Tired of flicking through unappealing designer racks? Too broke to afford the exclusive designer quality you crave? If you want to look unique and chic, it’s time to consider Vintage. Vintage designs have been a Fashion staple around the world for years and have now found their way into the South Asian scene. Designers throughout the Subcontinent are starting to look back in time to influence their aesthetics.

Designer Payal Pratap Singh’s Autumn/Winter 2013 collection, shown at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, was called Opening My Grandmother’s Trunk. Vintage inspired pieces such as printed saris, satin churidars and velvet jackets were styled with a retro twist. Meanwhile, on this side of the border, trends for kamdani, loose shirts and ezaars have meant that many beautiful old pieces have been rescued from muslin wrapped bundles dusting away in cupboards. For the more adventurous, stalls selling antique borders and lace at Sunday bazaar havebecome a goldmine. Like Kareena Kapoor, Pakistani bride’s are also looking to the past and wearing revamped versions of their mother’s or even grandmother’s wedding joras.

                 Sana Safinaz                                                                           Nomi Ansari

               Nida Azwer                                                  Misha Lakhani

                                 Deena Rahman

Exceptional Vintage pieces encap sulate the best of couture. The majority use excellent fabric, often of a fine quality that is no longer made or is exorbitantly expensive now. The detailing, from tiny hand-made buttons to artisan lace is breathtaking. In my experience, every community has its own way of embracing Vintage fashion. Memons give a richly embroidered Khombi (a sort of chaddar) with the trousseau, and often passit down from generation to generation. Parsis similarly pass on gara saris and borders. Chiniotis favor real silver kamdani chiffons and Kashmiri chaddars.


So what riches might you find in your mother or grandmother’s closet?
Whether your mother’s wedding outfit was a sari, lengha, Hyderabadi Khadadupatta, gharara, sharara or farshi, chances are she will have stored it for you. Heirlooms like wedding dresses are obviously only for special occasions but other jahez items or outfits can be a treasure trove. Look for real zari embroidery, handloom textiles, antique lace or crochet, French chiffon saris, hand embroidery, banarsi dupattas and sari borders. Real quality stands the test of time and will always be appreciated. Ornately embroidered ezhaars and dupattas can be worn as they are while kameezes can be altered or turned into jackets. Sari borders can be picked off and put on new outfits while a sexy new blouse can contemporize a Vintage sari.
Taking care of your Vintage clothing:

Clothes, unfortunately, don’t stand the test of time as easily as jewelry or furniture. They fade, fray and are prone to moths and mildew. Heat, light and moisture are the worst culprits. Look after those precious heirlooms using the traditional ways our mothers and grandmothers looked after clothing. Clean any stains before storing although it’s better to avoid drycleaning as much as possible. Make sure all items are well-aired before storing in a cool, dark place wrapped in muslin. Take out Vintage clothing once in a while for a good airing and change the folds to keep the piece looking pristine. Use cedar chips or naphthalene balls wrapped in linen to keep away moths, but never let naphthalene balls touch your precious fabrics as they can cause stains. The V&A recommends vacuuming Vintage clothing through a muslin screen as the best way to remove dust and dirt particles.

The author is a freelance journalist.
She blogs at and tweets at @karachista

How to wear rvintage:

1. Don’t wear Vintage head to toe

2. Use neutral tones to highlight a dramatic piece

3. Good fitting is vital – don’t be afraid of alterations

4. Do give Vintage pieces a mini-makeover, changing buttons, trimmings or hemlines where necessary

5. Mix with modern pieces to bring the look up to date

6. Pay attention to styling. Accessories, draping and silhouette are important – the idea is not to look like a museum piece

7. If an old piece is too worn, stained or fragile to wear, don’t be afraid to take parts of the Vintage item and work them into a new outfit

8. Treat pieces as separates. For example, belt a lovely antique dupatta with palazzos and a short camisole

9. Recreate delicate pieces – we have plenty of kaarigars!

There is a host of designers and socialites that have taken on the Vintage trend:

Shehla Chatoor:
“I have always been fascinated by our rich heritage of textile and embroidery. The way I would use a Vintage piece is to applique the parts I like onto a new outfit, adding further complementary embroidery to make a seamless link.”

Sania Maskatiya:
“I have beautiful old ezhaars and kameez’s with real gold work from my grandmother. Some are too delicate to wear but I collect them because of the exquisite old work on them. I use some of the pieces as inspiration for my own designs, which are deeply rooted in our cultural heritage.”

Maham Asaf:
“The purana handwork is simply gorgeous and there are so many types of lovely fabric and embroidery in our heritage. I have a lot of antique clothing that is very wearable. The most versatile perhaps are beautiful, authentic jamawar shawls.”

Nida Azwer:

“I have a lot of Vintage pieces in my wardrobe and I will often pair antique items with modern ones. It seems a shame to keep beautiful old ezhaars and dupattas wrapped up and to never use them. My design sense is very classic and so many of my outfits work well with Vintagepieces.”

Misha Lakhani:
“Some Vintage items are like pieces of art. The real gold embroidery, the soft, rich feel of the fabric and the intricacy of the work are all major draws.”

Ritu Kumar:

“You have to keep the USP of the original garment in mind and create a new piece using the same colour palette and style of embroidery. Sometimes it is only possible to isolate some bits and pieces from the original garment and use them with new fabric.”

Jasmine Adjanee:

“Vintage clothing is like wearing a piece of history.  The uniqueness and originality of a Vintage piece stirs a sense of nostalgia, particularly those pieces deemed heirlooms. These grand pieces, many as delicate as the brides who wore them or as ravishing as the jewelry of the time, are timeless. Styled properly with a modern twist, these treasures can look as if they are straight off the runway, but with an air of timeless beauty.”


By: Salima Feerasta

The writer is a freelance journalist. She blogs at and tweets at @karachista. 

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