A shopping guide to the Indian subcontinent

Written by    Last updated: October 10, 2006

Most British Asian couples travel to South Asia to find outfits that are affordable and have a true ethnic flavour. Follow our guide to make the most of the shopping trip of a lifetime…


Before the trip browse through magazines and local shops for ideas on the latest colour, cuts and styles. Search on the web to gather as much information about the shops you want to visit. Ask friends and family who have gone on similar shopping trips to recommend places where they were happy with the service. Once you get there, buy the local fashion and bridal magazines, which will have up‐to‐date information on any new designers or bridal shops that may have just opened in the city.


Allow a minimum of a couple of weeks as each city has a huge variety of shops to visit. If you’re planning a tailor‐made outfit or couture, this will take much longer, especially if being made from scratch. For grooms it can take somewhat less time as there are fewer men’s retailers and a bespoke suit or sherwani can be ready in about a week.

Ready to wear vs couture

Although you will find a huge variety of ready‐to‐wear trousseau and wedding outfits, you could take advantage of the cheap cost of tailoring and get a design on order. Remember to ensure that the measurements and instructions are clear. Get a written copy of the instructions so that there is no argument at the time of collection. If you have something that fits you perfectly, the tailor can usually copy it exactly for a reasonable price. You could add some individual detail in order to create a one‐of‐a‐kind piece.


Your trip is a perfect opportunity for buying ethnic jewellery that perfectly matches the colour of your outfit. The salespersons are usually very helpful and will not mind taking out an array of styles for you to choose from. Remember to check the clasps and the fastening of the stones for costume jewellery. When buying jewellery, ask for a written guarantee of the metal and the stones. Look out for brightly coloured decorative shoes and sandals to match your ethnic outfits.


Feel free to bargain at small, independent stores or with designers. It is a common practice to mark up prices, especially for tourists. If you buy more than one outfit, the shop may agree to throw in a matching bag or a piece of costume jewellery. However, you will not be able to haggle at departmental stores or swanky boutiques.


Remember to check that the garment you’ve bought fits properly and that you’re happy with the stitching, and the attachment of crystals and beads. It will be cheaper to have alterations done from the shop where you buy the outfit rather than going to a British tailor once you’re back.


Ask about the terms and conditions before you buy. Many shops will only exchange but not refund once the outfit leaves their shop. If you’re having something made to order, generally you need to pay half the total amount at the time of the order. Building up a good rapport with the staff and being polite is always advisable.

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