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The great salwar kameez hunt
felila
I read with great interest Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blogged account of buying custom-sewn salwar kameez via eBay. Being a woman of size who is fussy about fit (and thus basically debarred from shopping ready-to-wear) I thought this was worth a try.

I ordered three salwar kameez, from Indiashop1 (the company Teresa recommended), from Namasteindia, and one just from a web site, exoticindia.com.

The Namasteindia salwar arrived first -- after a frustrating month's wait when their server was apparently dumping my email and spamming me with an autoack. They finally got it finished and sent (after a mysterious five-day delay, sitting in a New Jersey warehouse, about which they lied to me). The material hadn't been washed before sewing; it was stiff with sizing and formaldehyde. It also wasn't colorfast. Of course it said dry-clean only, but I don't believe in dry-cleaning. Expensive stuff. So I washed it by hand; thirty rinses and it was still bleeding color. Also, the sewing was terrible, full of puckers and wobbles, and the top was cut without any ease whatsoever. Unwearable. I complained and they told me I was too demanding.

Then I got the salwar kameez from exoticindia. More sloppy sewing, pants too big and top too small, advertised as cotton but was a sleazy synthetic blend. The kameez was a shorty, just to hip length, instead of the usual knee-length. Again, sewn without washing first and comes with directions to dry clean, which I again ignored. Dry clean COTTON?

Indiashop, Teresa's fave, was the best of the lot, but it still didn't come up to my admittedly exacting standards. I've been sewing for 50 years and people tell me I do couture quality stuff. All seams finished, linings, lots of handsewing, etc.

By my standards, the Indiashop garment was barely acceptable. Most seams were finished, but a few were left raw. The seam finishing was hit or miss. Serger thread didn't match the material. There was some handsewing, but it was carelessly and quickly done, sometimes in thread that didn't match. The regular machine sewing was sloppy and the thread tension was unbalanced. The top was too tight, but the seams were purposely left wide to allow for alterations. However, the pants fit nicely.

I spent about four hours last night resewing the Indiashop garment. I ripped open the side seams on the top to enlarge it (still have to do the machine sewing and serging on the shoulders and side), hand-finished a few seams, ripped out the machine stitching around the neckline and redid it by hand. Removed the cheap beads at the neckline; I'll visit the bead shop to buy better beads.

It looks like I'm doomed to sew for myself -- that is unless some rich benefactor chooses to give me a fortune so that I can patronize a competent dressmaker.