When I first lived with my in laws in Punjab my cousin stitched me all my Punjabi Suits to wear. I didn't know any better at the time as to where I could buy attire that was better suited to my sense of fashion. Given they had gone to the effort of hand picking the material for me I graciously accepted their generosity. So I continued to wear the Punjabi Suits they stitched for me although I felt frumpy.
I would show photos to my in laws of the styles and colours that were more fitting to my style however they would tell me these are designer with designer price tags. Surely there must be somewhere where you can buy affordable yet stylish attire. However since no one shops online they didn't know any better.
On a couple of occasions they made the effort to take me to the market so that I could select my own material. This didn't fare any better given a Punjabi Suit stall at the markets is typically a small room with a row of seats where customers will sit. Along the walls are rows and rows of shelves with neatly folded material that comes in a packet. In this packet is all the material needed to stitch a Punjabi Suit which includes two different materials for the salwar pants and the kameez along with a matching dupatta.
When you arrive at the stall you simply take a seat and let the shop keeper know what style you are looking for. He will then start pulling down packet after packet and showing each one to you individually. There are thousands upon thousands of different styles of salwar kameez yet you couldn't possibly see them all. Not to mention should the shop keeper not understand your vision you will be shown material of no interest to you. Nothing is priced so you then need to haggle for prices.
So shopping at the market for your Punjabi Suit can be exhausting and a nightmare. It was not something that I enjoyed. Eventually I chose any fabric as my expectations were drowned and I lost any hope of finding something for me. Majority of the fabric reminded of me tea towel cloths or curtains with the designs. The only type of fabric available was cotton and I found that to be quite itchy and didn't sit well on the body.
Punjabi's love their vibrant colours and if you do wear a Punjabi Suit and are young then you are to wear bright contrasting colours. Older adults wear more subdue colours like deep reds, olive greens or navy blues. The elderly usually opt for neutral colours such as white, beige or black. When it comes to accessorising with your dupatta and jutti, contrasting colours are best. Though I have always liked to colour coordinate my outfits so that I am not wearing anymore than three different colours in the one outfit. And my accessories also would be of the same colour theme. However in Punjab the more colours, the better.
Wearing salwar pants were extremely uncomfortable to me, as it felt like you were wearing a tent that needed to be tied ever so tightly around your waist to hold them up. Then they were fitted around the ankle so that there is limited movement when you sit or stand. A kameez is designed to be worn figure hugging which made it impossible to breath. Then to wear a dupatta over the top made it all rather suffocating. However many foreigners find it comfortable I prefer wearing a kurti with leggings.
Shopping for jutti didn't go any better as most Punjabi women have petite feet and I am a western size 9. Most retailers only made jutti up to size 6 so it was difficult finding something that was both stylish and fitted my foot.
Towards the end of my stay I was looking to buy souviners for friends and family so did a lot more searching online. Eventually I came across a few decent sites much to my excitement and disappointment. I wish I had found them earlier as they had thousands of stylish designs at a fraction of the designer price. I told my family and friends about the sites and they said that they did know that site but someone they knew bought something and it was terrible quality. So they were put off shopping online and didn't think to recommend it to me. Though if you have an eye for detail it is very easy to spot which products are dodgy. Read more about How To Shop Smartly Online In India.
When it came to visiting my in laws for the second time I decided to buy all my clothes online. I ordered all the material ready for when I arrived in India. The great thing is they also sell stitched attire so you don't need to have a tailor stitch it for you. I was able to buy different styles that weren't commonly worn locally. Cotton wasn't comfortable to me as it was stiff and itchy, so I also could buy different materials such as synthetic materials or georgette which are softer to the touch.
Given I have a bigger bust and not as slender as most local women, I opted for full length kurti's with leggings as this style was more forgiving. The anarkali suit although very beautiful didn't flatter my figure being short and stumpy. So although the models wearing these suits looked gorgeous they looked completely different on me and I stuck to the kurti from then on.
The great thing about shopping in India is they do cash on delivery, so if you have a foreign bank card you can easily get cash out to pay for items. However during my second stay this was useless given the cash crisis. Not a single ATM had cash that I could access and it was difficult finding retailers who accepted international cards. Amazon being a global brand fortunately was one retailer who did accept international cards.
My style went from wearing loose fitting salwar kameez made from Grandma's curtains. To wearing more simple elegant designs of full length kurti's that flowed with your figure. Do you prefer my before or after style?
What has been your Punjabi or Indian fashion sense over the years? Post your before and after photos below in the comments.
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