Photo of a dress shop in Shimla, India,
by Liz Highleyman.
A few years ago I was thrift shopping on the outskirts of Vancouver, BC, when I saw a rack full of stunning outfits in bright colors with gorgeous embroidery and beading. It was lust at first sight. I wanted them so much, but they were $25 Cdn each, and I honestly didn’t know where I would wear them, so I left them there. And immediately regretted it. I knew they were some sort of Indian clothing, but didn’t really know much more about them.
Then, a couple of years later, I saw a post by Teresa on the Making Light blog, in which she discussed ordering custom-made garments directly from India and Pakistan, via eBay sellers. Specifically, she ordered salwar kameez — an outfit made of a long tunic (kameez), loose baggy pants (salwar), and a long scarf (dupatta). Salwar kameez are popular in India and Pakistan, among other places. They are beautiful on just about any figure type. And salwar kameez, as it turned out, were the suits I saw at the Vancouver thrift store.
So after reading Teresa’s post I thought for a long time about buying a salwar kameez. I kept putting it off, though, because $35 or so seemed like a lot of money for something I wasn’t sure I’d ever wear.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was at Goodwill with a friend, when what should I see but… a salwar kameez. It wasn’t as pretty as the amazing ones I had seen in Vancouver — it was plain spring green cotton with some silver embroidery — but it was pretty. It was marked $7.00 for the whole suit, including a dupatta, but it was also a blue tag, which meant 50% off. $3.50 for a salwar suit! There was no question; I had to buy it. So I did.
At home I wondered how to wear it properly with the dupatta. So I turned to Google, and found this How to Wear a Dupatta web page. I noticed that the model wasn’t Indian — she looks more Irish than anything! This encouraged me a bit, because now that I had the salwar kameez, I wasn’t sure if I, as a non-Indian pale-skinned Northern European type, could wear the outfit without offending someone.
And though I haven’t yet had the nerve to wear one in public — soon, I promise — I have managed to pick up several more of them already, just by browsing eBay and local thrift stores. Today I got three gorgeous kameez for next to nothing at Value Village (see the photo to the left, which shows the fabric) — one of them was the kameez alone (the salwar was apparently with it when it got to VV but gone by the time I found it on the rack), one was a kameez and salwar with no dupatta, and one was the full outfit. The fabric — though wrinkly for the moment — is stunning. The one on the right is peacock blue silk with gold embroidery and beading: very dressy.
So now I just have to wear them. Which is the hard part, because I don’t dress up much, and I will feel very self-conscious. I’m not sure when I will wear them. But I’ve definitely got the bug for these outfits. They are so flattering and pretty — why aren’t they more commonly worn in the West?
(Liz Highleyman’s photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License. Thanks, Liz!)