Clothes shopping – Nepali style

As I’ve been settling into my second week living here in Nepal I have been taking part in all sorts of local activities. I hope to finish a series of posts about my initial adventures in the next few days. To start with; clothes shopping – Nepali style

For those of you who know me personally, you will well know that shopping is about my least favourite pastime. By the sheer need to clothe myself in something (social norms dictate) I am forced back home to shop on a semi regular, bi-annual basis (yes; the one that means every two years rather than twice every year!?) with my unbelievably patient she-can’t-disown-me-I’m-family sister. Imagine my surprise therefore to find myself shopping so soon into my Nepali adventure and – wait for it – actually rather enjoying it!?

From my research before travelling I understood that Nepali culture calls for conservative dress. For women this means making sure clothes cover the shoulders and go down below the knees without being too tightly fitting, see through or low cut (again, for those of you who know me, not a lot is going to have to change there then!?!) The most common style of clothing chosen by local Nepali women is the kurta suruwal. A brightly coloured, flattering tunic and loose fitting trousers, apparently taken over from India, though some women (generally married) still wear more traditional saris. Just walking down any street it is immediately clear that kurta suruwals come in all sorts of patterns & colours and the local ladies look both comfortable and elegant. As very few clothes made the final cut in my compact packing, last week I happily followed my fellow volunteer Liz into a local tailor’s shop and simply had a go…

#1 First you step off the busy street into an Aladdin’s cave of fabrics;

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#2 The genuine, smiling salesman; You can take your time to pull out the different fabrics, have a feel of the cotton or silk and compare colours to try and match your kurta (tunic) with a coordinated suruwal (trousers). Or sit down and have them shown to you by the owner (though as the only man in this particular business, possibly the least informed to comment on suitable fashions!?);

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#3 The effortless expert; this amazing lady manages taking the customer’s measurements, approves the fabric selection and calculates the prices all in a friendly and calmly experienced way;

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#4 In the same open plan shop space we could watch the team of local ladies working away on designs for other customers. Here we were fascinated by this lady’s ability to cut out a kurta design with no pattern, based only on a few measurements;

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#5 And then the sewing begins;

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#6 Almost a work of art in itself = the notes & receipt for my first two kurtas; with just a few design notes, my measurements and samples of the chosen fabrics the team were happy to get started on my order – and have it ready for me to pick up the very next day no less!

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#7 After our training classes the next day were finished, we headed back to the shop and my kurtas were ready and waiting. I tried them on and found the fit no less than perfect. Brightly coloured, cool, flattering and practical – I am sold! I’ve already been back to order more…

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  1. Jan-Maria

    So elegant and cool looking, I love the patterns and fabrics you have chosen, a real treat to wear I should imagine!

  2. Miriam

    Gorgeous. I am looking forward to that type of shopping too in Myanmar 🙂 I am a bit like you shopping wise so I know i will like the fabric and seeing it be made to measure. Good woman ! You ll get really feminine wait till you see little Goddess ! you are goin to love it , and so am I !

  3. Wow amazing collections of Nepali Kurtis style i loved it. I impressed with that it have a good varieties of patterns & colors…………………….
    ktm bazar in Nepal

  4. Roberta Duarte Stopnitzky

    Hi Jessica,

    Do you still in Nepal. I’m arriving there to work with VSO next week.
    Would love to meet.
    I’ve been following your posts, they have been very useful. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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