New ‘Wear Any Wear’ Purchase: Pleated and Polka Dotted Swing Dress

I know, almost for a fact, that we have all been there! We have all been gifted or acquired a gift card for a shop that we do not usually shop in and then proceeded never to use it.  Sure we make a half-hearted effort to stop by when we are passing that establishment – but there is never enough time or a determined will to find something we like.  So we continue to carry the gift card around, bemoaning the fact that we never find anything we like, and the cycle continues.

Well, I have done it!  I had a River Island gift card that had been knocking around my bag for ages and I finally spent it right before I went on holiday. I walked into the store and it must have been my day because I spotted this dress immediately.  I love the combination of the pleats and polka dots in an easy to wear swing cut. It’s an ‘easy to wear’ dress that works great with flats during the day, heels at night and soon tights and boots in the upcoming winter months.  It also has full sleeves so it can accommodate many a layer underneath.

Now you may question my rationale for taking a full sleeves dress to Miami in the summer but hey – it was new so it had to be done.  For it’s US outing, I had paired it with my trusted pair of low heels (perfect for holidays) and some dangly earrings.

It was a windy (hurricane expected) evening when I took these pictures so they are my first set of night pictures.  I hope you like this lookbook and as always, thank you for reading Isha’s Verdict.

Clothes and accessories:

Dress – River Island (I am wearing a size 6 as they run a bit big I think)

A 1971 Wedding Story: Told Through the Wedding Wardrobe that Featured

My parents got married in 1971. The 1971 India-Pakistan war officially started a few days before their wedding but the cards had already been distributed and the caterers instructed. The baraat band played “Dum Maro Dum” from the hit movie ‘Hare Rame Hare Krishna’ which was the rage at the time – an odd choice for a wedding song if the lyrics are considered but Bollywood always reigns supreme.

My parents had an arranged marriage in Punjab and my mother received various clothes from both sides as is customary. Her wedding wardrobe contained various sarees and her mother-in-law (my dadi) who was a clothes enthusiast herself gave her a beautiful selection of sarees which included a  few vintage sarees that belonged to her mother-in-law as a token of family history.  The bride, my mother, who happened to be a naturally organized lady, took great care in storing her wedding clothes in a meticulous fashion. Very recently my friend forwarded me an article from Vogue India that started with the tag line “The secret to a sustainable wardrobe? Knowing how to store your clothes.” I read this and instantly thought of my mom. My mother has always been someone who cares for her purchases regardless of whether they are old or new, cheap or expensive. Growing up, I remember her storing her out of season sarees carefully in a few trunks lined with paper.  She made concentrated efforts to separate her outfits with white paper and keep them out of direct light and humidity. A few years ago, she asked which of her wedding outfits I would like to have and then separated them equally between my sister-in-law and me.

A few weeks ago, I surprised my parents by visiting them unannounced in the US and on my way home, decided to bring my share of her wedding wardrobe with me. It goes without saying that Indian fabrics are stunning and their weaves, colours and styles are a sight to behold.  My mother’s wedding trousseau is now almost 50 years old and I find the sarees and other Indian outfits from that era fascinating.  So much of her wardrobe is still so current and the styles have truly stood the test of time.

Revisit, reimagine and reuse – I have often promoted this line on this blog and I wholeheartedly enjoy reconfiguring clothes that already reside in our wardrobes. In this series of blogs, I want to lookbook my mothers’ wedding outfits to showcase the fashions in 1971 and highlight the timeless beauty of Indian wear. All credit goes to my mother for preserving her outfits so well (the shine of this sari has to be seen to be believed) and I look forward to sharing them with you.

In this lookbook, I am wearing her ‘doli’ saree. This means that this is the saree she wore after the Sikh wedding was over and when she was leaving her home for my father’s house as his bride.  My mother mentioned that in those days in Punjab, most women had a doli suit but my Dadi being a saree fan chose this banarsi organza saree with an all over motif as her ‘doli’ outfit of choice.  The bride wore this saree with a matching orange blouse at the time (with similar sleeves as the purple one) and matching orange sandals.  Unfortunately, those two items have not survived the passage of time.

I wanted to say a big thank you to Aadheekta by Mudra for providing this beautiful traditional jewellery set and collaborating on this post.  Please do check out her Instagram page – she has a beautiful selection of pieces that are well worth the visit. Please quote ISHA10 for a 10% discount.

