If you think your used sarees, salwars, and lehengas that have holes, rips, and tears are useless think again. In the coming months, Amma’s Closet will be including a section where you can buy and sell your used South Asian clothing for materials. Because of how ornate South Asian clothing is, the versatility and range of these fabrics are incredible and below are just some of the ways you can repurpose or upcycle your clothes. We are also looking for guest posts for small businesses who upcycle used South Asian clothing and turn them into something amazing. If this sounds like you, please contact us at contact@ammascloset.com.

Here are the 20 ways you can upcycle your sarees:

#1: Table Runner

One of the easiest ways to dress up a table is to add a new table runner. Table runners can instantly change the look of the table, dress up your kitchen or dining room, and keep your tale clean.The Sewing Room Channel has a great video on how to make table runner in 20 minutes with minimal sewing.

Elegant Table Runners
Elegant Table Runners

 

#2: Table Cloth

Similiar to table runners, tablecloths can instantly change a kitchen or dining room table. The sample picture below shows how the border of the saree can adorn a table. The OnlineFabricStore.net has a good video on how to create a tablecloth.

Photo courtesy of Indian Selections.com

#3: Ottoman Cover or Cushion Cover

Ottomans are versatile pieces of furniture that can be used as a footstool, extra seating, or even as a combined seat and storage piece. Do you have an old, worn out ottoman that needs a bit of reupholstering? Or maybe you have a cushion that needs some new fabric after lots of sitting and wear. I like the tutorial on how to create an ottonam pouf from OnlineFabricStore.net.

Recycle Saree Silk Kilim Pouf and cushion
Sumatra 16"x16", Orange

Explore poufs and floor pillows on Houzz

Photo courtesy of Fun and Food (www.funandfood.com)

#4: Placemats

Placemats continue with our theme of dressing up the kitchen and dining table, but it’s amazing how placemats can instantly change the look and feel of your setting. Are guests coming over? Amaze them with unique placemats. Anjalee Sharma does a fabulous job of narrating how she converts her old sarees into placemats.
Embroidered Placemats and Table Runner, 7-Piece Set, Citrus Green

Courtesy of Banarsi Designs (https://www.banarsidesigns.com/)

#5: Fabric Wall Paintings

One of the easiest ways to instantly change a room is to change wall hangings. Wall hangings can liven up your room and change your decor with minimal effort. Get inspired to use your vintage saree that you no longer wear to decorate your home.

Image found on idiva (https://im.idiva.com/)

#6: Bed Cover

Old vintage sarees can make for decorative bed covers and bed spreads. You can quilt different pieces of fabric together to create an original bedspread.Izzy Meimsab shows how quilts are made traditionally.

Image courtesy of NovaHaat.com

#7: Curtains

Like wall hangings, curtains can also instantly change the look, feel, and lighting of a room. Thanks to Woodec for posting a video on how to convert a saree into curtains.

Image courtesy of Saffron Marigold.com

#8: Rugs or Coasters

These categories are combined becasue they use a similiar approach. Did you know by knotting your old clothes, you can make a great door or small rug?Rajni’s Arts and Crafts and Love Yourself have YouTube videos that show how you can use any old clothes to convert to a colorful rug by crocheting old sarees or you can use even less fabric and make them into coasters


#9: Upholstery for Couches and Chairs

You can use various fabrics to upholster chairs or sofas. I had a hard time finding a video that shows how you can do this. If you have done this or found a video that upholsters furniture with left over fabric, feel free to share in the comments below

#10 Pillow Cushions

Pillow cushions are easy to make, store, and change based on your taste and style of the moment. I will try and change out the cushion covers of my couch a couple times a year, and somehow that makes it feel like I have a brand new couch(after I clean it)!This pillow below is from an Etsy store. The DIYMommy has a video on how to make a pillow cover without zippers or buttons


#11 Baskets

Padukas is a great website where you can see how basekts and other items are created from upcycled sarees. Feel free to check out their site: https://www.padukaseboutique.com

#12 Palazzo Pants

Palazzo pants are wide-legged pants that are super comfortable. Slick and Natty has a great video on how to make palazzo pants out of sarees and how to wear palazzo pants.

