, will dominate this summer," Khan says, adding that there'll always be room for timeless black and white garments. "My new collection includes black and white prints but also has vivid colour-combinations with a lot of bright orange, turquoise blue, lime green, hot pink and bright yellow."

Independent fashion designer Shalini Shahani, whose tunics and dresses are available at Oak Tree, Aza and Mogra in all sizes, confirms that abstract prints and graphic prints are all the rage. Her tunics make this trend accessible to everyone, Shahani feels. "Maxis look great on supermodels with svelte figures and tall frames, but they allow the average Indian woman to enjoy the trend too," she says, showing us an orange and pink tunic with bold swirls and curls and a busier green graphic-printed design. So, which maxi print will you get?

Trend spotting

Sonam did it
Sonam Kapoor poses in a combination of bold prints during a promotional event for her film Players in December 2011. Pic/ AFP PHOTO

On the international ramp
A model wears a printed dress as part of Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2012 in September 2011 at Milan Women Fashion Week. Pic/ AFP PHOTO

Expert tips
Work it for your shape
"Opt for small prints if you have a petite frame, but if you're taller, dramatically printed maxis -- whether florals, polka dots or even safari prints -- will make a great style statement as well as accentuate your height. If you're wider at the hips, opt for a dress with a printed top portion that flows into a solid colour and alternately, if you're top-heavy, the print should flow over the lower half of your body." Vertical pin-stripes are an exception to the rule. "These may actually reduce a frame, but it really depends on how the print is used, so be cautious with that one." For those with fuller waistlines, Shalini Sahani recommends, "Dresses that are fully printed and which are cut off just above the knees."

Work the accessories
A monotone necklace or bag or just a pair of earrings works nicely. Mix and match elements -- jootis, scarves, draped pants, tees, silver accessories, belts and handbags -- offer tremendous potential to create eclectic ensembles, says Tina Tahiliani (see picture above).

The Handbook:
How to wear prints that flatter your body type

1. Small frame: A small frame can easily get lost in a big, overpowering print. Avoid bold or oversized prints, opt for smaller prints instead.

2. Tall women: Statuesque women have the height to pull off large, bold florals -- they can really carry off bold floral print maxi-dresses.

3. Top-heavy womeN: Prints will enhance your shape as they draw attention away from your large chest and maximise your smaller hips. The bold print must be over the lower half of the body, while the top must be plainer. Except with pin-stripes -- here, vertical stripes on the top half that move into a bolder print or a light-coloured single tone from the waist down work well.

4. Pear-Shaped women: If you have a small upper body and a larger lower body, it is best to wear prints on your top half and plains on your bottom half, or dresses with bold prints/patterns and bright colours on top and simpler ones below. An exception to this rule is the use of vertical pinstripes. These are best worn on the bottom half, because they visually elongate, rather than widen the body. Make sure you only wear skinny pinstripes in this area, because widely spaced stripes are not as elongating.

5. Heavy in the middle, a fuller waistline: Wear fully-printed dresses (small prints), just above knee-length.

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