Made In Rajasthan: Getting Custom Clothes In India
If you check the label of any old item of clothing from Gap, Topshop or any number of High Street stores in Europe and America, then there is a pretty strong chance it will read “Made In India”.
We here in the West have long ago moved towards the service sector and forgetting how to actually make pretty much anything ourselves. Instead, we prefer to outsource production of more or less everything to 3rd world countries where we don’t need to be concerned with commercial hindrances such as workers rights and child labor laws. India on the other hand (a country which Yo-Yo’s somewhere between 1st world and 3rd world living standards in the very same breath) boasts a thriving production industry that spans from cars right down to the textiles, crafts and artifacts that Western tourists (like your humble narrator) go absolutely bat-shit fucking mental for. The long lost art of making things with human hands is very much alive and well in India (the art of washing human hands is however yet to catch on as the parasite currently living in my post-India stomach will happily testify).
Made In Rajasthan
Rajasthan, in particular, is something of a centre for textile production in India and there are many shops in tourist areas across the province offering to custom make shirts, trousers or even entire suits for as little as £30.00. Whilst the idea of picking up a custom-made suit for £30.00 did peak my interest, I was not in the market for a suit seen as I hope to never actually have to wear one again (basically, I like to think that any pretense of leading a respectable life is long behind me now although on the other hand, I do concede that it is probably only a matter of time before I end up in either a criminal, civil or divorce court).
India is a paradise for anybody with even a passing interest in clothing or fashion and a look down any street will show you young guys in trendy, dapper Bollywood shirts alongside the impeccable elders in traditional Punjabi dress. Of course, the relatively few women you see in Indian sheets are usually adorned in gorgeous, colorful sari’s.
There are loads of places to visit in Rajasthan but Udaipur should not be missed. Whilst casually strolling the streets of Udaipur one afternoon, I passed tailors and on display outside saw a black and white paisley shirt serenely and limply hanging in a breeze. Now, Indian shirts typically come in three styles. These are smart (like you may wear to work Europe), the classic Indian style (round neck with no collar) and the Bollywood style which is a slim cut decorated with all manner of vibrant, colourful and occasionally garish designs that relatively few Westerners can successfully pull off. The style of the shirt that had caught my attention was somewhere between the Bollywood style but with a psychedelic, 60’s twist that recalled Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd right through to British post-shoegaze noises-ters, The Horrors.
It reminded me of a friend back in England who had recently celebrated a birthday whilst I had been travelling and so I went inside to take a look.
Made To Measure
The shop was absolutely packed with fabrics and materials of every kind for shirts, trousers or jackets. Some were lively and loud and others plain and reserved. Basically, there was something here for every taste (except perhaps nudists).
The shirt I had selected to buy for my friend was a fraction too big for me which meant it would be much too big for him as he does not boast the same rippling, muscular physique as I. However, that was not going to be a problem as the proprietor and chief tailor assured me that within 24 hours (less if I was in a rush) he could make me another one custom made to measure!
By this point, the dam of consumerism within had swelled and burst open as my inner shopper came flooding out; I am after all a sucker for pretty things be they comely girls, shiny necklaces or floral shirts. I had become quite captivated by the sheer abundance of fabrics and designs on offer and furthermore had never had anything custom made before (except my braces when I was 6 years old) so decided that I would also treat myself to something. After all, it would also be more birthday at one point or another in the future! With a bit of bartering (which I had become pretty good at in Nepal and India) and a promise to mention the designer in here, I got a pretty good price which came at around £4 per item. I chose myself a material got myself measured up and handed over my rupees agreeing to return the next day to collect and inspect my wares.
I was very pleased with the results, the quality of the material was magnificent and the tailoring seems flawless to my untrained eye. For a few hundred rupees I had bought myself a piece of sartorial elegance, a perfect present and something that will help me remember Rajasthan long after this stomach bug has shifted!
Guide To Getting Custom Made Clothes in India
If you are travelling to India, you really should think about getting some custom made clothes. For only a few dollars, you can get yourself a unique, beautiful piece of clothing that is made perfectly to measure so will fit you like your own skin. You also get to buy it straight from the source and will be putting money into the pockets of hardworking skilled tailors rather than corporations.
In my view, Rajasthan is by far the best place to do this. The cities of Pushkar and Jaipur are well renowned for textiles. Delhi and Mumbai also have a lot of textiles and tailors. Goa tends to specialize more in trance wear and hippy chic – you can read about Goa’s hippy scene here.
A good idea is to bring an item from your existing wardrobe that you like the style and fit of. This will give your tailor a reference point. Of course, you don’t need to do this as they will measure you and it may be that you want something completely new making up. In that case, create a photo collection of styles you like.
Shop around for textiles. There are countless styles available so do take some time and dedicate at least half a day to finding the best ones. Pay attention to the design as well as the quality of the material. Also, make sure that the material is suitable for what you want.
Be ready to haggle. Hard. This is India afterall. Also, bear in mind that textile suppliers may try to sell you far more than you need. Do some research and work out how much material is generally needed for say, 1 shirt or 2 pairs of pants etc.
Then find a tailor. Check their work which will be on display in the shop. Pay attention to little details like seams, collars and buttons. Then be ready to haggle again with the tailor. They will offer better prices if you get multiple items made and don’t need the stuff in a hurry. If you are in a hurry, you need to absolutely impress them upon the tailor and make it very clear to them that they will not be paid unless it is ready by the agreed time. In fact, if you need it to be ready by Wednesday, tell them Tuesday.
Want to learn more about India? Then check out my other blog posts by clicking here!