Travelmag Banner

Settling on a perfect sari

You can hardly spend a month in India and not be tempted to have a sari 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 – flowers, paisley, stripes and dots, not to mention the choice of material from cotton to brushed silk. Colours in India can hint meanings to society, such as red and gold being the traditional colour for brides, and yellow symbolising joy and pride.

It was time I joined in with Indian trends and got myself a sari. My love for India had brought me back again in 2007, to spend a month in Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. I was going it alone and I was only 19. Hindi lessons had been arranged for me during the week to develop my skills in a language I was attempting to teach myself back home. I didn’t fancy shopping by myself, as being a single white female traveller can be quite challenging at times. If there is one thing Indians are brilliant at, it is hospitality – my teacher took me under her wing and this is how I came to fulfil my sari ambition.

The tailor’s shop, Jaipur

As it turns out, I avoided the potentially overwhelming sea of apparel in many shops, as my teacher had a selection of surplus saris following a wedding (my visit falling within the auspicious wedding season that runs from around November to February). My eyes were drawn to a brushed silk splendour; silver, pink and dark blue melting into one. Flowers ran along the borders, giving the garment modest decoration. However, a sari is not the completed outfit – it has many accessories that are essential to wear with it to finish the look.

Passing the usual lingering cows, street vendors, and rickshaws we arrived at a shop selling underskirts. The fact that this shop just purely sold underskirts shows the large market for saris. Matching a purpley-pink coloured underskirt in the shoe-boxed sized space, the money was 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 high up it is from the midriff, and the deepness of the neck and back are determined from what is the latest fashion, usually reinforced from being sported on Bollywood actresses in glitzy magazines. This tailor service only cost around £2, and the man, who is Muslim, (the situation of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus living side by side was nice to see) had it finished within 24 hours of us visiting.

The final element to complete the outfit is the jewellery and shoes (make-up can be worn if wished). The shoes I 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 to have the sari at before tucking it into the underskirt. The jewellery can be bought from accessory shops that consist of items like hair decorations, nail files, face creams, and of course jewellery – almost like a chemist except without the medicine. This shop should have been a museum.

Vibrant colours, Jaipur-style

The glass counters were absolutely jam packed full of goods, the shelves were full from floor to ceiling and there were clouds of items hung above from hooks. I bought a pack of bangles (which were carefully selected colours to match the sari fabric), the man behind the counter chucking different coloured stacks of bangles from one hand to the other, producing an alternated stack of pink, blue and silver bangles. It was more than a job to him; more like an art. Next was selecting the bindis, stickers that are 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 in the middle. I went for the latter. Finally, I chose a traditional Jaipuri matching set of necklace and earrings, painted silver and gold, in the form of a heart. My outfit was finally complete. I was ready to attend a special event in my attire that cost no more than £12 in total, and had at last achieved my wish of getting a sari. Soon, it would be time to do this all over again as a new fashion washes in from a Bollywood star. And that is just for one outfit…!

   [Top of Page]  
 Latest Headlines
Central Asia