Daily life

Women’s wear retail has changed over the years

11:52 AM

Back in my early days in India big retail chains like Shopper’s Stop, Westside and Lifestyle used to have more ethnic wear than they had western wear. It was easy to find both casual and formal wear in this category, prices were a bit higher than in a local market, but not that much higher, judging by the goods on offer there was a bigger demands for “sets” comprised of a matching kurta, pants and dupatta, and less choice in “mix and match” where you just buy each pieces individually.
That has gradually changed over the years of course, the modern urban Indian woman while still liking to wear a kurta, now prefers shorter ones, that can be paired with jeans or capri, when they buy traditional style bottom, most prefer elastic churidars, or cotton churidars that have a more slender fit on their legs, and dupattas are really reserved for super traditional settings, most of the ladies I know see it as an annoying piece of fabric that keeps sliding and need to be readjusted all the time. So with the new trends it comes as no surprise that the retail chain that pretty much cater to the urban middle class modern woman are selling more indo-western options and less and less conservative traditional wear.

I came up to this true realization this past weekend, as I was shopping for the birthday party we are going to have for Ishita in July while in Lucknow. My everyday wear is pretty much the same as any desi mom around here: capri and short kurta or t-shirt, with toddlers running around we need practical easy to maintain clothing, for a bit more fancy occasions I have better looking still casual cotton or stretch cotton tops of all kind, and when I wear ethnic, and I do in winter more than in Summer, I like my stretch churidars.
The problem with this party is that it will be held by my in-laws with lots of relatives, and DH’s family is a bit more on the traditional side, and even if I don’t go as all out as I used to a couple of years ago to look the part, I still think it’s respectful enough not to show up in western style outfit at a party. The heat in July is such that I know from my wedding experience that sarees even the lightest ones get uncomfy fast, beside this time I am in charge of a toddler and the last thing I want is to look totally un-kept because my daughter pulled on the wrong bit of fabric so I nixed even my more Summer heat weight saree as a possible attire. And since I wear less and less ethnic nowadays my collection of yesteryear also shrank, and I have no outfit whatsoever that is nice enough for a party.
The issue I faced shopping so far, is that first I don’t have time to go the dress material route, then I don’t want to spend huge sum of money on an outfit that I will not wear often. And finally it has to be decent enough not to cause an uproar in the rank of relatives. Unfortunately, most decent fancy sets out there are priced in the 3000 rupees range which is far off my budget, the mix and match section that would leave me the option of buying just a kurta and pair it with churidars is overly casual, and when you finally find something a bit more formal it or comes with a high price tag, or is too westernized for my in-law family’s mind-set, and we are talking spaghetti strap kurti, deep cleavage and even thin strap sleeveless kurti. I have no problem wearing such things to begin with when in Mumbai, but it will definitely not cut it in Lucknow, so much so that right now I miss the old fashioned traditional days of circa 2004, as I am realizing that something as simple as finding one outfit for one party is proving to be so difficult I should have started planning a few months back.
Even my favourite label “Global Desi” is too progressive for most of their pieces to be worn at a party around my in-laws…sigh


  1. Emma Dey12:08 PM

    I am really lucky with my mother in law, she really loves me.My husband thinks she likes me more than she likes him. Last time we were there it was a bit chilly when we went to leave so she made me take one of her shawls to wear home, after we left my husband said "notice she was only worried about you being cold, she didnt off er me anything to keep warm!!".
    When I first joined the family I always wore sarees around her but now I usually wear cotton salwar kameez or long cotton wrap around skirts with a kurti. They are village people so nothing has to be very fancy. I hope you manage to find something nice in time for the party.

  2. You are lucky :-)
    I think dress codes in villages is pretty different indeed, I am not sure I would have liked wearing a saree everyday though, they look nice, but it gets quite sometime to get used to them, salwaar suits are far more practical, in fact even my MIL almost never wears saree because it gets cumbersome to wear and go about her daily activities. I'm pretty sure she was the modern lady of her time prefering practical to conventions and fancy stuff, the way the modern urban woman now goes about ditching the dupatta or even mixing kurti with western style pants that are less high maintenance than cotton salwaars.

    I hope to find something nice and practical for that party too, I'm not huge on clothes shopping to begin with, that is the type of shopping I dislike the most in fact. I could shop for books and interior decorating stuff to no end, heck even purses shopping is fun, but clothes are the thing I need to have on my back by necessity, so they need to be basic, fuss and frill less and last as long as possible for me not to have to shop for them too often.

  3. Sumbul6:43 PM

    If you have time prior to the day, you could check out some of the stores in lucknow in Aminabad, especially Calcutta Cloth House or Novelty Cloth House. Both of these have affordableformal wear. Yesy, since prices have sky rocketed, I wonder would the one you like would fall into. Anyway, hope you find something nice. :)

  4. I've found Pantaloons to have a lot of 'dressy' mix'n'match stuff that I like.
    They have an online 'outlet' store at future bazaar.com that has discounted clothing too!

  5. That's not really an option because that would only invite more questions about the price tag thing in my in-law family. Plus I don't want the pressure to buy just anything simply because it's last minute :)
    Anyway I found something in Westside, it's the month of my birthday so I got 20% off being a club card member. I decided to go with a simple white cotton kurta with silver accents and blue printed design and a pair of shiny cotton churidars to go with it to make it a bit more fancy, even bought a white and silver dupatta to go with it, with the proper accessories it will look semi-formal and appropriate for a birthday party, all in all it did cost me 1200 rupees....SCORE!

  6. Hi P. Sorry if your comment didn't show up immediately. I changed the Disqus setting recently to curb a too massive onslaught of spammers in a way that all comments with links got through moderation. I'm ading you to the white list right away so this should not happen again.

    Thanks for the link, I already found smething at Westside, but getting a new online shopping possibility is always welcome :-)

  7. I always shop from Pantaloons Mumbai as they have variations for every occasion. I simply love their collection and style :)


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