Today I have a very special Fashion Friday guest – Shobhan Bantwal who has just released THE DOWRY BRIDE, a wonderful contemporary story set in exotic India. It’s available this month from Kensington Books.
Here’s Shobhan to tell us about Henna Designs and Bridal Bangles:
When I realized my publisher was going to use my daughter’s wedding picture, in all her bridal finery, for the cover of my debut Indian novel, THE DOWRY BRIDE, I was beyond thrilled. It was an unexpected treat.
Contrary to popular belief, henna decorations — the traditional vines, flowers and paisleys worn by Indian brides on their hands and feet, are not tattoos, since they don’t involve needles and multi-colored dyes. And they are not permanent. Instead they are intricate designs drawn by a trained artist with a paste made of henna or mehndi leaves. They last no more than two or three weeks.
The decorating process involves hours of painstaking work. The bride needs to sit still and let the paste dry and stay on for several hours, so the color can seep into the skin.
When the caked-up mehndi is washed away, what remains is a lovely red-orange tint that is considered auspicious in the Hindu culture and some other cultures of the East. It blends beautifully with bridal saris, bangles, rings, and anklets, since these typically come in shades of red, orange, and gold.
In recent years, Henna has made quite a splash on the American fashion scene. Europeans and Americans are discovering the beauty of henna and some salons on the East and West Coasts are offering mehndi as one of their services.
What most Americans don’t know is that henna has therapeutic qualities. In hot climates, it cools and soothes the skin. It is a popular hair dye in scorching desert areas like the Middle East, where henna-dyed hair is cooling for the scalp and takes on a pretty color.
For an Indian or Muslim bride, who is expected to be a virgin, perhaps the old-fashioned wisdom in using henna (beyond its aesthetic value) is to keep a nervous bride cool and serene when approached by her enthusiastic groom on their wedding night. This is only my opinion of course….
But what is fascinating is the sari and jewelry that an Indian bride wears. Most Hindu brides wear red silk with gold or silver woven into the fabric and lots of 22 carat gold jewelry. With brides becoming more modern in their tastes, bridal fashions have changed significantly. Many young women wear sexy, backless blouses, and saris that ride low on the hips, leaving the entire midriff and the belly button bare. But no matter how much bridal fashions change, the traditional Indian sari and the intricate jewels and henna will probably continue to adorn a Hindu bride.
**EXCLUSIVE NEWSLETTER LOOP MEMBERS** Remember to leave the secret phrase for a chance to win a SOUTH BEACH CHICAS CATCH THEIR MAN T-shirt. Not a Newsletter Loop Member, then click here to join this free loop for news about my books and exclusive contests!