The Indian bride who wore a pantsuit to her wedding
Sanjana Rishi says she recently wore a powder blue vintage pant suit to her traditional Indian wedding "just because I love suits".
But with her choice of wedding outfit, she also made a bold fashion statement - that made many wonder if more brides would ditch traditional attire in favor of the power suit.
In the West, bridal pant suits have prevailed in recent years. Designers advertise pants in their wedding collections and have also received celebrities. Last year Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner wore white pants when she married musician Joe Jonas in Las Vegas.
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But Ms. Rishi's outfit was highly unusual for India - where brides usually dress in silk saris or elaborate lehengas (long combination of skirt, blouse and scarf). The preferred color is red, and many are embroidered with expensive gold or silver thread.
"I've never come across an Indian bride dressed like this," says Nupur Mehta, former editor of a bridal magazine. "Brides usually like to wear Indian clothing along with the traditional jewelry of their mothers and grandmothers.
"That was something very new. And she really stood out."
The 29-year-old Indian-American entrepreneur Rishi married the 33-year-old businessman Dhruv Mahajan from Delhi on September 20 in the capital Delhi.
She had worked as a corporate attorney in the United States before returning to India last year, and the couple lived together for almost a year.
They had planned a wedding in September in the United States - where the bride's brother and most of her friends live - and a second traditional Indian wedding in Delhi in November.
But then Covid happened and their plans were "completely derailed".
Unlike America, India has little acceptance of living relationships, and Ms. Rishi says that while her parents "are incredibly progressive, there has been a lot of outside pressure from friends, neighbors, and extended families to formalize the relationship.
At the end of August "I woke up one fine morning and said, 'Let's just get married'".
Ms. Rishi says that when she thought about getting married, she knew exactly what her outfit would look like.
"I knew I was going to wear a pant suit and I knew exactly which one," she told me.
Ms. Rishi, who "believes in green fashion" and generally buys a lot of used clothing, says she saw the suit a long time ago in a boutique in Italy.
"It was a popular vintage suit made by Italian designer Gianfranco Ferré in the 1990s. I was surprised and pleased to know that it was still available when I decided to get married."
While working as a corporate attorney in the United States, suits were her choice of clothing because all of the "strong modern women I adored" wore them.
"I always thought that there was something very powerful about a woman in a pantsuit. I loved her and wore her all the time."
It also made sense, she says, as the wedding was a small intimate affair that only 11 people attended, including the bride, groom, and priest.
"It was just our parents and grandparents. The wedding took place in Dhruv's backyard. Everyone was dressed very casually, it would have been really uncomfortable if I had put on an elaborate wedding costume. I would have looked so overdressed."
Mr Mahajan says he did not expect his fiancée to show up in a pants suit.
"Until I saw her I had no idea what she was going to wear, but it really didn't matter because I knew whatever Sanj was wearing she would rock it."
In fact, when he first saw her, he says, "I didn't even notice she was wearing pants at first. I just noticed how stunning she looked. She looked angelic, absolutely gorgeous."
"I can go on with more adjectives," he laughs.
Ms. Rishi's wedding outfit has caused quite a stir on social media.
After posting some pictures on Instagram, friends and followers complimented her on how she looked - they called her stunning, beautiful, gorgeous, and "the coolest bride".
Fashion designers and fashionistas also agreed to their choice.
"OMG how amazing you look !!!" wrote designer Masaba Gupta; and Rhea Kapoor, sister of Bollywood producer and actress Sonam Kapoor, described her look as "fantastic".
Anand Bhushan, one of India's most famous contemporary women's fashion designers, told the BBC that he loved Ms. Rishi's outfit and that "it's a beautiful way a bride looks".
"When I saw her photo, the first thing that crossed my mind was," If Carrie Bradshaw [one of the characters in Sex and the City] was Indian, she would dress like this for her wedding. "
But then some bridal reports shared their pictures and the trolls began to destroy them.
In the comments, they said she had given Indian culture a bad name and warned her husband that he was dating an attention seeker who would do anything in the name of feminism. Some said she would never understand Indian traditions because her mind had been influenced by Western culture. Some "even told me to kill myself".
Ms. Rishi says she doesn't understand the criticism because "Indian men wear pant suits all the time at weddings and no one questions them - but if one woman wears them she gets everyone's goat".
"But I think that's because women are subject to ever stricter standards," she says.
And not just in India. The struggle of women to wear pants has been long and fierce and continues around the world. Many cultures, including modern ones, look at women who dare to take off clothes.
Until 2013, it was illegal for women to wear pants in France, although the ban had been ignored for decades.
In South Korea, female students were only recently told that they could buy pants to replace the skirts that came standard with their uniforms.
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"They asked if we would wear clothes underneath."
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Female students in North Carolina, USA, had to go to court to wear pants to school, even in the harsh winter cold. In Pennsylvania, an 18-year-old girl took over and won her school for her right to wear pants last year.
Similar opposition to women wearing pants continues in India.
"Although women in India have been wearing sewn trousers or pajamas outside of major cities for centuries, many conservative families do not allow women to wear trousers or jeans," says Bhushan.
"In a patriarchal society, men have become very insecure about women. As a result, they want to dictate women's behavior, their reproductive rights, how they talk and laugh, and what they wear," he adds.
Although Ms. Rishi says she did not try to make a political statement while wearing a pants suit, she admits that she may have done so unintentionally.
"I realize that not all women, at least in India, are free to wear what they want. After I posted my photos on Instagram, many women wrote back saying that they had the courage to look at my pictures had their parents or in-laws to resist what to wear at their wedding.
"On one level I was delighted to hear this, but on another level I was also a little concerned. I thought, 'Oh no, I am causing problems in other people's lives or in other people's homes.'"
Could a bride wearing a powder blue pant suit inspire others to do the same?
Her unusual choice could "become a spark point - it could go up in flames or become extinct," says Bhushan.
"I hope it will be the former."
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