The traditional Pakistani outfit is made up of two parts. The shirts, ‘kameez’, are long and loose fitting with two slits on the sides. The slits should be even with the waist or hips, and should not allow any skin to be shown. The pants are called ‘shalwar’ and look like what many of us think of us as ‘genie-pants’ or ‘harem-pants.’ A full outfit is called a ‘shalwar kameez’ and is consider one suit.
For women there is also a large scarf, or ‘dupatta’ that is always worn when wearing Pakistani clothes. It usually serves as a drape to cover the body, particularly the chest, but some women merely wear it as a fashion statement thrown over one shoulder.
Readymade vs. Unstitched Cloth
You can buy readymade clothes in many areas, but not everyone can find the size or style that they like in clothes that are already stitched. Good places to buy ready-made shalwar kameez include Pace shopping malls, Fortress Stadium and Liberty Market. At Pace, you can browse dozens of boutiques, in both men’s and women’s clothing, to get a suit for upwards of 600 rupees ($7.50). In Liberty and Fortress, ready-made clothes are bit pricier. Designer suits for ladies go for 2000 rupees ($25) or more.
The benefit of readymade clothes is that you don’t have to find a tailor and get it stitched. Many readymade outfits have exquisite embroidery or beaded designs that will cost more to get done at a tailor. The downside of readymade clothes is that usually there’s not a dressing room to try on the clothes. When you get home, you may find out that your suit doesn’t fit. Then you’ll have to bring it to a tailor anyway for alterations. More upscale stores have fitting rooms and in-house tailors, but these suits are not in the under 1000 rupees range.
Buying Unstitched Cloth
If you want to buy unstitched cloth, this is easy for both women and men. For men, there are several stores on Model Town Link Road with very affordable cloth. You can also visit a Sunday market, such as the Defence Sunday Market, to get cheaper, yet good quality cloth. For higher quality, and higher prices, you can check out some of the boutiques at Liberty Market. For women, the best place to buy unstitched cloth is Aurega Center in Gulberg, next to Main Market. There are hundreds of other places in Lahore to buy unstitched cloth.
For women, you first need to decide if you want to buy 2-piece or 3-piece suits. 2 piece suits will need a third piece, such as a matching dupatta or matching shalwar, to complete the outfit. 3-piece suits will include pieces for shalwar, kameez, and dupatta. Cloth is usually sold in sets, so you can’t just buy the dupatta and not buy the shalwar and kameez that goes with it.
There are many types of cloth that are appropriate in different seasons. In summer, most people wear lawn, a thin cotton fabric. A 3-piece lawn suit for ladies goes for 250 rupees ($3.10) and up. Men’s cloth is usually more expensive because larger pieces are cut. Nicer lawn suits, that will last for more than one season, will cost at least 400 rupees for a 3-piece ladies suit ($5). Winter clothes are more expensive as the fabrics are thicker. Silks, chiffons, and nice georgette cloth will be more expensive than cheaper synthetic cloth.
Getting the Clothes Made
Before bringing your cloth to the tailor, make sure to shrink it and let it dry. Visit a trim shop to buy any ribbon or beading for your suit. Try to find a tailor who is recommended by a friend and not too far from your home. Tailors are notorious for not having things done on time, and if you have to go to a far away location again and again, you’re more likely to get frustrated.
Get measured by the tailor, but bring a sample for sizing if you have one. Tailors tend to do better when copying rather than drawing the designs themselves. Choose the design you want for the neck and sleeves, and let the tailor know how long your want the kameez to be. A safe bet is to go with knee length or a few inches below. Once you start to learn about the styles, you’ll be able to know which patterns are trendy and keep up with the local fashion.
It usually costs about 200 rupees per suit ($2.50) for stitching in a middle class neighborhood. Depending where you go, the cost may be cheaper or more expensive. Tailors may not sew the loose ends of your dupatta, as there’s special men with sewing machines who do the easier work. They are called picowalas and can be found outside ribbon and trim shops.
Make sure to set a day when the tailor expects your clothes to be finished and finalize the price. You don’t want any surprises when you go to pick up your clothes. Write down what cloth you gave the tailor and keep a small swatch of each in case they get lost. You might not be able to try your clothes on at the tailor’s shop, so you’ll have to wait until you get home to see if anything fits!