I hope you enjoyed this vintage saree lookbook.  As always, thank you for taking the time to visit Isha’s Verdict.

Clothes and Jewellery:

All Jewellery – Aadheekta by Mudra – Instagram @Adheektabym 

Saree – bought in 1971 in Ludhiana Punjab, at Kiran Stores

 

Spotlight Series: Presenting ‘Kumkum’ Indian Attire

I often get asked a variation of the following question, “Where is the best place to buy Indian clothes such as sarees, suits, lehengas etc.?” Of course, the correct answer to this question is that there is a variety of establishments and designers in London/England to purchase a great Asian outfit, depending on your needs and tastes.

This line of enquiry prompted me to think that perhaps a ‘spotlight series’ on various retailers/vendors/brands who specialise in Asian clothes and jewellery would prove to be a useful feature for my readers. My aim to feature a variety of Asian clothes/jewellery retailers and present a  snapshot summary of their vision, the products they sell, as well as their customer service policies. This type of feature would provide readers with exposure to multiple vendors that they may not have encountered in the past.

The first company I am featuring in this series is KumKum:

I have looked booked three Kumkum outfits in this post and styled them in the way that I would enjoy wearing these lovely clothes:

Black ‘ready stitched’ embroidered saree: This is the quintessential ‘works anytime for anything’ black saree. The black embroidery is exquisite and the drape lovely.  It’s zippered on the side, so the total time to put it on was under 3 minutes  – this feat alone is exceptional and added to my appreciation of this saree. The saree needed nothing more than some big earrings, a statement ring and some red lipstick. Given that it is winter and wearing a saree always poses the ‘how to stay warm’ question – I have paired it with my black leather jacket. I love the idea of a black leather jacket with a striking black saree, and I think the single colour silhouette works exceptionally well here. My husband said I look like the Punjabi version of the Scottish Widows advert.

Pink lace ‘ready stitched’ saree: Wearing this delicate lace saree with small stone embellishments, I had visions of wafting along a gorgeous lawn attending a chic spring garden party – till the freezing weather brought me back to earth!  I have styled the saree with classic pearls that I think work perfectly with the onion pink lace. I love this embellished blouse, that is both stylish and neutral enough to compliment many an Indian outfit.  My favourite part of the styling is my vintage embroidered pearl handbag that used to belong to my grandmother.

Sky blue net lehenga: This gorgeous lehenga falls firmly in the camp of what I like to call ‘happy clothes’ – clothes that put a smile on your face once you have them on. I have paired it with the same embellished blouse from above (to demonstrate the flexibility of this blouse) and some lovely stone earrings.  I wore this lehenga with flat juttis, and I appreciated just how comfortable this ensemble was to move around in.

Below are details of Kumkum in their own words:

What is your collective vision behind Kumkum? Our vision at KumKum is to be a Design House in London for Indian bridal and occasionwear, known for its design aesthetics. The finish and quality of our garments are exemplary and it does not cost the earth! The customer must be happy and that’s when we rest.

In your opinion, what are your USP/differentiating factors that make Kumkum stand out from the crowd? KumKum brings a collection of affordable fashion that is on-trend with elegant design sensibilities. Superior quality reflects in each element of our designs – be the fabric, structure, embroidery or the finishing. We provide a bespoke service for all garments. We have our own design team in New Delhi to overlook all elements of production. We provide attention to detail and dedicated customer service.
What are the clothing items Kumkum specializes in? A wide range of trendy Indian occasion wear and bridal couture. We have Lehengas, Sharara, Anarkali, Tailored draped Saris, Hand woven sarees and Palazzo suits. Men’s wear includes kurta pyjama and bundi sets in silk. We also have a curated collection of fine costume jewellery to complete the ensemble. Our clients are women and men who love to dress well and enjoy wearing good quality silhouettes.
Can you please explain your customer service policy for my readers – including ordering, delivery and returns? At present, we operate out of Wimbledon and Teddington by appointment. We also host home events regularly at both locations. Every meeting with a new customer entails a walk through of designs as per their need and occasion. We encourage customers to try out clothes so that they also get a feel of colour and styles. For Bridal wear and other big occasions, we also work out mood boards which capture the look in the context of the setting of the wedding.
One can buy off the rack or order bespoke with additional customised changes. We book orders with 50 % advance on confirmation and settle the balance on delivery
As of present no returns are allowed once purchased, as all clothes are tried and seen prior to purchase (we are not yet online).
On bespoke orders, the garment is made to order and fitted to size.
Clothes purchased off the rack need to be altered by the customers.
Contact details:
+44 7983 863852
+44 7448030545
Facebook Page: Kumkum (click here)

