First, there was the baby. Then there was the dress. If you’re a woman, then along with your first sari, first kiss, first Gregory Peck memory (Mackenna’s Gold), you probably have a bunch of memories about the dresses you grew up in. I know I do.

Dress it up: Cover girl Gauri Khan.

I remember the time we were stuck in a white Ambassador on flooded roads on the way to the Tirupati temple. A tree fell just in front of our car that day. Once we reached, we waited, cold and wet, in a long line for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him darshan. I was wearing my favourite green and white checked wide-necked dress with white ricrac and tiny pink embroidered flowers. I decided I would never go back to Tirupati again.

And that’s only one memory.

There’s the dress I wore when I was Minister of England in Class 2, the ones my mother painstakingly hand-embroidered, the red one with a front zipper my aunt bought from London, the pink and white one I was wearing when my two cousins were forced to kiss me on either cheek for a family photograph—you get the point.

Then I grew up and learnt to think. I resolved that when I had daughters, I would make them wear shorts and a white tee. Dresses were unnecessarily fussy, right? And pink was the ultimate female stereotype. There was no hope of escape if you started the indoctrination so young. A few years later, there was the (previously documented) incident of the younger brother who told me I had fat legs. I stopped wearing dresses.

Through my 20s, dresses made the occasional guest appearance, usually at year-end bashes. There were the half a dozen or so black dresses I had collected over the Decembers; the floor-length blue tie-and-dye shift I was wearing when my husband and I first met; the strappy sundress that somehow broke through all my body barriers. But dresses never made it back to centrestage.

Then I saw Gauri Khan on the January cover of Indian Vogue in, what else, a dress. It was a stunner, its satin silk sculpted into red rosettes that wrapped themselves around Mrs Khan in a lingering embrace.

Fashion director Anaita Shroff Adajania, who styled the must-see pictures, says there were many formal evening dresses but the cover girl felt on top of the world when she slipped into this particular one.

A dress can do that, you know.

The dress on the Vogue cover is by British designer Jenny Packham; Liz Hurley wore a floor length, shimmering white creation by the same designer for her sangeet in Rajasthan. But you can get your dress anywhere—Shahab Durazi’s gowns, the floral prints at Mango, the tulip gold dress with large black polka dots and an oversized bow at FCUK. Even the store window below my office in Mumbai’s Dadar had a V-neck green satin dress with a black belt.

This year-end, says Anaita, go super short or super long. Her recommendations: If you have a tanned/ toned body, pick a short dress with skyscraper heels; if you need to hide all that extra food you’ve consumed in the festive season and are feeling not so courageous, pick a long dress that’s tight at the bust before it flows out. But do wear a dress.


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