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The India Diaries: I Found a Bunch of Fabrics and Now Have One Too Many Pairs of Uneven Shorts

Adventures in tailoring!
March 20, 2014, 6:12pm

My mom haggling with the proprietors of Kesar Complex over fine fabrics.

My biggest mission this trip, other than seeing my grandmother and coming at you with this hard-hitting travel writing, was to have clothes made. Specifically, two pant-shirts (a matching pant and shirt set). I’m edging ever closer to the jumpsuits-only phase of my life (detailed here) and figured wearing these would help ease me into the transition with the panache and flair you’ve come to expect from the kid. The journey begins in the town of Tenali in Andhra Pradesh, where I have to pick up some fabric.

Kesar Complex in Tenali, Andhra Pradesh

The first stop is Kesar Complex, a large men’s and women’s clothing store a two-mile auto rickshaw ride away from my grandmother’s house. I proceeded to the men’s sections where bolt after bolt of fabrics were on display, separated into two sections: pant material and shirt material. The full gamut of wool, cotton, silk, polyester, and of course, the blends, were all on display and in full effect.

Fine bolts of linen fabric at Kesar Complex

I started pointing at what I wanted and they’d unfurl them on the counter. I was clearly from out of town and once the staff figured out I was American they started being overly attendant and following me around the small store, pulling out anything I looked at, which led to me very discreetly checking things out with my peripheral vision to avoid setting anyone off. My goal for this visit was to get a pair of linen shorts, and a few shirts to give away as gifts. I was going to have the rest of the clothes made in the city of Hyderabad with a more experienced tailor than you’d find in a smaller town.

A bunch of fabric laid out on a blanket on the floor of my grandmother’s house

The next stop was one of the local tailors, Chinna, and his tailor shop/personal brand Flarex. His father was one of my mother’s childhood friends and we used to always stop by his store to have clothes made in the beginning of our trips. His son, also referred to as Chinna, runs the place now. I don’t like standing out too much during my visits, so wearing slacks instead of, say, this North Face Steep Tech jacket helps me keep it moving somewhat incognito when I’m in the motherland.

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There was a brief visit made to the sari section in the middle of the store. Sari shopping is often an elaborate process, taking place in a room where the ground is covered in cushions or mattresses so the customer(s) can sit on the floor with the salespeople as they pull out sari after sari for inspection.

Man tired after a long day of dealing with clothes shopping Telugu women

That says “Flarex” in Telugu—you’re going to have to believe me

I brought a few “model” shirts for Chinna to use while tailoring to make sure that he knew what I wanted. Indians often prefer crisply starched collars and cuffs and pants are sharply creased down the middle—all of which I was hoping to not do with these clothes so they could be met with the approval of asshole New Yorkers.

Chinna posing for a quick photo in between taking phone calls

My next stop was Hyderabad, specifically the highly commercial Panjagutta neighborhood. I was headed for the Raymond’s, a nearly 90 year old chain for mens’ clothing—both fabrics and “readymades” as preconstructed clothing is often called here—and women’s saris, etc. This is where I was going to get my more “challenging” and “experimental” stuff made by the store’s own highly respected tailor, known for creating costumes in a flash for local Tollywood productions.

This is not the actual store I went to, but it looked identical—again, you're going to have to believe me

The selection was vast and extended over two floors. I picked out what I wanted, and gave the tailor the model clothes, and with that, I waited for the final products.

The fabric showroom at Raymond’s

The completed pieces all arrived the day before I flew back to New York, which gave me a chance to check them out before I went home. Here's a choice sampling of the final product of my adventures in tailoring.

Gray Linen Shorts

Linen isn’t normally my thing, as the “crushed linen” wrinkled look aggravates my OCD. I don’t mind as much with a pair of shorts because, hey, they’re shorts, who cares? The cuffs on these are definitely way too thick. And a little uneven, but I’ve grown to like that.

Purple Cotton Shorts

Not entirely sure when I would wear these purple shorts, but somebody had already bought the material for me and it would be a dick-move to not do something with it. Once again, the cuffs are too big and he accidentally ironed that crease in the middle, but otherwise, I’m more into these than I thought I would be.

Silk Patterned Shirt

This vaguely '90s Chanel-looking shirt (I dunno) is made of silk. I'm into it.

Cotton Red Leaves Print Shirt

This cotton shirt is understated, whatever that means, and is perfect for autumn—which is perhaps the best of all seasons, fashion-wise.

Gray Striped Shirt

I love the internal pockets on these guys. It keeps everything looking totally creamy.

Green and Orange Striped Shiurt

I forgot to indicate what kind of buttons to use when I had these stitched in Tenali so they went ahead and used these guys. I’ve grown to love them. Fashion.

Veleteen Pinstripe Emsemble

Love this pant-shirt combination. It’s made entirely of a very thick pants material so it’s perfect for the winter months and has been exquisitely sewn.

Gray Ensemble

This gray ensemble is made of a breathable cotton, expressly designed for summertime adventures. I’m very happy with this forward, yet formal, look.

A jumble of fine fabrics

Adventures in Tailoring Recap

Overall this clothing jaunt was a success, although I have an entirely different game plan the next time I go back. I’m planning on heading straight to a textiles store and buying a bunch of bed sheets and curtains and having those turned into jumpsuits. The material is way thicker and the patterns are definitely much cooler. I’ll also avoid having clothes made outside of the city to ensure maximum quality. This was definitely a learning experience, but I saved a lot of money, made a lot of clothes, and wasted only a day or two that I should have spent with my very old grandmother. Not bad.

Dapwell apparently had a nice time in India. Read about his previous adventures at the supermaket and at his grandmother's house. He's on Twitter@dapwell