A while ago, Kumkum got in touch to ask if I could provide some in-person personal styling tips at one of their open houses.  I found them to be very personable and I was highly impressed with the time they took with their customers to ensure that they understood the needs of the buyer and provided a product that would be exemplary. For the record, I also found their ready stitched sarees were cut and pleated beautifully – the drape was spot on! If you enjoy clothes that are constructed with attention to detail and a quality finish – these are your ladies.

I hope that you have enjoyed getting to know more about Kumkum in my Spotlight Series.  Thank you for reading Isha’s Verdict and I look forward to featuring other brands in the months to come.

My Diwali Outfit: and Recent Travels to Mumbai

As many of you may know from my ‘About’ section and previous posts – our family spent five years in Mumbai a few years ago.  We moved for my husband’s work and when the assignment was over – it was time to come back to London (approximately about three years ago). This October half term gone was our first time back to aamchi Mumbai since we re-embraced the bright lights of the capital.  I was actually nervous about what I would feel when I stepped on Indian terra firma; would I be ecstatic, melancholic or somewhere in between?

I needn’t have worried  – the moment I stepped onto that paisley red carpet at Chhatrapati Shivaji airport – I could feel my heart soaring and a happy Bollywood tune playing in my head (“Saree ke fall sa…” if you must know). It is natural that countries and places we have lived will always have a special place in our heart and minds. Mumbai was that ‘hostess with the mostest’ that took us in with open arms and showered us with love and warmth throughout our stay there.  Going back only confirmed what I already knew – Mumbai is an amazing city which will always be like a second home to me. Also, I have a fabulous set of friends who made this a truly memorable vacation for my whole family.

Now my visit to Mumbai coincided with the run-up to Diwali. Diwali celebrations done right and buying a new outfit go hand in hand – in fact, I think that’s an official festival rule. Also, I take pride in pointing out that during this trip to India, I was spectacularly restrained on the shopping front. I decided that I would purchase only one outfit this trip that would make my womanly heart go pitter patter every time I looked at it. This was the gorgeous ensemble I purchased and I had the opportunity to wear it to the ‘Red Bus’ event while in Mumbai.

I love everything about this outfit  – the flowing palazzos, the beaded fringed blouse and the pièce de résistance  – the flowing silk cape with patches of floral embroidery.  The outfit is eye-catching, fluidly graceful and most importantly, comfortable. I have paired it with my trusted pale pink clutch, silver sandals and a lovely pair of chandelier earrings that I purchased in Santa Cruz market.

A very happy Diwali to you and yours – have a fabulous time celebrating.  I would love to hear about your plans to celebrate this year and of course about Diwali outfits that you may have purchased.  Thank you for reading and a very happy Diwali from Isha’s Verdict.

Clothes and accessories:

Outfit – XON (Pali Market)

Earrings – Silver Queen (Santa Cruz Market)

Clutch – Gucci

 

Clothes and accessories:

Outfit – XON (Pali Market)

Earrings – Silver Queen (Santa Cruz Market)

Clutch – Gucci

 

Chilly Summer Day: Working Monochrome With a Big Belted Lemon Coat

This week gone by, I indulged in an exercise that can be fraught with unexpected drama and dangerous twists and turns – I moved home.  Moving is often a bittersweet experience as the excitement of new adventures is tempered by the empty look of the shell that quickly goes from being a home to just a house on the street. It goes without saying (but I am saying it anyways) that moving home is a great time to declutter and this especially applies to our ever-expanding wardrobes. I often think of my wardrobe as a friendly monster that gobbles up everything I put in its greedy mouth.

