Sari Saga

I was excited when Olivia telephoned to say I needed to be outfitted for an Indian sari and she wanted my measurements right away.

Olivia’s future mother-in-law was already en route to the seamstress so we couldn’t delay.

Silk fabric had been hand-picked and hand-carried from India for Olivia’s mum and me: an honor I earned by marrying Olivia’s father and one I poorly deserved. 
But what a swell gesture to include me.

I rummaged through my sewing box for a tape measure while Scott watched the YouTube video Olivia said described how to record the neck, bust, back, arm, shoulder and waist size.

We watched the video. Twice.

And then Scott measured each body part. Twice.

Do they want inches or centimeters, he asked me.

Inches, I said. They were having the garments made in California.

He texted the measurements and, a few days later, I received the hand-made skirt and choli (blouse) along with six yards of fire-bright orange silk fabric finished in golden trim for the sari wrap.

My colors.

With just a few days before the wedding I figured I’d better try on the choli to make sure it fit.

I squeezed into the blouse but couldn’t fasten it shut.

Scott grabbed each side–fabric stuffed in his left hand, fabric in his right–and tugged.

My bountiful–um–bounties just wouldn’t fit.

I re-examined the garment.

The blouse was carefully stitched and lined: I didn’t see anywhere to add more fabric to the bust and I couldn’t extract any slices from the sari–that would have ruined the drape.

Maybe I could find a choli pattern at the fabric store and sew a blouse?

Scott gamely accompanied me to the mall where I found some gold silk and a Simplicity blouse pattern with a round neckline (but nothing approaching a choli design).

With a damp cloth I dusted off my sewing machine and set to work.

In three hours the dining room floor was strewn with thread and pieces of silk but I had a serviceable blouse that covered my real estate. 

Daughter Rachel arrived for dinner and I showed her the sari, the skirt and the hand-stitched choli that didn’t fit. 

Try it on again, she said. Let me look. 

Rachel had just returned from India and knew how to rock the garments. 

I stuffed myself into the choli.

Mom, she said. 

You’ve got it on backwards. 

When she finished laughing Rachel showed me the fasteners are sewn into the front, not the back.

Alas, the blouse was still too small.

Try it on without a bra, Rachel suggested.

I don’t want to get arrested, I snapped. 

We set aside the sari and had dinner, which restored everyone’s humor.

But I wanted to take one more look at the choli before heading to bed.

And then I saw it.

The seamstress had sewn generous side panels that I didn’t notice earlier: I let out some fabric on each side and the choli fit.

I needed to take in a few tucks to smooth the back and now had in hand a well-fitted (albeit revealing) choli. 

We wore our saris to dinner on the evening before the wedding, and Olivia’s mother-in-law pinned and tucked and pleated my garments with an expert’s touch.

I looked stunning and, as far as anyone knew, everything folded and unfolded without a hitch. 




About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, Indian sari. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to  Sari Saga

  1. Marvelous story! So Indian! Brought back many memories of India moments. Somehow I have yet to make it to a wedding.


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