- Talk to the expert 0844 879 3960
- Request a Brochure
You can hardly spend a month in India and not be tempted to have a traditional garment fitted. All those small open-fronted shops, with piles of fabric in shades of colours you didn’t even know existed, waiting for you invitingly.
When it comes to fashion in India, there are many choices. Once you have selected your colour, be it a deep red, saffron yellow, midnight blue or magenta pink, you then have to take into consideration the option of patterns. These include flowers, paisley, stripes and dots, all of which breathe life into the fabric. The choice of materials available range from cotton to brushed silk, and each choice you make presents society with a segment of your identity. For example, in India colours can hint meanings, such as red and gold being the traditional colour for brides, and yellow symbolising joy and pride.
It was time for me to journey through the sari shopping experience.
As it turns out, my visit fell within the auspicious season which runs from around November to February, and my Hindi teacher had surplus sari fabric following a wedding. I therefore avoided the potentially overwhelming sea of apparel in many shops, and was presented with a small selection in my teacher’s home. I ran my hands over the beautiful material. My eyes were drawn to a brushed silk splendour; silver, pink and dark blue melting into one. Flowers ran along the borders, blessing the garment with modest decoration. Now that I had selected the actual sari, there was more searching to be done to complete the outfit.
I stepped out into the midday sun, my skin tingling slightly from the heat. Passing the usual lingering cows, street vendors, and rickshaws, I arrived at a shop selling underskirts. The fact that this shop just purely sold underskirts shows the large market for saris. Pulling my chosen sari out of the plastic bag I’d been clutching, I tried to match the colour with an underskirt in the shoebox sized space. I found a purpley-pink one and handed over the equivalent of one English pound.
Next stop was the tailors, where I was measured on the street for the sari top to be made. The length of sleeve, how much midriff to expose, and the deepness of the neck and back, is determined from what is the latest fashion. This is usually reinforced from Bollywood actresses in glitzy magazines, sporting the garments. After the measuring and some arm waving, the tailor made a few scribbles and a rough diagram on a scrap piece of paper. The service only cost around £2, and the top was stitched and finished 24 hours later for me to collect.
The final element to complete the outfit is the jewellery and shoes. The shoes I unfortunately missed out on, and just borrowed some from my teacher. When putting the sari on, the shoes are put on first to determine what length the sari should be before tucking it into the underskirt. The jewellery can be bought from accessory shops which consist of items such as hair decorations, nail files, face creams, and of course jewellery – almost like a chemist except without the medicine.
The jewellery shop should have been a museum. The glass counters were absolutely jam-packed full of goods, the shelves were full from floor to ceiling, and there were clouds of items hovering above from hooks. Wasted space? There was none. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the staff were stumbling over boxes behind the counter.
I bought a pack of bangles to match the sari fabric; clinking glittery hoops in blue, pink, and silver. The man behind the desk chucked the three different coloured stacks of bangles from one hand to the other, producing a particular colour pattern. It was more than a job to him; more like an art. The next task was selecting the bindis, which are stickers to be placed centrally between the eyebrows. Three baskets where whipped up out of nowhere containing sets of bindis in packets, some plain dots, others were in fancy shapes with jewels shimmering in the middle. I went for the latter. Finally, I chose a traditional Jaipuri set of matching necklace and earrings. They were painted in silver and gold, in the form of a heart. My outfit was finally complete.
The whole experience was most interesting, and I found it a great way to create an outfit from scratch. It makes something that is very unique and personal. The shopping also meant that I got to visit different tradesmen and learn a little about their characters. The outfit cost no more than £12 in total, and I had at last achieved my wish of getting a sari. It would soon be time to do this all over again, once a new fashion would wash in from Bollywood starlets.