Sunday, April 25, 2010

Indian fabric shopping adventure

A few weeks ago, my friend and co-worker Sunitha invited me to accompany her to look for some fabric for her daughter's Indian dance recital costume.   We headed out on out lunch break (which turned out to be a long one, because we went to many stores, not just one!)   Before our trip, I was aware of Houston's South Asian shopping district on Hillcroft near Highway 59, and had even been there a few times, to buy stuff at the Indian grocery store and rent videos.  I had never been in any of the many sari stores, so I didn't know they also sell FABRIC.  On the bolt.  At pretty decent prices, especially if you are a skilled bargainer, which fortunately Sunitha was!

The first store we stopped at was called Fashion Fabrics, or something like that.  We didn't stay long -- all the fabric was behind a long counter, so I couldn't get a good look at it, and Sunitha didn't like the proprietor or the prices.   Like all the stores we visited, there's a lot of ready made Indian clothing in the store, but they will also take custom orders, which is what the fabric on the bolt is for.  Sunitha tells me that this is still the way she gets her clothes when she's in India -- she "has them stitched", as she puts it.   She wasn't too impressed with the prices in any of the stores we visited, compared to what she pays in India, but with no thousand-dollar plane ticket required, they were looking like good deals to me!

The next store we went to was Sari Sapne: it's a small store, and the fabric bolts are way in the back, though there's also some behind a counter on the side.  There's not a whole lot, and I was surprised at how much of it was eyelet!   But I did find a piece of butter yellow silk (dupioni?) with a silver design on its border that I loved.  I didn't buy it then, but went back for it while Sunitha picked up sweets at the store next door for another co-worker.  Because I went alone, I didn't haggle over the price.  I paid $12 a yard for 3 yards, and it was the most expensive piece of fabric I bought that day.

Next up was Sansar Sari Bridal Boutique, which was on the second floor of the next shopping center over. It's bigger than Sari Sapne, and had more fabric, some of it behind the counter and some not, but I ducked behind the counter to look at a few that caught my eye and was not reprimanded.  I bought several pieces of fabric here, and Sunitha handled the price negotiation.   She's ruthless, but never stops smiling which I suspect is a key to success, at least when bargaining with women, and women were running every store we visited.   Anyhow, my loot from that store included two bright floral cotton lawns for $3.99 a yard,  a slinky embellished yard-and-a-half remnant for $5, and a gorgeous champagne-colored sequined piece that Sunitha bargained down from $20 a yard to more like $10.

Our final stop was Roop Sari Palace.  It's huge!  The ready-made stuff is a treat to look at in this store especially: they have some seriously fancy duds, and they don't come cheap!   They also had a lot of jewelry for sale.   They probably didn't have any more fabric (and possibly a little less) than Sansar Sari, but they had these bundles of fabric for saris (one long, six or seven yard piece) and sets of three fabrics for making salwar kameez (which have a tunic-like top, loose pants, and a long scarf).   The bundles were mostly $9.99 and $19.99.  I was surprised at how much cotton voile was included in the $9.99 bundles, and grabbed a bunch.  This stuff feels wonderful, and I'm already using some of it to make my vintage dress for the pattern review contest.   I think there's some polyester in it, because while it takes a pressing well, it doesn't wrinkle all that easily.  It's a dream to work with, actually.  The pieces in the three-piece bundles seem to be 36 inches by 8 feet each, and conveniently lots of vintage patterns give fabric requirements for 35 inch fabrics.  Roop Sari wasn't open to price negotiations, but the prices were pretty compelling already!

Looking online for the addresses of the stores I visited, I found that all three have very mixed reviews, which surprised me.  But I guess it may depend on what your service expectations are, and of course I had an easier time because I was shopping with a South Asian native who knew how to approach the store-keepers.   Anyhow, for Houstonians who might stumble across this, here are the addresses:

Sari Sapne:   5651 Hillcroft
Sansar Sari Bridal Boutique:  5700 Hillcroft (second floor)
Roop Sari Palace:   6655 Harwin


  1. Sari fabric is such a delight, and your adventures in hunting so entertaining. I've used some truly glorious magenta sari yardage in a 1910s ballgown costume, but wouldn't have thought of working with it for later eras. I loved your final result on PatternReview (which led me to your delightful blog)!

    Keep up the good work - it's always a joy to see others working with vintage patterns. :)

  2. Thanks! There are so many gorgeous Indian fabrics out there -- I think I'll be back for more, now that I know of good places locally. I wish I had a fancier life so that I could justify buying more of the silk and embroidered and beaded ones!

  3. Great blog, and thanks for the info! I also live in Houston, and it's always good to find beautiful fabrics locally!

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