#13: Purses/Bags

Can a girl ever have too many handbags? Ever realized how easy it is to make your own handbags? Watch the video below on how to turn your unused sarees, salwars, and lehengas into stylish and yet useful purses.

#14: Bangles

Because of the intricate weaving and work, South Asian clothes are great for repurposing into bangles. Thank you to Anira Trendz for permission to repost her video from YouTube on how cut old sarees and glue them into bangles.

If you don’t have old bangles lying around, you can also use plastic bottles. Nails4anam gives a tutorial on how to create a bangle from plastic and then wrap the saree fabric along the plastic. Your ecogreen friends will be amazed at you.

Ready for DIY posted a video showing how she used a simple soda bottle to create the base and then wrap the saree around the plastic.

#15: Scarf/Dupatta

Just cut up your used sareess into different lengths and you have a wide range of scarves to change up your outfits! The video below shows you how to turn your saree into a bolero.

#16: Dress

You would be amazed at how much 6 yards of fabric can convert into a gorgeous dress. I also love this video by Pallavi showing you how you can wrap a saree into various dresses without any sewing.

#17: Turn your Saree into a Lehenga

It is surprisingly not that difficult to convert a saree into a lehenga. The DIYGirl has a two-part video on how to convert sarees into lehengas. Take a look below. It does take some time, but if you are handy with a sewing machine, this is definitely doable.


#18: Long Jacket or Kurta

Like the dress, those gorgeous 6 yards of clothing can be converted into a long sweater, jacket, or kurta. The video by DIYGirl shows how:

#19: Notepads, Phone Cases, or Laptop/Kindle Sleeves

With a little bit of work and additional fabric, you can turn that old saree into a case for your laptop, notepad, or phone.


Photo courtesy of https://www.wonderwardrobes.com/

#20: Yoga Mat Cover”

Want a stylish yoga mat cover that will wow your friends. Check out these yoga mat covers that are made from saree fabric. Chin Mudra has a great site where you can find a variety of yoga mats made from upcycled sarees (https://www.chin-mudra.com/).

We hope you were inspired and enjoyed this post on how to upcycle your sarees. As we mentioned above, the site will soon have a section dedicated to having people sell their used clothing for crafting materials. Feel free to comment below on what you think of this post, and if you are small business that uses upcycled sarees, let us know! We would love to work with you.

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As a professional who has the privilege and opportunity to travel across the world, I have the amazing opportunity to see the national dresses of various cultures. From the colorful prints in Africa to the gorgeous skirts in Southeast Asia to the sarees, salwars, and lehengas we see in South Asia and that are included on this site, these colorful, decorative, and artistic outfits are fun to wear.

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, we live in a world where Western fashion has dominated the office scene, and part of my goal in building this site was to begin a global fashion movement where everyone would feel comfortable wearing clothes from anywhere without fear of being socially rebuked.
And many of today’s top designers draw their inspiration from outfits they seen around the world, except they only become trendy when a large fashion name like Ralph Lauren, Armani or Gucci make the clothes trendy; on top of that you will pay top dollar to buy or wear something similiar if you went to the average European or American department store.

Take the tunic, for example. According to Wikipedia, tunics have actually been around since Greco-Roman times, and in the west, tunics are worn among the clergy and other religious leaders. However, as the article so aptly noted,

“Worn in Indian Sub-Continent, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, [the] tunic is usually referred to as Kurta and is now an emerging women’s top style increasingly liked by many in the West. An Asian tunic is typically adorned with delicate embroidery, bead-work or intricate threadwork as well. Embroidery or thread work on such tunics usually combines threads of many different colors.”

Fashion, like food and music, is often influenced by the interaction of different cultures. So one day, I hope, we can all start to become more comfortable with wearing “ethnic” clothes in the office or outside of the country of origin.

