Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali to those out there celebrating! This year I was invited to a Diwali party at my friend’s house, and she encouraged all the guests to come in Indian style outfits. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to wear a sari! And me being me… of course, I am making one.

Making a sari is not that tricky. In its most basic form, it’s around 5 metres of material with some trim sewn on, plus a sari blouse which is very fitted and does not reach the waist, and a basic underskirt with a drawstring. The hardest part is really the blouse; my friend told me that these are always custom-made for the wearer. The real difficult part is in wrapping yourself in the sari, making it look good, and not just like you got tangled in some curtains. Luckily I had my friend (an experienced sari wearer) to help me.

Anyway… after many months searching for 5 continuous metres of fabric in any charity shop, I went to Walthamstow and bought 5 metres of (new) chiffon-y curtain fabric from the Textile Centre. It’s cream and teal with flowers printed on a woven satin-y pattern (more pics below). I also picked up some muslin for the underskirt there. Further down the high street, searching for trims, I stumbled into a shop which sold pretty much ONLY Indian-style trims. It was like Aladdin’s cave… completely incredible. I will definitely be back. The trim I settled on was teal and gold, quite wide, and £1 a metre. There were 8.5 metres left on the roll, and I took it all!

So, the sari blouse. They are usually cotton, but I’m cheating a bit and using a stretch fabric. I picked up this ugly blouse in the Scope shop in Walthamstow for £3.95. It’s a perfect cream colour to match my ‘sari’. It’s a kind of permanently crinkled polyester which stretches a LOT.


Here’s a really quick overview of how I made the blouse. I cut it up as you can see above, trying to get the two halves to be roughly the same. I overlocked it together quickly and overlocked the raw edges to finish them, trying not to get too much of a ‘lettuce leaf’ finish, which was a bit tricky. I cut a piece of trim in half lengthways and added it to the cuffs to finish them off. I ended up cutting about 2″ off the hem as well.

Despite the really short time I spent on the blouse, it looks pretty good on. I also made a basic underskirt from two rectangles with a drawstring at the waist. I actually made the mistake of putting some elastic in there, thinking it would be strong enough, but of course it wasn’t. The whole skirt part of the sari is tucked into it so it needs to be really strong.

For the sari itself, I sewed the trim all along the lower edge, up one end, then as far as possible along the top edge, mitre-ing the corners. There wasn’t enough trim to go all the way back along the top edge but you’ll see below that it didn’t matter, as not much of it is visible. Saris are also supposed to have a ‘fall’, basically a piece of (I think) cotton sewn on the inside of the bottom edge of the skirt end to help it hang properly (I think, to weigh it down). Since my trim was pretty heavy and my material very lightweight, and I was short of time, I didn’t bother with this.

I won’t go into massive detail about how to wrap a sari, since I’m not an expert, but essentially: wrap the skirt end around your waist and tuck into your underskirt firmly. Then take the hanging end around yourself and over your shoulder, adjusting to the required length, to help you work out how many pleats you need. Then make the pleats in one hand at the centre front of the skirt. I needed loads and the material was really slippery so it was tricky! Tuck all the pleats into the waistband of the underskirt, and secure with safety pins if needed. Then carefully arrange the rest of the sari – around yourself once then over the opposite shoulder (left shoulder). You can add more safety pins at the shoulder to hold it up, and anywhere else you need.

The biggest problem with my sari, which I hadn’t really considered beforehand, was the width of it. I had just left it the width of the material, which because it’s intended for curtains, is pretty wide. It would have been OK if I was a foot taller (perhaps I should have worn heels), but as it was it left me with about 50cm of material to be tucked in all around my waistband. Not easy when you consider that the slipperyness of the material, and that you have to hold the pleats together while doing it!

Here’s how the whole thing looks.

Here’s a picture that shows the blouse slightly better.

This was SO much fun to wear. I felt like I was in a bollywood movie for the entire night. Diwali is the festival of lights, so of course a Diwali party wouldn’t be complete without…


…Indian sweets and treats!…

…and fireworks!

Happy Diwali everyone – and thanks for a great party, A! :-)



  1. Heather

    How cool is that! Your outfit looks great- good job on the choli top, the stretchy fabric was a brilliant move. Envious of your access to such great stores- we don’t have many shops like that here (Idaho, USA). You looked beautiful!

    • charityshopchic

      Thank you so much Heather. The great thing about London is that it’s very multicultural. Glad you like the outfit, this will definitely be worn next Diwali :)

  2. Joyce

    You look great! I was a bit sceptical about the top when I saw the before picture, but it turned out really well. Diwali is such a beautiful, fun festival.

  3. Agy of Green Issues

    That’s a wonderful refashion, and I love the technique you’ve used to cut out the blouse – would have never thought of drafting it from a shirt! Going to post it up on FB :-)

  4. Audrey

    Great looking sari and top,They look so authentic, I would never have guessed their origins. I buy used and vintage sari’s ( ebay and etsy) to make western style clothes. As you mentioned, a sari is a lot of yardage.

  5. sew2pro

    That’s quite a transformation!

    Thanks for sharing your pics. I love the elephant candles and hate that I missed out on those sweets….

  6. Rekha

    I have no words to praise your talent. Me being an Indian never thought of making a saree blouse from a blouse. You have inspired me to create Indian traditional wear from western formal wear. Thank you so much for your inspiration.

    • charityshopchic

      You are very welcome Rekha, thanks so much for the praise on this project. I certainly hadn’t made anything like it before and really enjoyed wearing Indian dress. I may dig it out again next Diwali!

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