While much of the world embraced small, minimalist weddings in the past year, Indian brides went into full-blown maximalism—complete with multiple dupattas embellished in heavy jewels and gold. With less of a budget allotted towards guests and a large venue, more was given to the bride’s outfit. But, for all the traditional Indian events and late-night Bollywood dancing our beloved brides had to give up, they made up for it with some of the most colorful and heavily-embellished lehengas we’ve seen walking down aisles than ever before.
Rather than fight against it, Indian brides are leaning into the times we’re living in, making the most of them with some playful twists on long-time classics. Traditionally, Indian brides wear the sacred color of red as a symbol of Mars (the planet in charge of marriage, according to Hindu astrology) and prosperity, but today’s modern brides are donning bright fuschia, shades of emerald, yellow (the 2021 color of the year!), and in some cases all of the above.
To get a grasp on what we can expect to see from our colorful brides this year, we spoke to India’s top bridalwear designers Manish Malhotra, Gaurav Gupta, Ridhi Mehra, Natasha Dalal, and Monica Shah. They talked about the unique silhouettes, timeless fabrics, embroidery, and bright colors we’ll be seeing on brides this upcoming year.
So, if you’re getting married or simply love lusting after bridalwear, below are the trends designers are most excited to see this year.
“This year, we’ll be seeing a lot of long, trailing head veils and adding a double dupatta to most of our looks in new collections,” says Malhotra. His brand has always been about glamour and drama, and this year that will manifest in the form of sweeping, train-like dupattas atop the head.
“The bridal color of the season has to be cerise—it’s part of my new fuchsia obsession!” says designer Gupta. “It strikes a great resemblance to traditional lava red, but exudes undertones of fuchsia.” This color is perfect for the bride who might not want to stray too far from tradition, but still wants a hint of playfulness.
“I’m really gravitating towards outfits that are comfortable. It can be comfortable and still be the outfit of your dreams,” offers Dalal. “If the outfit’s weighing you down, you automatically look a little sad and uncomfortable but when you’re feeling a little bit like you can move around, you glow with more confidence.”
If you’re the bride who actually wants to be able to move around and dance comfortably in their outfit, fabrics like chiffon and georgette, for example, give off total princess vibes without sacrificing comfort.
“I love that this year brings with it the opportunity to experiment,” says Mehra. “In terms of blouses, we’ll be playing a lot with exaggerated sleeves.” If traditional embellishments just aren’t your thing, sleeves like these are a great way to add a luxurious feel without a heavy feel.
"Light gold is going to work really well, because it's something that can carry you from your wedding to your afterparty. Rather than the dozen events we usually have in our weddings, there will just be two or three, so gold is a great, versatile option," says Dalal. Most Indian brides traditionally do a completely different look for their receptions or after-parties, but with most doing one outfit, a color like gold offers the ability to simply change up your jewelry or accessories for a distinct look that will carry you from the traditional ceremonies to the after-party.
Just like Dalal, Shah has been really mindful of the brides taking their look straight from day to evening wear this year. “Garnet is a stunning color to incorporate into your bridalwear look because it looks great both in sunlight and in artificial light. Traditional red doesn’t look great in evening light, so traditional outfits aren’t working anymore.”
We’re working on a lot of pearl and multi-colored embroidery with a mix of pinks and blues amalgamated,” shares Mehra. “Multicolor is something we’re concentrating on because it’s a unique way of adding a bit of dimension to a look.” We’ve seen multicolored looks in fabrics, but multicolored embroidery is extra luxurious for the bride who might be looking for an opulent way to play on the colorful trend.
“Emerald green is such an opulent color. It’s the color of love and hope," explains Gupta. In Indian culture, the heart chakra is represented by the color green—plus, your gold jewelry will look amazing with it.
Ombré may be on its way out when it comes to hair trends, but it is in when it comes to lehengas. Dalal shares, “Ombré has been really exciting to experiment with because of the light-to-dark aspect. Some people go through that question of wondering whether they should do a pastel or darker color, but this way you can get the best of both worlds.”