In the meantime, here are some amazing shots of women wearing “ethnic” clothes to the office. And be sure to check out our articles on ways to wear a tunic or a salwar to the office.

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

Photo courtesy of: The African Shirt Company

This woman is pairing this brightly colored blue African-style print shirt with navy blue jeans and boots. Perfect to wear anywhere and still colorful enough to make you standout from the crowd that are all shopping at the same stores and wearing non-original clothes.

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African traditional dress code
Photos courtesy of: Wikipedia commons

More and more in my hometown of Washington, DC, I am seeing women wearing these African-inspired gorgeous paneled skirts all around town.

Local Refugee Art Auction & Fashion Show 2011

Photo courtesy of: Viktoriya Aleksandrov

These Chin Burmese girls, are wearing a colorful short-sleeved top that goes with a matching skirt, for this festive event celebrating refugee women.

Do you have a picture that you can share of you wearing your ‘ethnic’ clothing and rocking it? Feel free to comment on this post or contact us at contact@ammascloset.com.

 

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As someone who travels for work, I am frequently surprised when I visit other countries and see women dawning sarees, or wearing shalwar kameezes to the office, or a lehenga to a party. I once went to a wedding where I met a woman who bought her lehenga from Dubai. This has made me realize that South Asian clothing is probably more universal than I thought. The popularity of Bollywood movies, gorgeous designs, and modesty are appealing to several cultures.

Countries where women wear the

Sareee: Bangladesh, India, Fiji, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Singapore, USA, UK, Australia, and some countries in Africa,

Salwar: The above countries and Iran and Afghanistan

Share your story of how you wear the saree or the salwar! Do you wear it to the office? Contact us at contact@ammascloset.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Anarkali suits vary in different lengths and embroideries and are kind of a salwar suit. Check out our selection of Anarkalis in our salwar section to wear to your next special event.

Green and Red Color Georgette Floor Length Anarkali Dress
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com)

Originating from Lahore, Pakistan and dating back to the Mughan Era, the Anarkali is an elegant 3 piece suit made up of a long, frock-style top, a slim-fitted bottom that is usually covered by the top, and a dupatta.

Anarkali suits owe their name to the fictional courtesan, Anarkali, a courtesan of the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who had an illicit relationship with his son. According to legend, Salim, the son of the great Mughal emperor Akbar and who later became Emperor Jahangir, fell in love with a beautiful courtesan as a young prince. Anarkali, whose title means “pomegranate blossom” (a title bestowed for her beauty) was famed for her dancing skills as well as her great beauty. It is believed that her original name was Nadira or Sharf-un-Nisa. She was supposedly buried alive between two walls by the Mughal emperor Akbar for having the illicit relationship. Today, you can find the possible tomb of Anarkali in Lahore.

While this story  has enamored historians and lay people, the Anarkali dress lives on.

Below are some styles of the Anarkali in different fabrics to show you how elegant these gowns can be.

Cotton Anarkali
Navy Blue Color Linen Cotton Anarkali Suit
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com)

Georgette Anarkali
Mauni Roy Red Color Georgette Embroidered Long Anarkali Suit
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com)

Georgette Anarkali with a vest-style top
Green Color Georgette Embroidered Long Anarkali Suit
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com

Net Anarkali
Peach Color Embroidered Net Long Anarkali Suit
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com)

Raw Silk Anarkali
Beige Color Embroidered Raw Silk Anarkali Palazzo Suit
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com)

Satin Anarkali (with full print)
Blue Color Shaded Satin Printed Long Anarkali Suit
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com)

Silk Anarkali
Pink Color Silk Floor Length Anarkali Churidar Suit
Photo courtesy of Kaneesha USA (http://www.kaneesha.com)

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Many women are baffled on how to wear the sari (or sometimes spelled saree).

