A little about yourself:
Name: Emily Bina
City/Country of residence: New York, NY, USA
Nationality: American (and I grew up in Minnesota)
What is your experience with Indian fashion?
To be clear, before being in a relationship with an Indian man, Suraj, I had no experience whatsoever with Indian fashion-- except to adore it from afar. It was stunning and intimidating; complex and classic; rich and regal. It wasn’t something I ever thought I would get to wear or understand fully, but (like so many women I’ve spoken to) the mere thought of donning Indian clothing, or attending an Indian event, feels almost universally whimsical and exciting.
What Indian occasion were you attending?
Lucky me that I have now been to two weddings where traditional Indian clothing was expected. The first was a rehearsal dinner / welcome party (an ode to the mother of the bride, who is Indian), and a more traditional full Indian wedding and ceremony, with changes between the marriage ceremony itself and the reception later that evening.
Did you seek advice in order to find Indian outfits?
I had help (both in borrowing and getting recommendations) from Suraj’s brother’s girlfriend, Timsie. She has fantastic taste-- and plenty of lenghas and saris-- so she helped navigate me through appropriate colors, styles and fits for each of the above events.
I was also, very happily, with Timsie in India for the first time ahead of a family wedding-- if it wasn’t for her I would have no idea where to start.
Read about the different type of Indian dresses
What was your experience like shopping in India?
Mumbai is at once exhilarating and overwhelming, and shopping for saris felt the same. We went to Seasons AND TK, and were quickly shuffled to upper and lower levels where we pulled out attractive fabrics, stood on platforms, and wrapped into what a sari might look like. When I had selected what fabric I wanted and was measured sufficiently, Timsie once again helped with all the bells and whistles-- she suggested a sleeveless top for under the sari, gold embellishments for the ties, and a low back cut. The custom-made sari was delivered to our hotel days later-- it fit perfectly and I completely love it… That said, if I hadn’t had a literal guide through the process, I don’t think I would have even tried to shop for a custom sari-- despite being there for a wedding, I still didn’t feel like I knew what was appropriate, what was fashionable, and what questions were worth asking to the gentlemen fitting us.
What was your experience like borrowing Indian clothes?
My experience borrowing Indian clothes was much easier-- in large part because LUKH’s co-founder Kinney has an incredible sense of style, and an extremely generous heart. Through Timsie the two of us connected, and she lent me a gorgeous lengha for the black tie reception at an Indian wedding in October. I loved the pieces and felt so comfortable in both-- part of that comfort came from the clothing itself, but I think it can’t be understated that having Kinney and Timsie help me (a non-Indian woman!) both suggest and approve what I could wear was the most helpful part of my experience wearing Indian clothing so far. If trust and taste come from experience, Kinney-- and LUKH-- are surely the ones to trust.
Did you try to buy Indian clothes in the US?
I have tried to buy Indian clothing in the US, but if you’re not near a store and you’re just shopping online, it’s really hard to tell how nice the quality of the pieces are, how well they’ll fit and of course if the colors really look that way. Living in New York City I’m lucky to have a few options, and I have purchased one lengha from Anita Dongre in Manhattan.
What do you wish you had known?
There are so many things I wish I had known-- so many things I still wish I knew! For me it comes down to some parameters or guidelines across a few different sets of questions:
- What is an average or reasonable amount to spend on a sari or lengha?
- What colors are appropriate to wear (I didn’t know red was bridal until a week before one of the events!)
- What colors and cuts are stylish to wear?
- Are there different traditions or expectations for people from different Indian backgrounds?
- Are there things that are off-limits for non-Indian people to wear or participate in?
- Is it really ok (!!) to show this much skin?
- What are the different events in a formal wedding
- How many outfits does that mean I should have?
What would you recommend to others who will be attending their first Indian wedding?
My recommendation is to seek out people who have done this before, and absolutely to rent from LUKH. The styles are incredibly gorgeous and the reassurance of getting it right on the first try can’t be overstated.