This was a great opportunity for me to ‘pump the stomach’ of my friendly monster and I piled into the task with all the conventional wisdom that applies to this topic.  I was going to donate everything I had not worn for over a year, clothes that were tatty and styles I did not care for anymore.  To a great extent, I was successful as I applied a draconian discipline to the dispensing of clothes I no longer required.  However, I found that my resistance to dispose was at its strongest when something was a good fit. This exercise was a strong reminder that of all the great fashion virtues extolled, ‘fit is king’ for me. It reenforced that a fabulous fit is the ‘X factor’ that adds the maximum weight to my self assessment of a look.

I decided to share my recent ‘wardrobe culling experiences’ because I know that the summer sales are in full swing and sometimes the sheer beauty of a big bargain can dull our ability to recognize that an item is not a good fit and should be left where we found it. I am determined not to fall into the ‘bargain’ trap this summer and buy clothes that don’t pass the fit test!

Summer can get a bit non-summer in London and the last few days have been relatively cold.  I find that the perfect solution to chilly summer days is a statement summer coat.  I love the colour and design of this big-belted lemon coat that provides the sunshine on a day that nature chooses not to.

I hope you enjoy this lookbook and have a fabulous weekend! As always, thank you for reading Isha’s Verdict.

Clothes and Accessories:

Shirt- Zara

Trousers – Zara

Coat – Mango

Shoes – Karen Millen

Handbag – Marc Jacobs

Summer Clothes: Casual Indian Wear With Capri Pants and a Salwar

It seems like nature decided to announce the approach of summer in spectacular fashion by giving us a few gloriously sunny days in London (with a lot more sunshine due this long weekend). I am someone who loves truly warm weather and can’t remember uttering the words ‘it’s too hot’ more than three times in my life (two of which were probably said after wandering around Chor Bazar in Mumbai for four hours without food or drink but it was worth it!).

Hot weather also brings with it the season for probably my favourite kind of Indian clothes  – summer Indian fashion. Summer heralds in beautiful Indian clothes in summery fabrics like cotton, mal and chiffon.  Combine these fabrics with delicate embroidery such as Chikaankari work and embellishments like mukaish and the clothes become beautiful pieces of art. Formal summer clothes are gorgeous, however, there is a distinct beauty to completely casual summer Indian wear that really appeals to me. The fabric, designs and colours always remind me of summer in my grandparents house and evoke memories of lassi, mangoes and the comforting noise of a ceiling fan.

Casual Indian wear doesn’t have to be bling and its everyday simpleness makes it extra special.  I have lookbooked two casual Indian outfits in this post that I enjoy wearing.  The first is a pale blue handloom kurta with some white roses embroidered on the yoke.  I would always wear this with a white chikan-cloth pair of pants and a white dupatta to ward off the heat in Mumbai.  Here, I have paired it with a pair of woven silver slip-ons that I would normally not associate with Indian clothes but they seem to work and add to the overall comfort quotient of the outfit.  The second outfit is a typical summer salwar kameez with a short kameez and a Patiala salwar.  Nothing sings summer like a white patiala salwar and the lovely colours and patterns of the embroidery join in the chorus. Juttis are my flat footwear of choice here but I am partial to a pretty pair of kolapuri chappals in high summer.

I enjoy combining a variety of casual summer kurtas with various trousers, palazzos, salwars and churidars. I would love to hear about your favourite outfits to wear in the summer.  Thank you so much for visiting my blog and have a fabulous weekend!

Designer Lookbook: Indian Wear With Jewellery From Kyles Collection

I first had the pleasure of being introduced to Kyles Collection and meeting Rav Dadi at the Asian Bridal Show last year. As I meandered around their booth and admired the jewellery on display, I got the opportunity to speak with Rav. When I explained that I was a general ‘jewellery enthusiast’, he was happy to tell me about their offerings as well as invite me to visit their workshop to see the jewellery being made.

Recently, I took up Rav’s kind offer to visit their showroom and workshop in Forest Gate, London. Visiting the workshop was a unique experience and gave me a real glimpse into the intricacies of making jewellery from scratch. Kyles Collection offers a large variety of fusion jewellery including their signature bridal collections as well as ranges suitable for brides on a budget. They also sell ranges that are perfect for parties and other events.