The sari  is a rectangular piece of cloth about 5 to 8 yards traditionally worn by South Asian women. Varying in different fabrics from cotton to silk, different colors, and different work (also known as zari), you wear the sari with two other pieces of clothing:

  1. Blouse- this is the short top that has different necklines. We have another post that talks about the different necklines and styles for a blouse.
  2. Petticoat- an undergarment that goes from your waist to the floor and that you tie around the waist. Petticoats closely match the color of the sari so it is not visible.
  3. Safety pins (optional)- to help keep the sari in place

Because the sari is a single piece of cloth draped around the body, it fits women of all shapes and sizes with minimal tailoring.You can drape the sari in different ways. (Check out our other post on how saris can be draped.)

The steps to wear a sari/saree are the following:

  1. Wear the heels you intend to wear with the outfit. Based on your height, you will determine where to tie your petticoat around your waist and drape your sari.
  2. Tie the petticoat around your waist tightly; this is where you will be stuffing the top part of your sari.
  3. Take one end of the sari and begin stuffing the top part into the petticoat and continue stuffing the top part of the sari into the petticoat.
  4. Then start forming the pleats. You can do this by hand or use a pleat maker called sari saheli, which is available in limited stores.
  5. The last step is making the palu or the drapery that will hang on your shoulder. You can drape your sari differently in different styles. We have separate blog post on different draping styles.

If you are like me, its probably easiest for you to learn through a video. Below is a YouTube video on one way to wear a sari/saree. Check out our selection of sarees/saris in our store.

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Admittedly, finding a dry cleaner for your sari can be a challenge. Sometimes you have to go through trial and error and either call or visit your local dry cleaners to see if they will take your sari. The New York Times wrote an interesting article on finding dry cleaners to clean saris for women living in the New York and New Jersey area after Hurricane Sandy.

Why do dry cleaners shy away from accepting South Asian clothing? It largely has to do with the variety of fabrics and metallic work that can make it a challenge.

But here are some tips that can help you find a dry cleaner in your area to dry clean your sari. And FYI, we are thinking of adding that feature to this website to help people more readily identify dry cleaners in their area that will dry clean your South Asian clothing

  1. Do a basic search on your favorite search engine. If I Google “dry cleaners” and “sari” I might get lucky and find some local dry cleaners. Also, try spelling it with “saree” and that might turn up different search results. I usually try the word “sari” versus “lehenga” or “salwar” because I assume if the dry cleaner can dry clean your sari than they can dry clean your other South Asian clothing.
  2. Check Yelp.com or another business directly listing website. Similar to the Google search, I’ve had some luck when I type in the words “dry cleaners” and “sari” or “saree”.
  3. You can try and wash  your sari yourself. If you search on the internet, there are plenty of videos showing you how to do it yourself. But if you are short on time or energy, this might be the last resort option.
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Some of you might be wondering what is the difference between the salwar kameez, the kurta, the kurti, shalwar kaameez, shalwar quameez and the answer is they are all referring to the same kind of dress- a long tunic top with pants. Depending on what region you are from, you may call it differently but it means the same thing. Salwars are loose pajama-like trousers. The legs are wide at the top, and narrow at the ankle so it can fit any size. The kameez is a long shirt or tunic with different collar styles.  The side seams are usually left open below the waist-line and give the wearer freedom of movement. Usually, a salwar kameez is three pieces– the salwar (bottom), kameez (tunic), and a shawl.

Come check out our wide variety of salwars.

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Tunics are versatile tops and great for wearing during the fall, winter, and spring weathers, or if you enjoy wearing long sleeved tops year-round. Below are some tips on how to wear and pair this fashionable yet adaptable piece of clothing.

    1. If you are heavier on the bottom go for a tunic with side slits. The slits will give your hips more space to breathe.
    2. For women who are heavier in the midsection, wearing a tunic that falls just below the waist and with a slender neckline will accent your figure.
    3. For women with the hourglass figures, wear a tunic that cinches at your waists and accentuates your figure.
    4. lFor petite women, wear a tunic that is not too long and falls just below your waist to accentuate your length.

