Saturday, June 8, 2002

Off-shouldered dresses in vogue
Saloni Kaul

The bare-shouldered look has become the latest fad
The bare-shouldered look has become the latest fad

THIS summer, you might switch from silks to cotton, let your hemlines drop or rise, replace reds and blacks with pinks and whites or perhaps, try out stilettos instead of wedges. But on one count, all designers have a common advice to offer: show off a shoulder to your best advantage.

The bare shoulder is the latest fad to sweep the fashion industry across India. So whatever you choose to wear — be it a blouse, a dress, shirt, even a salwar-kameez or kurta — the shoulder’s got to be there and it’s got to be bare!

"I think the shoulder is the most flattering part of a woman’s body," says Monisha Jaisingh, who has worked on an off-shouldered line for her latest collection. "By revealing the shoulder, you can be both revealing and not so revealing. It is not as obvious as the cleavage."

Another designer, Radhika Naik, believes that baring the shoulder has been the most under-exploited aspect of dress designing: "Shoulders have long been overlooked by fashion. When one wants to be sexy, the focus turns to the cleavage, a backless choli or, maybe, a mini."


Arguing that exposing a shoulder can be very elegant and chic, she adds: "Shoulder bones are the most sensuous part of the woman’s body. Besides, bare shoulders also mean minimum accessories because they are so elegant by themselves."

In keeping with this newfound sense of understated sexuality, there’s Priyadarshini Rao with her range of white cotton tops with interesting shoulder cuts. These vary from the highly popular right-to-left diagonal slash to the embroidered versions, including those with a sprinkling of sequins.

Other designers are experimenting with still newer versions such as the stylised sleeveless look, shoulder-less sleeves, the classic bare-left-shoulder numbers and, of course, those naughty spaghetti straps. In fact, every designer of repute is trying to find yet another innovative way of exposing the shoulder.

For instance, Supriya Sikdar’s accent is on the celebration of "feminine charm" with sexy off-shouldered cotton tunics. "I have tried to remain as minimalist as possible, primarily to revive a sense of romance in women’s dressing," she says about her tunics, which have become must-buys for the college crowd in Mumbai.

Malini Ramani’s kitschy collection also makes the most of the romanticism that rules designing concerns this season. There are the usual spangled and beaded tops, besides a variety of floral halters, multi-coloured tie-ups and gypsy off-shouldered dresses.

Likewise, Sangita Sinh Kathiwada’s recent khadi collection has a bare-shouldered line meant for women in their twenties and thirties. In shades of purple and indigo, these constitute tops with cut off sleeves, gypsy blouses and off-shouldered shirts.

There are also well-known designer stores like Gurlz, Westside, Globus, Omo and Oobe which have huge stocks of off-shouldered tops, tie-ups, smocking blouses as well as fairy and butterfly sleeves in fabrics ranging from cotton knits and linen to chiffon, organza and jute.

"It is amazing how a frame of bones has become the new fashion statement this season," observes Radhika Soman, a boutique owner. "As the shoulder becomes the new erogenous zone, the focus has shifted from baring the legs for sex appeal."

Soman points out that most off-shouldered outfits are teamed with trousers, long skirts and even salwars, so as to keep the legs covered. "Or else, they take the shape of long dresses," she explains. "After all, why not bare the arms instead of the legs, if it is sex appeal that has to be projected?"

"The best part of the shoulder-less dresses is that they suit everybody, regardless of the body type," says Sikdar. "You don’t have to be broad-shouldered or particularly bony to carry off the dress in style. I have seen both plump and petite women looking unusually sexy by exposing their shoulders."

But then, there’s one problem, should anybody be expecting that one size can fit all. A shoulder-less outfit must be tailored to perfection, or else there could be embarrassing flaps and folds at the wrong places. So be prepared for some basic alterations while buying an off-shouldered outfit this summer. (MF)