Planning two weddings meant two dresses, or in my case a wedding dress and wedding saris, and all the shopping trips that come with that! I grew up with photos of my mum in a red and gold sari on her wedding day, so of course I wanted the same. I don’t wear a sari often, but really love it when I do. They are so flattering and you can’t help but feel glamorous when your wrapped in six metres of fabric, covered in jewels! We went to all the places you’d go for saris in the UK; Southall, Wembley, Green Street, we even travelled to Leicester, but I hadn’t found anything I loved. And if I had, it was ridiculously expensive… I’m talking £1500 for one sari, and I needed six! Plus it wasn’t just me, my mum, sister, grandmothers and aunts needed new saris as well. While we don’t have any family in India, I’ve been on holiday over there a few times and have bought a few saris along the way. Because they are made over there, there is so much more variety and they are a hell of a lot cheaper. Even with flights and accommodation we would save money, so we went ahead and booked a ‘shopping trip’ to Kochi! The main shopping areas in India are Delhi or Mumbai, but we did our research and found out that lots of sari suppliers are actually based in the South. You get the same quality and designs all without the designer price tag. Win win! It was exciting to think we were travelling 5,000 miles on a mission to find my wedding sari!
Saris saris everywhere
We started shopping the very first day we arrived, and over the course of the week I must have tried on about 150. I’m really not exaggerating! I pulled some spectacularly terrible faces in these photos, hence the emoji additions. These were just a few photos we took of me trying on potential saris. The pink and blue ombre one was hideous on me!
The sales assistants pull so many out and throw them out in front of you. There are flurries of sparkle and you get to see how much intricate detail is on each, they are seriously like mini works of art. If we were out there for longer I would have had something bespoke made. This tailor was hand embroidering a blouse out of raw silk. The outline of the pattern on paper alone was beautiful, and seeing the design created in thread and beads was incredible.
The hard sell
There is so much competition to sell. I think the assistants must work on commission but they aren’t pushy, well not in Kochi. Because we kept going back to the same shops they knew us by name after a few days and would even serve us tea… we definitely took over a little bit! You’d assume it would be women working in the shops, but there were lots of men too. This guy wrapped saris like a pro, he definitely put me to shame. And because we liked so many but couldn’t decide, he tried one on so we could compare it with others!
Saris look like complicated to wear, but it’s really all about how you wrap it around you. A sari is basically a six-metre piece of fabric. It’s an amazing colour and has a ton of embroidery on it, but that’s all it is. You wear a long petticoat and a blouse, which is essentially a fancy crop top, and then wrap the sari fabric around you pleating it along the way. There are loads of YouTube videos to show you how. We ended up buying a few more than we needed! You can see just a few of our buys folded on our hotel bed before we packed them up to bring home below. Each sari comes with a ‘blouse piece’ of fabric, so you can tailor make a matching blouse for a sari if you want. For this you need to buy a lining fabric. This photo below was a small section of wall in one of the shops, I loved all the colours and spent ages umming and ahhing choosing mine!
Being a tourist
There are some really pretty parts of Kochi, so we took an afternoon off shopping to do touristy stuff. We took a rickshaw (one my favourite modes of transport ever) to see the big fishing nets and have a fancy lunch. You can buy freshly caught fish from fisherman who line the streets, and take it any of the restaurants nearby where they’ll cook it for you. Looking back, it was so nice to spend that time with my family, despite being super busy it was so much fun, kind of like a hen holiday.
Dan and I want to visit India together, he’s never been before and I definitely wouldn’t mind going again… And next time I won’t need to step foot in a sari shop!