 

Some other tips:

      1. Pair a tunic with skinny jeans or leggings.
      2. If there is a lot of print, forego a necklace. The design embellishes the tunic enough
      3. Add a belt to billowy tunics to add shape and form.
      4. Layer it with a cool jacket. Tunics can be worn alone or layered with shawls.

 

Inspired? Check out some of our tunics

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Though it is worn underneath the saree, the blouse piece is an integral part of enhancing your saree’s outfit.

 

The blouse can be worn in numerous styles. In fact, most fashionistas praise wearing a gorgeous blouse with a plain saree as the trendy-thing-to-do. And similar to how you can change your shirt to create a new style, you can also change your saree blouse design.

 

Don’t know what are the latest blouse styles? The Simple Craft has a great post showcasing different blouse styles. We also really like Gowri’s youtube video showcasing some incredibly innovative blouse styles.Try and revive a used or old blouse with just a  few tweaks.


 

 

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Did you know you can restyle your sari/saree into a beach dress or a maxi dress?  The best part–no sewing or stitching needed, though I imagine a few safety pins can help.

Thanks to Pallavi Acharya for posting a great youtube video on how to do this easily! So get out that old sari and see how you can refashion it into something for the summer!

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Photo courtesy of Anwar Huq, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Today’s blog is about how the sari can help reduce cholera. So if you are thinking about throwing your straggly sari away, think again.

 

Cholera, a deadly diarrheal disease transmitted through water, continues to plague the developing world where it is difficult to access clean drinking water. Most people die from cholera because of dehydration and not from the bacteria itself, given it is treatable through antibiotics.

 

In 2010, researchers from Bangladesh and University of Maryland teamed up and experimented with developing an effective and cheap water filter: a sari folded 4 times. From 1999 to 2000, they went to three villages with high rates of cholera and asked villagers to fold their saris 4 to 8 times and place the sari on brass and aluminum pots, known as “kalash” in Bangladesh. The pots are dipped in the pond, canal or river, and enters the pot through the sari cloth. The villagers were told to decontaminate the sari filters after each use.

 

They found that old saris made of cotton were the most effective in removing the cholera bacteria. The rate of cholera dropped by half and the sari filters removed other germs that caused diarrhea and other digestive problems.

 

The researchers came back to the villages 5 years later and found that nearly one-third of women were still using saris filter for household water.

 

So instead of throwing your used cotton saris away, why not donate them to help families get drinkable water and help reduce cholera in the world.

 

For organizations: If you send or donate saris to South Asia or elsewhere, please contact us at contact@ammascloset.com. We want to partner with you on donating saris from women in the U.S.A.

 

If you like reading medical journal articles, you can find the original research article at the National Institutes of Health or the American Society for Microbiology.

 

If you prefer reading it the less scientific way you can read it on several news sites including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Scientific American, and CNN, as well as others. 

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Outside of celebrities and perhaps South Asian weddings, many non-South Asians have anecdotally expressed that while they love saris, salwars, and lehengas they feel foolish or were told they were foolish for wearing saris. I am here to describe some personal accounts of women who have told me how they grew to be comfortable wearing them in the office or for other occasions. We would love to hear your stories too. By the way, all names have been changed in this post to protect these women’s privacy.

 

Gisele is a woman who works in a multicultural office in international development. She feels she has no issues with wearing a tunic and pants underneath since so many of her colleagues are well traveled. The tunic is a great for office wear because its conservative, clean, and sheik. She even wears a shawl with her tunic to add some style.

 

Jamirah is a woman who attended a Kenyan wedding where both the bride and groom decided to have a full out Bollywood style wedding. Why? Simply because they liked the culture. The bride wore a beautiful, sequin gown and the groom wore a sleek kurta. Unfortunately, she didn’t want pictures posted to share with the world but they had an incredible time and loved their wedding.

 

So what is your story? Tried to wear South Asian clothing at other times and got mocked for it? Applauded for it? Be great to hear your stories on what you think.

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