Karachista: The Ram-Leela style guide

Add some desi-girl vibrancy to your wardrobe.

Salima Feerasta November 19, 2013
The mulmul lehengas are embroidered and fall beautifully. Once again a patchwork blouse and a lovely contrast of colours and textures.


Ram-Leela may have its faults as a film, but style-wise it’s a winner. Designer Anju Modi has created some wonderful costumes and the film is full of style inspiration for fashion lovers.

1. The ghagra-choli

The decision to dress Deepika Padukone (Leela) entirely in ghagra-cholis may have been an exercise in authenticity, but as a result, the signature Gujrati costume has never seemed more desirable. Our tailors, bodies and sensibilities may not be able to carry off the sexy, backless cholis Leela wears in the movie, but with less-revealing blouses, this is a trend that is going to have wings. Expect to see multiple versions of the lehenga-choli at every wedding in the foreseeable future.

 Sadaf Malaterre’s lehengas had a certain Ram Leela touch although the embroidery and detailing was missing.

2. Patchwork

Leela’s patchwork blouses were gorgeous. Banarsi fabrics in various colours were placed against silk and cotton. Dabka, zari and mirror work were used on different patches. The play of colours, textures and embroidery was sublime and this is a technique that should translate well to kameezes.

3. Mirrors

Mirror work is set for a comeback. The costumes in Ram-Leela use mirror work in a variety of different ways. A subtle mirror edging to an off-white blouse works just as well as mirror work enhancing colourful embroidery. Get inspired and use mirrors as an unusual accent for formal wear this wedding season.

4. Rang-barsey

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s love of vibrant colours is infectious. The delicious reds, oranges and pinks of Leela’s wardrobe popped on screen. The film is awash with flamboyant colour schemes. Leela’s mustard yellow outfit in her opening scene, the classic red and black of her Holi outfit and the stunning red lehenga she wears for the Nagada song are all striking examples of how to wear colour, and wear it well.

5. Hand-loom

You can’t watch Ram-Leela and not be seduced by the fabulous drape of the outfits. Designer Anju Modi has mostly used a cotton gauze mulmul for the lehengas, a fabric that is difficult to find in Pakistan. Mulmul has a more open texture than lawn and falls very differently. It is traditionally hand-woven and holds its structure well. Pakistanis tend not to consider cotton as a formal fabric but Indian designers have long embraced it. Anju Modi pairs cotton with silk borders, silver work printing, embroidery and more. The effect is exquisite. Pakistanis aiming to get the look should aim to use lightweight handloom cotton, which is most likely to give the desired effect. Check out designers like Fahad Hussayn and Sadaf Malaterre who incorporated cotton outfits in their PFDC L’Oreal Bridal week collections.

6. The layered lehenga

The best lehengas or ghagras are all about volume. Layering can enhance this, and Anju Modi shows how layers can be used to add texture and colour as well as volume. The details aren’t visible in this picture but the heavily-embroidered top layer of this lehenga has a longer printed under-layer. There is a further contrasting layer underneath while a slit in the top layer showcases the pretty print of the second layer — poetry in motion.

This picture has it all — the layered lehenga, the patchwork blouse, popping colours and a sophisticated mix and match scheme.

7. Mix and match

Matchy-matchy outfits look so dated. One of the best things about the costumes in Ram-Leela was the way Anju Modi threw together contrasting colours and textures. For example, Deepika’s outfit for the Ishquiyan Dishquiyan song pairs a navy cotton lehenga with a colourful patchwork blouse and a hot pink silk dupatta. Another outfit contrasts soft blues and greens with an elegant tea pink hue. This trend is the perfect way to give traditional embroidery an edgy and modern feel.

This exquisite lehenga has layers of volume, print and delicate embroidery.

8. The twist

This is a day-to-night hair trend that’s already everywhere. Hair is twisted at the front and then held back in a loose braid or a bun. The effect is elegant and sexy. Watch out for it at mehendis, dinners and even at the school gate.

9.  Pleated jackets

These were a menswear item in the film; though I can’t imagine any man I know wearing them. There was something uber-stylish about the jackets though and they would look great on a woman, paired with jeans. It’s not necessary to replicate the style exactly, but a pleated off-white jacket with a pop of colourful ethnic embroidery is definitely on my winter wardrobe wish list.

An ethic jacket like this would look great with jeans.

10. Statement ethnic jewellery

Leela is much cooler than traditional Sanjay Leela Bhansali heroines and she doesn’t drip with jewellery. Instead, a few striking pieces such as a huge ring or some statement earrings accent her look. The Amprapali earrings Leela wears have been selling like hot cakes. Similarly, the huge earrings on Deepika in the promo pictures for the movie have become an Internet sensation, with various websites offering their own replica versions.

Fahad Hussayn has this Ram Leela look down pat.

Pakistani designers are already up to speed with some of the trends highlighted in Ram-Leela. PFDC L’oreal Bridal Week saw floral lehengas, sexy cholis and cotton lehengas — perfect for anyone wanting to channel Ram-Leela in the upcoming wedding season.

Oxford-grad Salima Feerasta is a social commentator and lover of style in any form or fashion. She blogs at karachista.com and tweets @karachista

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2013.

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K | 8 years ago | Reply

@Asif: Pashtoon and proud... but I take pride in the vibrancy of colors, dancing, music...of India/Pakistan and our history together..

Asif | 8 years ago | Reply

@Mirza: Sindhi, Baloch & Pashtoon were never Indians!! All Sindhi & Baloch have their roots in middle east. Take some history lesson before posting such comments.

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