Just when you thought it could not get worse, Aishwarya Rai’s wax statue from Madame Tussaud’s hit the red carpet at Cannes. Oh wait! The wax statue looks so much better and far less style challenged than whatever it was that haunted the red carpet before the 100 Years of Indian Cinema gala yesterday. It looks like a really distorted fax copy of someone who was once (ostensibly) the most beautiful woman in the world. Did Aishwarya Rai’s suitcase go missing at Cannes, forcing her to dress in the hotel’s curtains and grab Baby Aaradhya’s headband before dashing on to the red carpet? Because, surely, nobody in their right minds would actually step out in public looking like this?
Even Aishwarya – who has a whole history of Cannes fashion disasters behind her – could hardly have believed that this 1980s-Air-India-hostess-meets-fading-Baroque-princess-meets-desi-Batwoman-meets-boarding-school-matron look was a good one? I mean, seriously… ? All that black velvet completely swamping her from head to toe? In summer? Complemented by totally tacky embroidery that actually has no design – just a lot of gold on black? And is that more (ghastly) embroidery or a (ghastly) necklace around what would have been her neck, if the all-enveloping drape of this lehenga-sari actually allowed her to have a neck? All that this embellishment and cut-to-the-jawline round-necked blouse does is put the focus squarely on her double chin. Did someone steal all the mirrors at Cannes, along with the Chopard jewels?
And then there is the jewellery. And make up. Severe, scraped back updo and tiara/headband and dangly earrings and a high neck and blush placed extremely strategically to make her podgy cheeks seem even podgier. Why, Aishwarya? WHY? Overall she just looks far, far older than her years and like someone who is desperately trying to hold on to past glories, despite being well past her prime. Which is really just sad.
Well! That’s Aishwarya Rai for you. But what in the world is wrong with Sabyasachi? Is this the same designer who once set new style benchmarks for Indian women? Six years back, I actually chose my wedding date based on when the Sabyasachi sari I so desperately wanted to wear would be ready. Now, I want to burn all his clothes. Sabya, where is the anti-establishment vibe you channelled so well (being tacky and tasteless is not anti-establishment… it’s just… tacky and tasteless)? What about all the quirky details, which had us poring over a dress for hours? All those gorgeous ethnic revivals and sumptuous fabrics? What about those hauntingly beautiful colours? We trusted you to keep our heads high on national and international platforms. You have let us down. Badly. Very, very badly.
Going back to Aishwarya Rai, my first thought at seeing her in yesterday’s Elie Saab gown was: Thank God! My second thought: There is something wrong when the best you can say about India’s leading brand ambassador is that she is not looking embarrassing. Or garish. Or like something out of a bad Bollywood nautanki (farcical theatre). Are we so used to mediocrity now that dull, drab and frumpy is what gets our sighs of relief?
I don’t mind that she is still looking extra-wide 18 months after giving birth. I don’t even focus on the fact that her arms are so out of shape that this Elie Saab couture creation actually had to be modified to try and hide them. Or that her neck seems to have stretch marks and even the much-widened armhole does not stop the flab from squeezing through. This is her personal prerogative and if a mom wants to spend time taking care of her tot, rather than working out like crazy to fit into someone’s notion of an “ideal woman”, all the better for her!
My problem lies in the way Aishwarya Rai dresses to highlight – rather than tone down – every single of her flaws. The gown is stretched too tightly over her stomach, the embroidery concentrates on the widest part of her waist and the addition of a second panel under the skirt makes everything look super-heavy and unattractively bulky. And what’s with that cathedral train? Doesn’t anybody realise that it just forces the eye to move horizontally, thereby making her hips look so much wider? Taken together, it just makes her look 20 kgs heavier! Look at the original and tell me if it doesn’t look far prettier, floatier and visually lighter?
Then there is the color. Black and brown? Really? With all the beautiful jewel-tones that Indian women carry off so well, was this really the best choice? I think it makes her look sallow and muddy. A fact that is not helped by the hair and makeup. It’s pretty obvious that the hair has been left down and flowy to frame her face and make it look less round. However, it further clutters up the neckline… this is one time an updo was definitely in order. And the act of placing a vivid highlighter on the roundest parts of Aishwarya’s cheeks defeats the purpose anyway!
I much preferred Aishwarya Rai in the Zac Posen skirt, Saint Laurent shirt, Armani belt and Casadei shoes that she wore for the media call earlier in the day. It’s not a show-stopping look but the mermaid skirt makes her frame look curvy rather than flabby, the belt is placed just high enough to create the illusion of a waist, the plunging neckline draws attention away from the jaw and the black-white contrast creates proportions. See, we don’t need Sabyasachi, after all!