What to Wear: India Vacation Style

When on vacation, I wear things I’d never wear to work at home. And I sew many of the vacation clothes myself because I can’t find what I’d like to wear in stores. With an upcoming trip to India, I’m thinking about what to take this time.

Sometimes I take lengths of fabric and just wrap and tie them around my waist to make a skirt. Sort of like Nicole Richie is doing here. I think these are pants but I get the same look tying fabric as a skirt:

Nicole Richie in Sari Skirt

In fact I believe the skirt I would have worn in the sari-shopping profile pic there on the right was a mauve paisley patterned silk charmeuse length of fabric that I just twist around and tie in place at the waist. It weighs nothing and folds so small it fits in the palm of your hand – perfect for travel! Because of this it shows up in vacation photos from several countries.

I like to sew loose drawstring pants with printed fabrics, like these from Mango:

Patterned Pants from  Mango

And I even bring out the beaded textiles to wear, like this one from Teté by Odette for Zaitegui:

Beaded Textile Tunic

Beaded fabrics are a bit fancy, but where else am I going to wear them during daily non-vacation life? To the grocery store? Filling the gas tank? Starbucks? Those are the regular stops of my life in the U.S. and, well, maybe beaded fabrics would make them more interesting!

I also pack beaded sandals. Like these from Oasap:

Beaded Sandals from Oasap

I like wearing elegant looks like flowy pants and tunics in monochromatic colors, like in this image by Ann Street Studio (surf around their tumblr a bit – gorgeous fashion photos):

Moroccan Tunic via Ann Street Studio

But I also like wearing wildly colored and printed bohemian looks. Same spirit, really, different style. This skirt was from Boca Leche:

Wild Pattern Skirt from Boca Leche

Beyond good looks, many of these have a practical purpose: to stay cool. In hot humid weather, I prefer loose flowing clothes. Definitely not anything constricting like jeans! Knit fabrics also feel more comfortable to me than woven. I’ve never gotten used to the woven fabric blouses you wear with saris, and would rather wear a dressy knit top under a sari. There are silk jerseys with a nice sheen to them that could make elegant sari blouses.

The other issue is cleaning the clothes.  I have had clothes that shrunk dramatically — and it wasn’t because I ate too many paper masala dosas! — and bright color clothes that faded because they were laid in the sun to dry. If I’m going to care about whether something gets ruined, I wear it very little or when I know I’ll be in comfortable temperatures, like in air conditioning most of the time, and I won’t wash it until I get home to the U.S. Obviously beaded textiles can be problematic to clean, so I will tie a beaded fabric like a sarong over slim knitted pants. That way, I get the skirt look and the fabric is protected.

Our apartment in Chennai has a washer and a dryer, and an outdoor covered patio to hang clothes to dry in the shade. So at least in Chennai, there’s a bit more control over how clothes are treated during cleaning.

The other benefit of sewing skirts and drawstring pants for India vacation: I will use fabrics found at deep discount prices, so the clothes are cheap. And I’ll use very simple sewing patterns so they sew up fast. I choose fabrics that I don’t have an emotional attachment to (yes those of us who love textiles know how this can happen). This way, if something gets ruined, it’s okay. Well not okay but it doesn’t bother me.

If you sew, I hope this gives you ideas for sewing a vacation wardrobe. You can make great clothes with basic sewing skills. How? Here’s the formula: choose a very simple pattern, but use a special fabric. In fact great prints and unusual fabrics, I think, are better when used with very simple sewing patterns.

2 Replies to “What to Wear: India Vacation Style”

  1. When I go to India, I don’t even pack clothes. I just go straight to Anokhi and Fabindia and buy my travel wardrobe. Everything they have is beautiful, perfect for travel, handwashing, and the Indian climate. Plus, you can’t beat the prices.

Do you have comments? A question? I'm happy to help and give answers!