Are You Sari Yet?

I blame Sanjay Gupta for dragging me away from my studies and back to the bunker. Today, when Dr. Gupta posted a picture on Twitter of the sari his wife was wearing to tonight’s state dinner at the White House – I couldn’t help but be drawn into the fashion maelstrom that marked the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and his wife, Gursharan Kaur. (Sorry Abhi, you can have your fancy dinner menu. Give me saris and ball-gowns any day.) But where to start?

mrs. obama.jpg

Ah, Mrs. Obama. Always the fashion darling. She wore not one – but two desi designers today.

She was tending to her hostess duties in a strapless silhouette with the beads forming an abstract floral pattern that was custom-made by Naeem Khan…She wore a matching wrap, a stack of bangle bracelets on her wrist and dangling earrings… Earlier today for a preview of the event, Mrs. Obama wore a skirt by Rachel Roy, also an Indian-American…Khan told CNN’s Larry King that his goals were to dress the first lady in something “Indian, chic, simple but very glamorous.” [Fashion director of InStyle magazine, Hal] Rubenstein said he was impressed that Mrs. Obama used her fashion knowledge to choose a sophisticated and regal style that paid homage to India without wearing a traditional sari-style dress, which could have come off as a costume next to India’s first lady. [Link]

Rubenstein may be right about the costume part, but I admit I would love to see Mrs. O in a gorgeous sari. Maybe someday. Check out the picture of Mrs. O wearing Roy here. You may remember Rachel Roy when we featured her on SM as one of the fashion industry’s best-dressed, young designers. As for Khan, according to his website, he was born in India and grew up in America, before launching his first collection here in 2003. There were many well put-together outfits tonight. Katie Couric definitely stood out in her royal blue evening gown + sari shawl (help me out here, readers). I liked the fit and elegance of Bhavna Shyamalan’s white with black accents sari, but would’ve loved to see her in something more colorful. According to the fashion blogs I’ve read so far, however, Semonti Stephens, Mrs. Obama’s deputy press secretary, rocked the best outfit of the night - a traditional red lengha that she wore for her wedding. (Although I’ve seen more than one site refer to it as a ‘sari.’) Sari? Lengha? Lengha-style sari? She’s in the last few seconds of this video. You tell me!

Okay, now it’s your turn, SM readers. What was your favorite outfit from tonight’s dinner? Feel free to post links to your favorite outfits in the comments section. What did you think of Jhumpa Lahiri’s outfit? Supriya Jindal? (I say sari is the new black, but I’m a hater.) And if there’s one thing I learned tonight, it’s that I really, really need to learn how to tie a sari. As my mother and several friends pointed out, certain saris were – how do I say it – lacking in the pleating department. (*Coughs, “Mrs. Gupta!”) The Washington Post’s fashion editor, Robin Givhan noted, “It is probably for the best that guests who have never worn a sari before do not choose Tuesday’s state dinner as the moment to start.” So true, Robin. So true. (One mutineer told me, “Can’t imagine aunties not pulling her into a restroom to fix it!”) Although to be fair, perhaps that was shot at a bad angle?


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Also at tonight’s event was singer Falu Shah, shown alongside Taku Hirano and Steve Haney, A.R. Rahman (L-R), who all performed tonight at the White House. I say the real show-stealer was Shah’s simple lengha with its shishas (mirrors) embroidery. Lovely.

Thankfully, there were no fashion faux pas involving errant sari pallus. Except for Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania losing his cummerbund, all was right in the world of fashion tonight. And now back to your regularly scheduled evening gowns. *Yawns.

62 thoughts on “Are You Sari Yet?

  1. “& no one liked Jhumpa?”

    Kinda felt she was buried beneath those nun-like layers of fabric. Something a little sleeker would’ve been more flattering, methinks.

  2. I find it interesting that South Asian women have to wear “traditional” garb while South Asian men almost always prefer a Western tailored suit for formal occasions.

    Gustavo, it’s because Indian men had to work in foreign clothes in their own country to get anywhere professionally for a long time. Everyone got used to the look. Also, please think back to how the Obamas dwarfed the Queen and Prince Philip, it happens to a lot of people. I think you guys are so mean to Rebbeca Gupta, but I have to say I would not be thrilled if my husband posted a picture of my clothes on Twitpics without me in them. Anyhow, I vote for the Shymalans.

  3. I’m a “coconut” as I’m sure most of the ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis) on Sepia Mutiny…

    Speak for yourself, please. After five years of meetups and other events where I have had the opportunity to meet our readers, I could compile quite a list of adjectives to describe their measure; “confused” would never be one of them. Do I call myself a coconut at times, when I ponder my preference for argyle, my proclivity to wear pearls daily, my plethora of monogrammed shit and my precious Georgetown address? No doubt. But I’m not confused about a damned thing.

    Also, an important note for those who may be unaware: we don’t use the term FOB nor do we care for “ABCD”. Both are disrespectful, inaccurate and lazy. Try DBD (desh-born Desi) and ABD (American-born Desi), please. Oh yes, and it’s Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.

  4. Anyone noticed Indra Nooyi in any of the photos published ? I spotted her briefly on television. She was wearing what looked like a vermilion coloured evening gown which seemed to engulf her petit structure completely. A sari would have definitely been a better choice.

  5. Manmohan wears the powder blue turban, as it is India’s official color for heraldry etc. Powder blue, navy and yellow are the colors used by the government extensively.

  6. I just saw Sanjay Gupta’s wife and all I got to say her outfit looks horrible the pink clashes with her pale white skin she just doesn’t look good.

  7. The Obamas, the Fentys and the Shyamalans looked the best by far. They looked fit and fresh, young and glamorous. Beautiful, intelligent and accomplished couples. The Obama’s are in their mid-40s while the Fentys and Shyamalans are around 40. They look younger. Michelle Obama really looks like a top model in that indian-designed gown.

    Has anyone else noticed that the perpetual frown that made her susceptible to the “angry black woman” charge from the paranoid KKK teaparty crowd has disappeared? Must be the magic of botox ;-)

  8. i thought thomas friedman looked great in the nehru jacket, though he may have been trying to be ironic. he’s underestimated as a funny guy. liz hurly raised some eyebrows with the leather sari, though not as many as were raised by sunny leone coming solo, though that perked the interest of many a guest. too bad bill clinton couldn’t make it.

  9. with regards to Dr. Singh and his better half lking gnome-like, not only are they septagenarians, but Dr. Singh is post- cardiac bypass (two of them to boot!). I think they make a lovely couple.

  10. “Has anyone else noticed that the perpetual frown that made her susceptible to the “angry black woman” charge from the paranoid KKK teaparty crowd has disappeared?”

    The frown may have disappeared but they’ll never let go of that charge.

  11. sunny leone coming solo,

    I thought the deal with Sunny Leone was that other people look at her when


    come solo?

  12. I feel MMS wears a blue turban cos the other major colors like red, orange (yikes NEVER), green etc are too political.

    Btw, did anyone notice Sanjay Gupta’s white tie against his white shirt? Katie Couric’s (fabolous) dress seemed to have leftover fabric to make the bow tie on her partner. Bobby and Supriya Jindal wore identical black satin-y cummerbunds. I feel very sorry for Mrs. Gupta. Someone should have guided her wrt the choice and draping of the sari.

    Just my 2 cents :)