I love to shop. Shopping is actually one of my forms of relaxation. My shopping doesn’t necessarily involve purchasing (although that’s always a bonus); my shopping involves going to different stores, seeing what’s new, considering what looks I’d like to try, trying on a couple outfits, maybe buying something I like. I don’t consider myself a fashionista, but I would classify myself as someone who appreciates fashion and style.
I hoped shopping for wedding outfits would be fun; but, ah, it’s so not.
Yes, you read right. Outfits. Plural.
In South Asian ceremonies, we traditionally wear two outfits: one for the religious ceremony and one for the reception. As you saw in Part 1 of my Indian Fashion 101, when it comes to Indian clothes, variety is the norm and there are limitless options to choose from.
(I promise part 2 and possible part 3 will be posted this week. I spent the day shopping for outfits today, and I need a place to vent!)
Problem is bridal wear is not cheap. It especially hurts when you’ve got two outfits to buy and a mother who is somewhat clueless about styles and typical costs of Indian bridal wear. Yes, I said mother. Traditionally, in Punjabi weddings, parents contribute a significant financial portion to the wedding. So, yes, I’m blessed and damn lucky. However, the financial portion is not necessarily out of generosity, but expectation. Punjabi parents expect to pay for their daugthers’ weddings. Doing otherwise, particularly for my parents, would probably be shameful. Also, traditionally, my mother’s brother (i.e., my maternal uncle) purchases my bridal trousseau, which I am not supposed to see until the actual wedding day. And my in laws purchase my reception outfit, which I also don’t see until the wedding. In these modern times, things are little different in that brides usually choose what they want. My mom has also expressed desire to purchase my outfits and J’s outfit (more details to come). I have told my mom not to worry about the reception outfit; J (i.e., J and I) will take care of it.
Shopping for Indian clothes, in general, does not count as a pleasurable experience. Indian clothes are usually made one size fits all. Alterations are expected. I’m smaller than the norm (hence my name: littlebrownbride), and I’ve gone unique proportions, so trying stuff on is always a sweet pain in the ass, and I feel ugly and distorted.
I’ve been to a few places already. I have a particular style. I’m somewhat picky. I don’t mind spending money, but I like a good deal! Everywhere I’ve been so far, bridal outfits start at $1200. $1200!!! Reception outfits are usually more expensive! Purely out of guilt, I do not feel comfortable asking my parents to buy me one outfit for more than a grand. It’s just incomprehensible to me.
Interestingly, my mother thinks she can buy me a ceremony outfit for $500. $500.$500!!! You do recall that I mentioned in the previous paragraph that most bridal outfits are starting at $1200.
If my mom had her way, she would have me wear something like this:
Pretty. But not bridal. Also, finding an outfit like the one above in a bridal style is close to impossible. Most stores carry lenghas, which look like this:
Most Indian brides request lenghas, so that’s what stores carry.
I’ve been hoping to find something like this:
That’s called an anarkali suit, which is composed of a long top (called a kameez) and tight fitted pants (called a churidaar). Even finding an anarkali suit, which is considerably more bridal, in stores has been challenging. In a store in Little India, there were maybe 100 lenghas displayed. When I requested an anarkali suit, the store employee gave me a funny look, asked me to follow her to the back of the store and watch her as she crawled into the backroom. She came out with one suit–the only anarkali suit carried in the store. It wasn’t even red.
The other problem I’m facing is that many outfits simply have too much bling on them. Again, I’m small. A red outfit (already a powerful colour) with excessive embroidery and loud bling wears me, I don’t wear it. I get lost and I look gross. Not to mention these outfits tend to be pricey.
So, I went shopping today to two stores. Two stores in one day is more than enough. Believe me. I get hungry, dehydrated, and cranky after about 1 hour. We learned that the hard way last week, when I turned into the Hungry LBB Monster after being in one store–which was really a basement in a Mississauga subdivision–for 3 hours. Today, J and I made sure to pack snacks and a bottle of water. It helped me last a long longer.
