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Visiting a Dressmaker in Patan – Inside Himalayas

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Wherever you travel in Nepal, even in the most remote villages in the mountains, you will see women dressed in Nepali clothing when working in the fields, doing the housework, or taking care of their children. Most of the time, they wear a kurta suruwal and a scarf over their shoulders as a sign of modesty. I liked their look and cared about keeping traditions alive, so I wanted to buy one for myself before going back home.

I would have liked to buy a sari (an unstitched drape of cloth typically wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder), but I thought it would be too demanding to wear it in Europe. On the other hand, kurta suruwal looks more modern, and was indeed adopted in Nepal in the recent past. A kurta suruwal consists of baggy pants and a top garment that is a collared or collarless blouse made of silk or cotton, and a scarf over the shoulder. It is found in a variety of color combinations all across Nepal, and is easy to find and affordable.

On the last day of my stay in Nepal, I decided to go shopping in Patan. I entered several clothing shops and searched for a kurta suruwal with a neutral print, something I could wear in my home country, Romania. Most dresses and designs were very rich in colors and had intricate patterns. I eventually found a beautiful, simple one in a small shop crammed between tall houses. It was made of handloom cotton fabric sourced from the hills around the Kathmandu Valley, and it had big red flowers on a white background with blue hues interspersed on the lower part. It also came with dark blue pants, which I could wear with other dresses as well.

Visiting a Dressmaker in Patan
Photo: Iuliana Marchian

The dress I liked was unique but too small for me. The dressmaker immediately offered to measure and make changes to it within an hour. It was around noon and I had to be at the airport in the afternoon. Knowing how long it takes to do this in my country, I hesitated and didn’t trust the process.

I was ready to say ‘no’ when the dressmaker reassured me to come back within one hour and pick up the dress with all changes made. I agreed, still hesitating a bit, but I let her measure my waist and shoulders. She spoke a bit of English, and always smiled and nodded when I asked something. She pinned me a couple of times and started to make the changes on the top.

I went for a walk at the Durbar Square in Patan and fed the pigeons. I had a quick snack and then impatiently went back to the shop to buy my dress. It was ready and waiting for me, all changes made. I tried it on once more and it fitted me perfectly. It was made for me. I was amazed by the quick and professional service and, at the same time, happy I could buy a Nepali dress (all changes made) within such a short time. I happily grabbed the dress and paid, looking forward to wearing it in Romania. When I left the shop, the dressmaker smiled at me and leaned forward putting her hands together and saying ‘Namaste’.

I wasn’t expecting to find such a service in Nepal but I highly appreciated it because in my world (at least in Romania) you can’t get personalized tailoring done easily. You usually buy a dress, pay for it, and then take it to a different dressmaker for changes and pay again for adjustments; it’s a complicated process that I didn’t want to go through, especially during the remaining hours before my flight. In Nepal, the whole process was easy, quick, and very professional. Everything happened within one hour, in a small ‘no-name’ shop in Patan. I still had time to catch the flight to Qatar afterwards.

In Nepal, lifestyles and customs are different. Going to a dressmaker and having everything adjusted within one hour is part of a normal day. You have all services included when you buy a dress and you can personalize it to your needs.

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