…Sari Shopping

The rain has started again, though it’s probably just a preview of the rains to come. I bet we’ll have a few more weeks of relative dryness before the deluge. I went Sari (or sharee, if you want to say it with a Bangla accent) shopping this weekend, and forgot to take photos, so a thousand words will have to suffice for the photo.

There are some moderately western style stores here where expats are welcomed with high prices and a more limited selection in exchange for the freedom to sort through the racks yourself. Of course, you’re still followed closely, and they tidy up immediately after you. I thought it was just a weird cleanliness thing, but after speaking with the owner/manager of one of these shops, it is an effort to cut down on losses from theft. I can’t imagine stuffing a sari, painted trunk or metal elephant in my bag (items that I’ve touched under the close surveillance of a store employee), but apparently the expats who visit Dhaka have sticky fingers. Hard to believe that the relative strength of the dollar isn’t enough. I feel so profiled.

Anyway, while the mister watched Neko, I went with a friend to one of these expat-y shops, and found nothing. They had lots of nice things, but nothing appropriate for the event. So, off to a more traditional sari shop we went.

Traditionally, sari shops in the area act more like the personal shoppers of high end New York department stores. You, the client, sit in a chair while the vendor parades the saris before you. Of course, all the vendors are male, so watching them drape the folds of fabric off their shoulders is additionally entertaining. The vendors stand atop a long low dais that has a kind of sheet-covered mattress on it. They shake open each potential sari, chosen to fulfill the requirements you’ve outlined, and lay it on the dais. It’s got all the fun of hanging sheets out to dry in the sun added to glittery rhinestones and deep colors.

Of course, they want to sell you the nicest saris. My friend really liked one of these high end options, but balked at the $300 price tag, so we asked if we could see something in a similar color but lower price. Their first response was to show us the same sari in a different color. Not quite. Then they went immediately to the cheapest possible sari in a similar color, like something you might buy to give as a charitable donation, about $15. Is there nothing in between, we asked. And, finally, something. Not the same quality as the first, obviously, but very workable, and still elegant for the occasion.

Once you’ve decided, there’s a bit of a price negotiation, if you’re up for it. They gave us 25% off, most likely as an incentive to tell our friends to come to the same shop. Then, it gets folded up in a small flat box, and brought home, unless it needs additional sewing or cutting (as there are occasionally finishing needs on some saris).

On my own part, this was my first sari purchase, as I’d never really needed one, and they can be quite expensive when you factor in all the tailoring, petticoats, accessories, etc. I ended up with one I really love, though it doesn’t fit the “color code” of the event we’re going to. But, really, I’m not going to buy a fancy cream and gold sari that I’ll hate and never wear again (because I look awful in the color), just because someone wants their guests to look similar. I might be the one colorful thorn in the Bollywood dreams of the bride, but I don’t mind that.

Tomorrow, we’re hoping that the tailor will show up to take our measurements and make the shirt and petticoats to match the sari. I chose a beautiful raw silk in a similar hue as the sari. Most saris come with an additional yard or so of matching fabric to make the top out of, but since mine is a netted fabric, that would be quite risqué, a la Madonna in the 80s. There is, however, some trim on the blouse piece that can be transferred to the silk for the full effect.

All I need now is some bling and shoes. I’m worried, as the glitz code here is pretty high. I don’t have anything appropriate for either, and fear the cost/tiny size factors might be a problem. We’ll see. I promise pics of the event by the end of the month!

2 thoughts on “…Sari Shopping

    1. Neko means “cat” in Japanese, and she looked like the lucky golden cats that you see at Asian stores and restaurants on her first ultrasound, so… we called her that.
      As for the sari, it’s a deep dusty aqua, with burgundy and forest green velvet applique, silver and gold sequins and some copper thread embroidery. Sounds tacky when you say it that way, but it’s really pretty; it doesn’t have any rhinestones, so probably not as classy/statusy as it could be.

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