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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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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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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The saree is an incredibly versatile garment. It’s a one size fits all that can enhance and shape all women’s figures, not matter their height or size. Below are some ideas on how to drape your sari in different styles to get completely different looks.

 

Looking online, you can find countless tutorials on how to drape the saree. We like some of the excellent youtube tutorials provided by Geetanjali’s YouTube Channel– Learn Music and Arts and you should look her up.

 

We also like the blog post by Shruti Goenka on 7 Different Ways to Wear a Saree with Tutorials for Trendy Newly Brides.

Below you will find some video tutorials, but feel free to check out these resources.

1. Wear a sari like a lehenga

Wear a sari in the Gujarati style

Wear the sari in Maharashtrian style

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Wear the sari in Kerala style

Wear the sari in a mermaid style

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Wear it Rajasthani style.

Check out our selection of sarees/saris.

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For some of us who have never been to an Indian or South Asian wedding, you might be asking yourselves, what do I wear? If there are multiple days of celebration, do I need a different outfit for each occasion? While the customs of each culture vary and its always best to ask the person whose wedding you are going to what is the dress code, here are some tips from someone who has been to multiple South Asian weddings herself.

  1. Don’t go too casual. Generally, Indian weddings are big affairs with hundreds of people and everyone is showing their best.
  2. Be conservative in dress. Like many other religious ceremonies in the world, you don’t want to show too much skin, particularly during the marriage ceremony.
  3. Have fun wearing lots of jewelry! At Indian weddings, people wear lots of bling! Go with what you are most comfortable with, but if you want to wear big, gaudy pieces of jewelry, you won’t feel out of place at an Indian wedding.
  4. You can wear lots of bling in general.  If you have a dress that has lots of sequins, wear it! Beaded work, yes! Embroidery work, yes! Most of the South Asian weddings I went to were an occasion to get as dressy as possible and not feel out of place. So have fun wearing something you might not usually or seldom wear. It’s really a fun time to feel like beautiful in a gorgeous piece of clothing.
  5. Wear lots of colors! Yes, you can wear that outrageously pink outfit and not feel out of place. South Asian clothing generally has lots of colors and people love wearing bright colors for a festive occasion!

 

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Whether you spend $30 or $3,000 on your sari, you want to take care of it properly for years to come to pass it down, wear it again, or perhaps re-sell in the future.

 

Below is a video on how to take care of your saris.

 

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Visiting India (or other South Asian countries), you notice women everywhere are wearing gorgeous, colorful outfits draped elegantly over their bodies. These pieces of clothing, known as the saree, have been worn from ancient times in India since as early as the 7th and 8th century.

Image Credit: Old Ind Photos

The saree is usually a 6 or 9-yard piece of unstitched cloth, with decorations across the border and the body, and comes in a variety of fabrics. In fact, specific regions of India are known for different saree cloths and saree drapery styles.
Saree Fabrics, Dharavi
Photo courtesy of Adam Cohn

Sculptures from about 300 BC show men and women wore rectangular pieces of fabric on the lower part of the body and one on the upper part. During the 7th and 8th century, sculptures and other images showed stitched garments along the breast band and a lower part of the body. In southern Indian, some women did not cover the upper part of their body.

With the Mughal empire influence in the 15th century, Muslim and Hindu women covered themselves more and these outfits created the salwar kameez.

It wasn’t until the 19th century, under British domination, women were encouraged to wear skirts underneath their sarees (petticoats), and tops to more tightly cover their chests (blouses). Before the Victorian Era, Bengali women did not wear blouses under their saris and went bare-breasted, which was not well looked upon by Victorian society. Under the British influence, blouses varied in sleeve structures and necklines.

Fashion comes, goes, adapts, changes, and is modified over time and South Asian dresses have had their fair share of transformations, adjusted to the decorum policy at that time. The question is: what will the South Asian dress look like in the future?

Wedding India Traditional Clothing Saree Women

BBC shared a history of the saree in their magazine, BBC’s magazine.

 

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