I am impressed by Kyles ability to cater to the individual needs of their customers and offer a truly bespoke service. They are a great example of what true customization of a product entails. Kyles offer Swarovski crystal combinations in over 80 colours and they are happy to craft their jewellery pieces with the crystal colours that compliment your outfit perfectly. Add to this the 7 plating finishes they offer (all nickel free for sensitive skin) and frankly I am not sure that it gets better than this! This is especially true for Asian brides who may have multiple bridal outfits, with multiple jewellery pieces, to contend with. Kyles encourages brides and their families to make an appointment and bring their bridal outfits into their bridal lounge at their showroom. In this way, they can provide an individualized service to help brides determine the exact jewellery pieces that will work for them, within the confines of their personal taste and budget.

A key factor that is instrumental in Kyles being able to offer this level of customization, is the fact that all their products are made in their London workshop. This has a tremendous impact on them being able to deliver your customized jewellery on time, exactly when and where you need it. Rav told me some hair-raising stories of helping frazzled brides with their jewellery when their original providers had let them down days before the wedding!

What I admire about Kyles is that the passion for their craft is clearly visible in your interaction with them. If you can dream it and articulate your vision; they will try their best to turn your vision into reality. They enjoy what they do, cherish their customers and have a genuine desire to help – that is exactly what I am looking for as a customer!

In this post, I have ‘lookbooked’ two of my favourite Indian outfits with pieces of jewellery from Kyles collection. I adore this pale green and blue suit as it brings together the unusual combination of Lucknow chickankari work with a bandhini dupatta. The pale green beads of the Kyles passa, earrings and hand piece match my outfit perfectly. I can imagine wearing this outfit to one of those ‘minor’ morning wedding functions that are invariably a part of so many Asian weddings. I bought this sari in Delhi on a trip and I absolutely love the bright pink and clean cut crystal work on the sari. One of my special tailors in Mumbai made this lace blouse and I have to admit that it might be one of the best fitting blouses I have ever owned. Unfortunately, he told me that he was going home to his village for a few weeks and then completely disappeared – hope it wasn’t me! Kyles statement crystal chandelier earrings and bracelet are exactly what this sari needs to make a bold style statement.

A big thank to you for visiting my blog and a big thank you to Kyles Collection for collaborating on this post with me!

www.kylescollection.com

Telephone Number:+44 (0) 208 586 0204

 

Reminiscing: In a Blue and Cream Embroidered Indian Outfit

Sometimes, we all find ourselves missing places, people and things (basically we all miss nouns). I was looking at these pictures that were taken during my last summer vacation to the USA and I was startled by how much I was missing California, my family and some warm weather. I think my bout of longing was probably brought on by the extremely cold weather we have experienced over the last few days! Subsequently, in an effort to remind myself how much I enjoy living in the UK, I had a slice of Victoria sponge cake.  That worked well so I thought it best to capitalize on the good times and also ate a hot-cross bun. Now I am missing that scone that I do not have in the fridge…

Let me tell you about something else I miss – I miss those fabulous and frequent ‘clothing exhibitions’ that took place during my time in India. Only an approaching fun festival was needed to hold a clothing and accessories exhibition in Mumbai – it was either approaching Diwali, or it was Diwali, or moving swiftly towards Christmas and so it continued; forming a happy circle of clothing exhibitions all year around. I loved attending those exhibitions as there were always a lot of nice things on display and it was a great chance to hang out with friends.  Let’s face it – nothing says ‘amazing time spent with a friend’ quite like sharing a plate of chaat.  I bought this semi-stitched outfit from such an exhibition that I attended in New Delhi with my cousin.

I instantly loved the cream and blue colour combination that allows the beautiful embroidery to stand out and lends the outfit a certain sophistication. Indian clothes so often come in rich colours that sometimes, it is nice to find an outfit that uses a calmer colour palette to make a statement. I also love the versatility of this outfit as it works so well for so many different occasions.

Everyone has a preference as to whether they are more comfortable being over-dressed or under-dressed in a particular situation. Being the most overdressed person in a room fills me with dread – I would much rather be under-dressed then stand out like the only fool who had nothing better to do then get over-dressed! On this issue, I think this outfit strikes the perfect balance of being squarely in the middle on the ‘dressed up scale’.  That is a great achievement and therefore, it has earned its place of pride in my Indian wardrobe.

Have a fabulous Sunday and thank you for visiting my blog.  Make sure you stop by next week as I have some very exciting posts planned!

