It's all in the details: Zara Shahjahan on designing Bakhtawar's bespoke mehndi dress

Updated 01 Feb, 2021 05:30pm

Maliha Rehman

The beauty is in the personalised touches, some of which are an ode to the bride's late mother Benazir.

Images from Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari and Mahmood Y. Choudhry’s wedding have been filtering out very slowly on the Internet but even the tiniest peek is leading to plenty of excitement. This, after all, is one of the most high-profile political weddings to have taken place in Pakistan in recent times.

Security protocols dictated that mobile phones were not allowed at the venue which is why hardly any images have emerged from the event. For those of us wanting to snoop in from our vantage points at home, this has been a pity. The guest list must have been dazzling and the designer-wear in abundance. Had the pictures come out on social media, we would have zoomed in on them endlessly.

There’s particularly been plenty of curiosity surrounding what the bride chose to wear on her big day. In the few glimpses that we have gotten, we now know that she opted to wear Wardha Saleem on her wedding day and an image posted by the groom, Mahmood Choudhry, revealed that her colourful mehndi outfit was by designer Zara Shahjahan.

An Instagram post by Zara Shahjahan offered some more details: Bakhtawar’s mehndi dupatta was embroidered with the Urdu poem, ‘Woh ladki laal qalandar’, dedicated to her late mother Benazir Bhutto.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

Evidently, as she did at her engagement, Bakhtawar wanted her wedding outfits to have little personalised details that made them unique.

“Bakhtawar was the most easygoing bride that I have ever worked with,” says Zara Shahjahan in an exclusive conversation with Images. “I felt that she had been very close to her mother and wanted her to be a part of her wedding. She specifically asked for the embroidery on the dupatta.”

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

Zara continues, “This was the first time that I worked with Bakhtawar. Her team reached out to me on their own and she referred to a recent bridal shoot that I had done, Ghazal. Bakhtawar had liked the design worn by Eman Suleman. Taking reference from it, I customised the mehndi outfit according to her requirements. She wanted it to be colourful and in fact, the entire theme of the event followed a colour scheme similar to the clothes that she was wearing.”

Designer Zara Shahjahan
Designer Zara Shahjahan

“The lehnga had traditional chata-patti on it. I used patchworks of Sindhi embroidery and mirrors to embellish it. While the dupatta and the lehnga were heavy, the shirt had lighter embellishment on it. It was worked with flowers and at the centre of every flower, we embroidered Bakhtawar and Mahmood’s names. It was all done very minutely which is why it isn’t easily visible in the photographs. I have never believed in over-the-top statements and even with this design, there were little details, meant just for her, that made it special.”

Throughout the designing process, Bakhtawar and Zara didn’t meet, relying on Zoom meetings for communication. “I created toiles and then sent them to her in Dubai for trying out. After that, the final outfit was created.”

Zara also added a little detail on her own: “There is a pouch with the outfit and when she opens it, there is an embroidered portrait of Benazir Bhutto inside it.”

Bakhtawar is a figurehead of one of Pakistan’s most powerful, longstanding political dynasties. What did designing for her on her wedding signify to Zara Shahjahan? “It was an honour,” says Zara. “And she loved the outfit. That meant a lot.”

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