Taking note of a few design techniques will mean the difference between having a fashionable salwar suit or becoming a fashion disaster. The salwar kameez, sometimes called a Punjabi suit, is a set of clothing worn by women in India and Pakistan. The suit consists of a long tunic, called the kameez, and loose-fitting pants, called the salwar, with a drawstring waist. The third piece is the dupatta, or scarf. The suits are made from three pieces of fabric that are dyed as a set. The items can be purchased at an Indian suit shop. No two suits are alike as each set of fabric is sewn to the exact size and design specifications of the individual wearer.
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Plan the length of the kameez, or shirt, of the suit. In India, the kameez is long enough to reach the mid-thigh to just above the knee. In Pakistan, the kameez is longer, sometimes reaching the calf or the ankle. The fashionable length also varies by the individual state in each country and the occasion for which the suit will be worn.
Mark the fabrics with your measurements. The measurements will vary based on your general ideas for the design, such as long sleeve, short sleeve or sleeveless, and the design elements already included in the purchased set of fabrics. Some fabrics have a neckline area already designated and embellished.
Check the measurements of any pre-sewn embellishments on the fabric. Determine if the neckline will need to be shortened to avoid showing cleavage. Measure the length of the kameez to ensure any pre-sewn border edge is not too long or too short for the wearer.
Mark the length of the side splits, starting at the bottom border of the fabric and measuring up for an accurate measurement. Combined with the length of the kameez, these splits can help conceal figure flaws.
Lay out any embellishments not already attached to the fabric on top of the kameez fabric piece. Embellishments can be added at the neckline, around the sleeve edges, across the bottom border of the kameez or anywhere on the shirt. Embellishment can be added to the bottom edge of the salwar, or pant legs, waistline or running up the length of the legs. Make sure none of the embellishments overruns the measurements you marked or they will be cut out of the finished design.
Add matching embellishments to the dupatta, or sheer fabric piece, included with the matched set to complete the look. When placing the pieces consider how you will drape the fabric around your shoulders or over your head. Wedding dupattas typically include one larger embellishment in the center that is placed atop the head to further decorate the bride’s hairstyle and form a veil at the same time. The weight of the center embellishment helps the thin fabric stay in place as she moves.
Use the finished design of the kameez to determine if the salwar should be standard salwar or Patiala salwar pants. As Patiala salwar pants are pleated differently they will provide a wider finished look and should not be paired with an overly large or long top.
In some areas, these suits are also referred to as shalwar kameez.
A dupatta is a scarf worn with the salwar kameez.
When adding your own embellishments, the top and bottom designs must match.
If an Indian suit shop is not located near you, you can match three pieces of fabric at your local fabric store. Try to purchase from the same manufacturer and material so that the dye lots match perfectly.
References and ResourcesDMI India: Size/Measurement Guide
Pardesi Fashions: Types and Variations of Salwar Kameez
Seasons India: India Fashion
ResourcesSalwar Kameez Saree: Measurement Form
Desi Fashion Police: Innovative Salwar Kameez Design Ideas