Over the past year, I’ve met a lot of non-South Asian people who have seemingly always asked me the same question: can you wear a sari even if you are not Indian?
The answer, to paraphrase POTUS, is: YES YOU CAN!
At Sari Closet, the online sari rental service founded earlier this year, we get this question very often, typically in the context of an impending attendance to the South Asian wedding of a friend or partner.
However, many are daunted by what looks like an intricate and complicated garment. So to make wearing a sari seem less daunting, we wanted to give our non-South Asian friends some insights as to what they can expect when they wear a sari to their next South Asian wedding.
Here are actual questions that our experts – who we call “saristas”— have received from once-skeptical customers who are now sari enthusiasts.
Q. What will the other guests think of me wearing a sari?
A. They will be ecstatic. South Asians typically love sharing their culture with others, and appreciate when others make an effort to learn our culture.
Q. Will I offend anyone by wearing a sari?
A. No, there is no religious connotation to the sari or to the bindi on your forehead.
Q. How difficult is it to wear?
A. It’s far easier than it looks. On the Sari Closet YouTube channel, you’ll find a video on how to wear (we say “drape”) a sari. The interns went from never having worn a sari before to being an expert on an instructional video in less than an hour.
Q. Will it really change my experience at the wedding?
A. ABSOLUTELY! We hear this all the time from our non-South Asian friends. If you show up to the wedding or reception wearing a Western outfit, you are a spectator; if you are in a sari, suddenly you are a part of the lovely chaos.
We’ve heard stories of being thrust onto the dance floor by random “uncles”, getting asked to advise on how the dishes are being prepared by the kitchen, and even being set up with a “good Indian doctor” by your “aunties” — either way, an unforgettable experience!
Q. Do I need to have a certain body type to wear a sari?
A. ABSOLUTELY NOT! Because saris are essentially just one really long piece of fabric, they are one-sized fits all. Thus, any woman can look beautiful and elegant in a sari.
Q. Is there a specific color I should wear?
A. Not really. Generally, for a wedding or reception, I would avoid black as the dominant color. But other colors are fair game.
Generally speaking, the saristas recommend bold, dark colors for those with a fairer skin complexion, and bright, lighter colors for those with darker skin complexions.
Q. What types of saris would you advise a non-South Asian to wear?
A. If you are not South Asian, but appear in a sari at the wedding or reception, you will stand out—in a good way, as someone who is ready to dive feet-first into the event and culture. This means that no pattern or color is too bright or too loud.
So this should give you the confidence that you need to wear a sari. Of all of our non-South Asian friends who have worn saris to weddings, exactly none of them have said that they didn’t enjoy the experience. In short: go bold!”
Guest Blogger: Sreesha, Sari Closet Sarista