Tuesday, February 12, 2013


My initial thoughts about purchasing a saree could be described as “nonchalant,” or “disinterested.” After all, I only plan on being in India for a short time and I would probably never have occasion to wear one anywhere but here. The sensible and practical girl in me thought better than to spend money on an item I would probably wear once. I’m not sure where that sensible and practical girl went, because last week this girl purchased not one, but two sarees. Yes, that’s right. I really don’t care if I will ever wear them outside the borders of this fair country, I will have the memories made while wearing them here. Besides, I could possibly use the material for something meaningful once I’m back in my motherland.

The first step to buying a saree is to find a local to go with you. Although not mandatory, I recommend not skipping this step. They will be able to lead you to the good shops, communicate with the proprietor of the shop (this because important when you want them to STOP pulling hundreds of sarees in all the wrong colors off their perfectly organized shelves), and let you know what is a good deal. We (Charlie and I) took along some of the fourth year occupational therapy students when we saree shopping. We had a wonderful time with them and they have quiet endeared themselves to us. Like young sisters to me, those girls are!

The second bit of advice I have is to not go with preconceived ideas of what you want. Go with a color scheme in mind, but be open to other options. Once the sarees start flying off the shelves at you, one or two will catch your eye and if you’re not prepared to be awestruck by the unexpected, you may just pass it by. There are many different types of sarees: silk, cotton, polyester, and blends of all the above. There are all colors imaginable and some will come with embellishments others are as plain as plain can be. Keep an opened mind. Charlie and I had two occasions (a wedding and the Rehab Mela) to purchase sarees for, so we chose ours based on what would be appropriate.

Once the saree is chosen, you will need to purchase a petticoat to wear underneath it and possibly lining for the blouse (depending on the material of the saree). The last yard of the saree will be cut off and used to make the blouse piece. Once everything is purchased, you will be sent (or ushered) to a tailor who will take measurements for the blouse piece. Despite measurements being made, the blouse may or may not fit perfectly. Remain calm and positive. I have determined that the blouses are not meant to be flattering, thus they are covered up by the saree.

The final, and most difficult part of saree securing is learning how to wear the thing. See Step One for this. Find a local. Charlie and I have no problem asking for help these days. When we mentioned that we needed assistance learning how to donn a saree we were straightway directed to Hephzy, a fourth year PT student. We made contact with her, and last Saturday evening she taught us how to wear a saree. The take away message here is that Charlie and I both scored about a 2 on the FIM scale (Max A x2) when it comes to donning a saree. We basically stood in the middle of the room while two or three giggling students spun about tucking, pleating, pulling, and folding yards and yards of material around us. I took photographic notes for each step so that I could repeat the process myself. I am bound and determined to become a FIM 7 when donning my saree by the time I leave here!
... and then you wrap the pallu around and toss it over your shoulder before you pleat the front...
Then you pleat the front part of the skirt piece. Charlie was is fine spirits that night... making everyone laugh.

The last thing to do is arrange the pallu.... that is the hardest part. Especially if there is no one to help out as Angie and Hephzy are here.

Perfecting the pallu. That is Hephzy at work, by the way.

Hephzy and Angie trying to finish wrapping Charlie's saree... but she just wanted to dance!

Not sure why Hephzy leaned out of this photo, but that is Hephzy, Taniya, Angie and Neenu posing with Charlie after  the saree was finally on!
Friday morning we will be donning our sarees and wearing them in public for the first time. We have a seven-thirty wedding to attend that morning, which means we will be waking at five to get dressed. I already envy the ladies who can donn a saree in a matter of minutes.
Adjusting the pallu.

Excited to be wearing my first saree. 

White girls in traditional Indian attire. 

Charlie, Hephzy (our tutor) and I
Despite my initial opinions on purchasing a saree, I am ever so glad I did. A girl can’t help but feel feminine when enwrapped in a saree. And I will probably think of something creative to do with my sarees once I return home. The memories of learning how to wear a saree alone are worth the purchase. I can’t wait to make more memories in my new attire! 


  1. You look GORGEOUS!!! LOVE those colors!!!

  2. I think they're beautiful, Em! Why don't we wear them here? You could start something new for us!

  3. Wow - you look beautiful! from Lisette

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