Mix and Match: Indian Outfit With a Leather Jacket

I find a great thrill in shopping on the proverbial ‘roadside’. It doesn’t matter what country it is or what is being sold – if it’s make-shift stalls on the edge of a road, edge of a beach or even the edge of a cliff, then I am very interested in browsing their wares.  I think it has something to do with the ‘thrill of the chase’. The almost primal response I feel upon seeing things being sold on a curb-side is that they are going to be cheap and nobody else will have the same thing. These factors make for a heady combination  and the only way forward for a shopping enthusiast such as myself is full speed ahead. Of course, the sensible part of my brain knows that this may not be true but this desire to browse curb-side offerings is the literal application of the term ‘curb appeal’.

I bought this kurta top on the side of the road in Bandra, Mumbai.  It was my first year there and a fellow expat friend and I decided to go exploring near Linking road.  As we walked along, we spotted a man on the pavement selling stuff from a big potli (bag) on the floor. His goods looked interesting and as we got closer we realised that he had some rather lovely looking clothes in that mysterious bag of his. He was pulling out various kurtas and we slowly edged closer in order to get a better look. However, our initial politeness swiftly gave way to a more assertive shopping approach and soon we were asking him to pull out kurtas in every shape and size.  A few minutes later, all bets were off as other women crowded around and soon everyone was trying to help themselves while ‘Houdini with the magic bag’ was trying to keep control of his customers by slapping their greedy grabbing hands away. Eventually, the gleeful grappling led to two kurta purchases by me and one by my friend.

Luckily for me, this impulse purchase fit well and I paired it with a black churidar (leggings) I owned. One day when I was tidying my cupboard, I found this beautiful Kantha work dupatta that I had been given as a present many years ago but had nothing to pair with.  Seeing the kurta and dupatta together, I realised it was a match made in heaven and voila! I had myself a complete outfit!

On a separate note, I have often found that pairing outerwear with Indian clothes can present a unique styling challenge.  While it does get brutally cold in many parts of India, much of Indian wear is designed for warm weather and frankly, I prefer a sari without a big puffer coat on top! I am a fan of the ‘long coat on a sari look’  and of course there are lovely shawls available in every colour and size to help with the cold. A few years ago, I decided to expand my Indian clothes outerwear repertoire by experimenting with non-traditional options such as leather jackets.  The result is that I no longer hesitate to pair conventionally western outerwear with Indian clothes. Sometimes, my pairings look great and other times maybe not so good but at least I can say I tried something new.

I hope you enjoy this look and thank you for reading.  Have a great day!

(Clothes and Accessories: leather Jacket – Marks and Spencer, Sandals – Dune)

 

Old is Purple: In a Crepe Silk ‘Phulkari’ Salwar Kameez

I find that my ‘Indian clothes’ do not get the repeat wear they deserve, as compared to the contents of my ‘western wardrobe’.  While a variety of reasons might contribute to this reality, the bottom line is that I own many beautiful Indian clothes that have only been worn a few times.  Therefore, it truly satisfying to pull out an Indian outfit from the closet and know that its repeat wear figure is in the double digits.

I have owned this beautifully vivid ‘Phulkari’ salwar kameez for well over 20 years. I bought the material in Ludhiana, Punjab and had it stitched for a cousins wedding. It was one of the few times that I made up mind almost immediately in a shop, much to the relief of my mother.

The length of time that you have owned an outfit is a definite factor in the repeat wear equation but it is not the only variable. Why is it that I often come back to this suit despite having worn it umpteenth times?  I think it is because everything about this outfit whispers ‘classic’ in the true sense of the word. The cut and design of the salwar kameez is classic Punjabi wear without any bells and whistles. The fabric is pure crepe and feels like butter against the skin.  The ‘phulkari work’ is beautiful and the colours used compliment each other perfectly. All the outfit needs is a pair of juttis and earrings to look and feel fabulous!

When I wear this suit I am reminded of why the top advice of so many fashion gurus is to buy clothes in classic cuts and high quality fabrics in order to ensure a life time of usage.  I have always enjoyed wearing this outfit over the years and I think it still looks great every time I put it on!

I hope you enjoy this ‘lookbook’ and have a great weekend.  As always, thank you for visiting my blog.

(Accessories: Enamel Earrings – Aquamarine)

 

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