New­ly­wed Mishal Cazmi on her tra­di­tional-meets-modern wed­ding style


Be­fore I got en­gaged, I never scrap­booked or pinned pic­tures of my dream wed­ding dress. Terms like “sweet­heart neck­line” and “mer­maid sil­hou­ette” meant noth­ing to me. My ap­a­thy prob­a­bly had a lot to do with the fact that I al­ways knew that my fu­ture dress would never be a white gown.

South Asian brides like me— Pak­istani Mus­lim to be more spe­cific—tra­di­tion­ally wear a lehenga (a long skirt paired with a blouse and a long scarf known as a du­patta) and usu­ally have more than one out­fit, given the multi-day fes­tiv­i­ties. Along with know­ing the style of what I’d likely wear, I also knew how ex­trav­a­gant it would be. Think tiers of tulle or a be­daz­zled bodice on a white dress is OTT? You’ve never seen South Asian bridal wear in all its glory— in­tri­cate bead­ing and mir­ror work, se­quins as bright as a disco ball and ul­tra-vi­brant colours. The dresses are ut­terly un­apolo­getic in their op­u­lence. South Asian wed­dings are also no place for mod­est pearl ear­rings. When it comes to jew­ellery, you need state­ment pieces: ear­rings, neck­laces and stacks upon stacks of ban­gles.

This was my rough vis­ual un­til I was en­gaged to be mar­ried two years ago. That’s when I went from zero to a hun­dred, car­ing way too much about ev­ery ma­jor and minute de­tail—from the colour of our menus to the va­ri­etals of roses in the cen­tre­pieces. Be­cause my then fi­ancé and I were de­ter­mined to have an in­ti­mate cel­e­bra­tion, we wanted ev­ery­thing—and ev­ery­one—to feel spe­cial.

I found my out­fit for our fam­ily-only cer­e­mony quickly and serendip­i­tously, off the rack at an In­dian bou­tique. The white and gold num­ber (a churi­dar sal­war kameez—the Western equiv­a­lent of a dress over pants) re­minded me of Chanel’s Paris-Bom­bay-in­spired Pre-Fall 2012 col­lec­tion but cost as much as a fancy dress at Zara. I was over-the-moon to have found some­thing so eas­ily. But find­ing my re­cep­tion dress was a whole other mat­ter. I soon re­al­ized that my min­i­mal­ist aes­thetic (my closet be­ing a sea of greys and muted pas­tels) and re­served per­son­al­ity (I avoid at­ten­tion like the plague) were com­pletely at odds with the flashy Bol­ly­wood out­fit I al­ways as­sumed I’d wear. Be­cause our re­cep­tion ex­tended to friends and fam­ily friends, I felt more pres­sure to look the part of a Western bride.

Find­ing the right dress be­came a pre­car­i­ous balanc­ing act be­tween want­ing to hon­our tra­di­tion and stay­ing true to my per­sonal style. I searched ev­ery­where—show­rooms, bou­tiques, e-re­tail­ers and big-ticket bridal wear de­sign­ers like Élan and Sabyasachi (which is like try­ing to wran­gle Valentino cou­ture)—for an out­fit that mixed my con­tem­po­rary likes with my fam­ily’s his­tory. But I came up short.

Even­tu­ally, I came across Toronto-based fash­ion designer Mani Jas­sal’s busi­ness cards at a show­room. She hap­pened to dab­ble in South Asian bridal wear (this year, she launched an en­tire bridal col­lec­tion). Her water­colour pal­ette, del­i­cate tex­tiles and play­ful styling made her work re­fresh­ingly modern with­out los­ing that touch of tra­di­tion. I set up an ap­point­ment.

At Jas­sal’s stu­dio, I sifted through clouds of fabric, choos­ing a di­aphanous blush pink du­patta with gold and pearl de­tail­ing from an ex­ist­ing col­lec­tion and a rose gold se­quined, floor-graz­ing skirt from an­other, ask­ing if she’d swap out the fabric lay­ered un­der­neath for the same pink hue. I also re­quested a cus­tom top in raw silk with em­bel­lish­ments to match the du­patta. Jas­sal lis­tened, took notes and just got it. In the end, it took three months and two fit­tings be­fore I could fully see the dress in all its shim­mer­ing splen­dour. It was ev­ery­thing I didn’t know I wanted when I first be­gan look­ing. I loved it.

When our re­cep­tion day fi­nally ar­rived, I felt like Cin­derella from the very first twirl. I had man­aged to bal­ance that swing­ing pen­du­lum be­tween tra­di­tion and individuality—my choices re­flected me as well as my her­itage. I had wed­ding stilet­tos, but I also had a pair of cus­tom mono­grammed Adi­das sneak­ers in blush pink wait­ing for me to slip into as soon as I hit the dance floor. I’d stacked up on the bling, but my hair stayed loose.

As I stood in front of the mir­ror, while my mom helped put the fi­nal touches on my dress, the per­son look­ing back felt au­then­ti­cally me. What I had cho­sen to wear made me feel beau­ti­ful, con­fi­dent and ready to en­ter the next chap­ter in my life, which is, I sup­pose, ex­actly what the right wed­ding dress should do for you.

“My choices re­flected me as well as my her­itage.”

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