When dressing her clients, Shah is also really mindful of the wedding theme. “An outfit with longer sleeves adds an elegant, formal touch that’s great for a black-tie event,” she shares. “Something little like adding full sleeves adds to a more regal effect if that’s what your theme is.”
On the flip side, Shah recommends leveraging this year’s love for organza if you’re planning on a more beachy or outdoor wedding. “These kinds of weddings are a joy to style because you can really have fun and experiment. Maybe wear a blush pink or royal blue blouse paired with a light organza skirt. Then, you can have fun with your jewelry and wear something colorful.” This is another great way to easily re-wear your lehenga for future events—dress it up with lots of jewelry or an embellished jacket, or down with a simple white crop top.
“I'm going to be doing more capes so you can get rid of the dupatta and just be comfortable,” says Dalal. What better day to channel your inner Wonder Woman?
“In a refreshing take from monotone lehengas, brides are going to be considering more color-blocked options this year,” says Malhotra. Whether you love playing with colors or are just plain indecisive, there are multiple ways to play with this versatile trend overtly or with more subtle pastels depending on your style.
If you’re an Indian bride who’s ever dreamt of wearing a Met Gala-esque gown, this is definitely your year. “You can expect newer drapes that create exaggerated silhouettes with fabrics like silk organza, opulent fabrics like silk, and many more,” says Gupta.
“I am going to do lots of fun sleeves this year,” Dalal adds. “Sleeves are a great way to add some drama while still being light.” The embroidered pearl and fringe detail on this blouse add a gorgeous feminine touch to the dramatic, off-shoulder sleeves.
“Lace, pearls, and scallops in dupattas will take center stage,” says Mehra. “Organza is really big this year again, too, because it’s such a delicate and beautiful fabric that always looks tasteful on brides.” If you’re still leaning towards a traditional silhouette for your lehenga, a lacey, scalloped dupatta is a great way to have a bit of fun—plus, it photographs beautifully.
“In 2021, we will be seeing a beautiful mix of colors represented by the different states of India,” adds Malhotra. “We’ll take the vibrancy of Punjab and mix it with the opulence of the Mughal era along with the serenity of pastels.” This color concept is perfect for the bride wanting to represent a beautiful blend of different cultures.
“I believe in bringing a cultural shift with the kind of garments that I create,” says Gupta. “When traditional silhouettes seamlessly blend in with contemporary styles, I see a beautiful amalgamation of India and the West.” Hybrid silhouettes like this one aren’t just beautifully feminine and elegant, they also make a statement about Indian culture and fashion.
“You’ll see a lot of gold dori work this year,” says Malhotra. “In our upcoming Ruhaniyaat couture collection, we have introduced it in new colors to make the collection look more Punjabi.” Gold work is a signature staple for brides from the Indian state of Punjab. Introducing gold in a new color palette and with unique patterns is a great way for the modern bride to pay homage to ancient tradition.
“Patterns like chevron and geometric stripes are really in vogue right now,” says Mehra. This particular lehenga has a bit of everything we’re loving this year, from the fuschia color to the ruffles and glittering geometric shapes.
“Gold can sometimes add age to an outfit, so I do think brides now are looking at trendier stuff,” admits Shah. “We’re now finding out that you can still have a regal feel to an outfit without the traditional gold.”
If you’re the bride who plans on wanting to re-wear their bridal lehenga to future events, this trend lends itself to being the perfect base for an array of versatile outfits.
“V necklines are a great choice right now because you can wear it with a lot of heavy jewelry and a thick choker, and it still looks stunning,” says Shah. When it comes to bridalwear, maximalism isn’t just about throwing as many things together as possible and calling it extra—it’s about skillfully finding ways to put everything you love together in a way that’s elegant.
Gone are the days where elegance was synonymous with neutral shades and minimal designs. Malhotra says, “For elegant soirées, we’ll be seeing a lot of extremely exaggerated gowns and puffy sleeves."