Long Lives of Dupattas (Scarves)

…. long after the rest of the kameez/shalwar or kurta/shalwar outfit has gone to clothing heaven, the coordinating dupatta lives on, sometimes in eternity, especially if it’s a relatively ornate piece. Let’s face it. If parts of attire do not touch the body, they’re rarely in need of frequent cleaning (notwithstanding food stains) and do not get shabby on the way to eventual disintegration.

Pic from a previous post: this blue chiffon dupatta came with a blue shalwar/kurta set which is still good. I just appropriated it for the white kurta and brown pants. Can you see the silvery dots?

The shalwar/kameez/dupatta combo is indigenous to the Punjab region of the Pakistan and India subcontinent), before it became daily wear for a large portion of South Asia; a dupatta is an integral part of the traditional set. It was meant to cover the already-covered bust or cover the head in conservative circles. Until, we began to get creative.

From left, a “vintage” gold embroidered and edged georgette dupatta from 1973, relatively new block printed cotton lawn teal-ish piece, mustard/maroon block print which will be my first dupatta refashion.
Closeup of the green dupatta. Worn just once since 1973.

Starting from the most recent fashion trends, a dupatta, which is not de riguer at all anymore except in conservative circles, is worn whichever way you want. Currently popular is the very nonchalant way of lightly throwing it over the shoulder in a single layer and letting the rest fall where it may (above). To avoid tripping, it may be worn shorter in the front and the back trailing edge pulled loosely over the hip to the other side (see my photo).

More practical ways dupattas are worn on a daily basis. Throw it around the shoulder, wrap it around the neck, throw around the shoulder but somewhat opened up so that the hands are free below the elbow. Disclaimer: not recommended in the kitchen for risk of a fire hazard. This particular dupatta is a cheap synthetic one which coordinated with an everyday outfit, soon to go to fabric heaven. It has holes so not worth the refashioning trouble.

Then, there’s the daily dupatta using community in South Asia. See above. The much used, much washed dupattas usually go through a regimen of other tasks such as drying the face and hands when reaching for a towel is too much effort; or wiping away kiddie tears and dripping noses. Or, using it as a pot holder for handling hot pots and pans although I do not recommend wearing it in a kitchen. Get the picture? Kind of like a grandma’s apron in the US. These are, by necessity, thrown in the wash frequently and therefore have a much shorter life than their ornate sisters.

But today, I’m talking about the spoiled kids of the dupatta pile which don’t ever go in the wash. They can be pretty block printed cottons, lace, chiffon, net or tulle with elaborate embroidery and sundry embellishments. In my opinion, these dupatta orphans are ripe for refashioning into something else. They are usually 2 or 2.5 yards long and of sufficient width to be quite useful. As for the embellishments, why would you not integrate it in your refashion?

So, I’ll keep you updated on which one is a refashion project, which ones are totally discarded or the princesses saved for posterity.

Thank you for reading, friends! Love you all….


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