Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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In Fashion…The bikini story, the half sari as well

This week’s news is the bikini and Sherlyn Chopra. The bold and the brash and the beautiful girl is all set to launch a bikini line for women.

Sherlyn finds Indian bikinis “pathetic” because they are high waist and ooze no sex. Her own bikini brand will have low waists and necks, and its designs will be provocative to keep “the titillation level high”.

Sherlyn is a shocker all right. The “Red Swastik” girl may have failed on the screen, but she reportedly commands huge mobile downloads. With her oomph and curves, Ms Chopra is known for her bikini binge. “I do not let a single photo shoot escape without wearing one”, she chuckles.

Well, well. But incidentally the Indian woman is still wary of sporting a bikini, and there are reasons. Most Indian women let their flab go wild, eating and drinking the wrong kind of stuff. To boot, they exercise very little, and once married, tend to sink into the bliss of domesticity, just about forgetting that they need to be attractive. So women can look awful in a two-piece swimwear.

Secondly, Indian society still shuns the idea of a skimpily clad woman appearing in public. It is not unusual for us to see fully clothed women frolicking on the beach or even trying to get into a swimming pool. I am yet to come across very many of them in a bikini.

So, where does Sherlyn plan to offload her bikinis?


While Sherlyn tries to push the bikini into the female consciousness, another remarkable dress has almost gone out of it. Called the “Dhavani” in Tamil or “Half Sari” in English, girls and young women usually wore this as an intermediary step between a frock/skirt-blouse and a full sari. Basically, a Dhavani is a long skirt worn below a blouse with a dupatta or chuni thrown over as a sari pallu.

With the advent of salwar-kameez, the Dhavani seems to be disappearing. The salwar-kameez, usually the garment of choice in Punjab and other parts of North India – but which has become very popular in the rest of the country -- is undoubtedly comfortable, but it still cannot beat the grace and allure of the Dhavani.

Interestingly, the salwar-kameez is also beginning to eclipse the sari. One finds most urban women wearing a salwar-kameez as a matter of convenience. Will the sari then translate into just an evening or party wear? Stylists tell me that this possibility is not as remote as one would like to imagine.

So, with Sherlyn shooting her bikini into seductive waters, the sari shoved into mothballed wardrobe and the Dhavani already history or just about, the Indian woman is at the confusing crossroads of fashion. While she would perhaps love to get into a bikini and feel the rush of water, she may not let the sari slip out of her radar so easily. Remember, it can be saucy and sexy, much more so than the two-piece teaser.

(Webposted August 14 2007)