Beautiful eyes, chiseled cheekbones, liberal values, independent thinking, there is a lot we have inherited from our mothers and grandmothers. But what some of us have forgotten is their fundamental appreciation for fine fabrics and a style that is more enduring than fickle fashion.
Softly teased tresses falling like clouds, a mysterious smile on her lips and diaphanous chiffon draped sensuously over her shoulders. There was a time when this fabric occupied prime position in every woman’s wardrobe with a certain savoir-faire that only the chiffon possesses in abundance.
Delicate and sheer, the chiffon has defined feminine finery and luxury since the 1700’s. Eminent designers, including The House of Chanel, have immortalized the seductive chiffon in their creations. Alexander McQueen captured its ethereal romance in his enchanting dresses, balloon skirts and the skull-print scarf.
Allow the innate elegance of the fabric to speak. Don’t make it too fussy and don’t over-embellish
Or, the Textile Museum in Washington, which displayed stunning chiffon kaftans of Arabian townswomen. (Trivia: It has also lent its name to the light and springy “chiffon cake”, invented by insurance salesman Harry Baker in 1927 who divulged his secret recipe to Betty Crocker in 1948). Legend has it that the chiffon was brought to India by the equally legendary ‘Ma Cooch’, the stylishly dazzling Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar (the mother of another legend, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur). It is said that she first saw this soft, lustrous material in Paris and asked if the available width could be increased to 42 inches. And there it was! The eternal style statement called a chiffon sari.
The fabric caressed every nook and corner of India, marrying itself to her vibrant colors and hues-baby pink and ice blue; warm champagne and cool mint; vivid red and radiant fuchsia; burnt orange and buttery golden yellow; parrot green and indigo blue. It romanced the exquisite rhythms of the land, merging with India’s glorious textures and weaves. Chiffon, in its new incarnations, shimmered across the landscape, plain and shaded, hand-painted and patterned, with and without borders, woven, sequined, embroidered and appliquéd. International designers spoke of India, especially Calcutta (in her prime during the 60’s and 70’s), and said that she looked like a city of flowers with her women in a palette of chiffons.
There is a la qualité mystérieuse of magic and luxury evoked by chiffon on the naked skin. You can use it for elegant evening gowns, sinuously draped dresses and kaftans, chic shirts, stylish scarves, sheer sleeves, flowing pants, billowing skirts, gorgeous nightwear, and exquisite lingerie. It is also used for curtains and lampshades. Allow the innate elegance of the fabric to speak. Don’t make it too fussy and don’t over embellish.
The eternal consort of chiffon is the delicately glistening pearl. Whether a sari or western wear, drape some pearls on the wrists, ears and collarbones for instant sophistication. Stones are also great way of enhancing its luster. When you think chiffon, think contrast! Wear emeralds/sapphires with pink, red, orange, yellow; and rubies with green and blue.
And remember to say a “Thank you Ma”!