Our first stop was Zedd’s Boutique. Zedd’s has been operated by Rita Singh for 17 years out of her spacious (and clean!) house in Mississauga. She’s incredibly friendly and soft-spoken. She’s not pushy, but is honest about what looks good and what doesn’t. She also recently rescued the cutest little dog, named Twinkie, from a shelter who kept us company throughout the trying-on process. Anyway, Rita showed me items in my price range. She was up front that most of her bridal wear ranged from $1200 to above $3000 (wtf!), but she showed me some sale items. Well, there was one that J and I loved. It was a lengha, the right red colour, with royal blue stones stitched within antique gold embroidery. The pattern was located all over the lengha. Beautiful. It was the only outfit I’ve tried on that I’ve actually felt like a bride in. And, ladies and gentlemen, the price was right. Unfortunately I didn’t have as much luck with her reception options.
While travelling back from Zedd’s to meet my mom, I called her and described the lengha we liked. My mom replied, in her quiet and what-you’re-telling-me-is-hurting-my-heart-voice: “I thought you wanted to wear an anarkali suit. I don’t want you to wear a lengha.” I channelled my How not to be a bridezilla tips, took a deep breath, and responded, “Ok, mom, I’ve been trying to keep an open mind. I really liked it, but let’s see what they have at the next store.”
I went to Dulhan Fashion, which is located in Richmond Hill with J, my mom, and older sister. Dulhan Fashions has been around for several years, and they are known for custom and unique designs. Shibani Sahney, from Silver Tulip Boutique, has actually been operating out of the Dulhan storefront for a few months now. (I don’t know what happened to the Dulhan team.) Shibani is a delight. She and her mother designed all the pieces in the stores, so there were several unique and trendy pieces. There were many lenghas in the store…unfortunately, none of the ceremony ones did it for me. However, we can custom design an anarkali siut. On the spot, Shibani sketched an example for me…which was eerily quite similar to the vision I’ve been carrying inside my little head. I also tried on a reception lengha that was bang-on. It was a fuschia coloured, heavily embroidered, with antique gold threading, faux pearls. and well-placed bling. Sounds like a lot, but it looked amazing!! J, my mom, and sister all loved it.
The shape of the lengha was like this:
It had a short blouse/choli with a mermaid style skirt. Though my mom liked the look, she didn’t appreciate my exposed navel and kept making efforts to use the dupatta to cover my stomach, which served only to cover the beautiful work on the skirt! Gotta love my mom’s attempt to keep me modest.
Though the lengha was gorgeous, the price wasn’t so pretty. We do, however, have the option to custom design outfits, so there is room to bring the price down. However, there is a downside to custom designing: the outfits orders are sent to India, created there, and then shipped to Toronto 2 to 3 months later. There are no consultations after the order is placed. You basically wait till the package is shipped and what you see is what you get. Suffice it to say, custom designing outfits can be risky. Though you can give specific instructions and detailed drawings, there is always a possibility it will go wrong. And what are you supposed to do with an outfit you don’t really love? It would be too late to design something new, and to buy new outfits, you’d have to drop another couple grand. Ouch! Oh, and to add to the pressure, Shibani can only take orders until April 20 to ensure I get the outfits in 2 to 3 months. After that, I’d have to wait till July to place an order…and that’s cutting it way to close for my comfort (and sanity).
So, I leave Dulhan feeling slightly excited, mostly overwhelmed, and quiety happy that my mom saw how much things actually cost. As we drive to pick up my younger sister at work, J and I were discussing the lengha at Zedd’s with my mom. My mom proceeds to say: “Lenghas are disrespectful in the gurdwara (Sikh temple).”
This is surprising to me. Most women wear lenghas. Lenghas are the norm. Does she mean to tell me every Sikh bride is going around being disrespectful in front of God? What is going on here? Or is she just trying to manipulate me into wearing this: