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?
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?
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.