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Saree Rental : You have choices

Almost every person who has purchased a saree for a special occasion has wondered, “I am only going to wear this saree once, do I really need to buy it? Wished I could borrow it, just for the occasion!”

Saree Rental : You have choices    saree rental  Some designers, who are very myopic, are against “renting”. But most have recognized that it opens up a new avenue and new access to potential clients. Some others believe that the renting will have no effect on their business; because their clientele is so exclusive that they will never get caught renting an outfit. I sort of agree with that.

A dear family friend and a person that I admired a lot, CK Prahalad, talked about “Base of the Pyramid” business opportunities. Many designers focus on the “top of the pyramid”, and are very successful and happy doing that. But there is clearly a need to address the population in the middle or the base of the pyramid and for them renting a saree for an occasion, could be very attractive.

It’s not even about the base or the top of the pyramid; it is just a reflection of how a modern Desi women, especially a diaspora, thinks and deals with her need to reflect her ethnic identity. She wants to wear saree/lahenga, but with lot less commitment; she wants to wear trendy clothes, without having to immerse herself in the fashion scene of India. I know several women who would jump on it. I also know several women who would be disgusted by even the thought of renting a saree, but I think it is a reflective of the cultural values and social stigma attached to renting. In US, it is not just OK, but expected that men would rent from a tux shop and women have equal number of options too. There are several very successful designer gown rental sites, comes to mind, that have been around for at least a couple of years, which is eternity in internet times.

Another place where these services can really be useful is when some of the non-desi friends have been invited to a desi wedding and they want to wear ethnically appropriate clothing at the function. I have personally loaned or arranged to have my friends get sarees and sherwanis, but understandably, they were very reluctant and it was a bit awkward. I know for sure that if I had told them about the saree rental places, they would have really explored it. To them it would have been no different than renting a tux, with a little spice and color added to it.

Interestingly, over the last few months, there are there have been at several online saree rental services that have started. They are,, and
This is not a formal review/rating of these services, more of a general introduction to them. I like the concept of “night to remember the saree” or more appropriately “saree to remember the night”. You may not be aware of these services and might not even have thought about them. So next time you need a special saree, at least consider these options.

Each one was independently conceived and developed and they all did their own market research, bringing in their own fashion and business sense in to it. They all thought about the issues and problems and nuances of renting a saree. It’s not just the six yards of saree, one has to worry about the petticoat, blouse, accessories and fits and logistics of everything else. And they all solved the problems in their own unique ways, which is really good for you because now you have a whole spectrum of choices and you can explore what works the best for you!
There are differences in terms of how the actual transaction takes place, but I am not going to focus on them because all of these businesses are new and they are trying to establish and conquer a niche. The pricing, the structure, the offerings and dealing with nuances of saree wearing will change over time. But I am glad that a business approach has been applied to this outstanding problem and I wish all of them well.

Borrow it Bindaas:

Saree Rental : You have choices    saree rental

For Borrow it Bindaas, the saree rental cost varies with the type of saree that you rent. They have a range of versatile sarees and their rental rate is between $40 and $80. Their sarees are available for both borrowing and buying. I was pleasantly surprised with the range of their collection.

Their site reminded me of RentTheRunway, but that is not necessarily bad thing.

With each saree rental customers get a matching petticoat, the main matching blouse that is semi-custom fitted, and a second neutral back up blouse with slightly different measurements. I liked that idea of the second blouse. Especially since the rental is for five or ten days, you don’t really have time to get any fitting done, so things have to fit perfectly, well almost perfectly, so you can at least wear the saree in public.

They also have a matching accessories available and they will match them for you to enhance your look. Including bindis was a nice touch, I thought. They also have full-fledged bridal and bridesmaids collection. Typical rental is for 5 days or 10 days and can even reserve one up to 6 months in advance.

Unlike tux rental places, there is no extra cleaning fee and return shipping is included.

By the way, if you don’t know, Bindaas used to be a slang in Hindi. Probably original in Mumbai. Now ofcourse, you can find the word in Oxford Dictioary. It used to mean carefree and cool, but I think now it only means carefree. The word has a special meaning and I think Bindaas clothing makes a lot of sense for saree rental company.

Sari Closet

Saree Rental : You have choices    saree rental

Sari Closet takes a different approach. They have sarees that are chosen to be in certain class, typically in the retail range of $300-$600. So their prices for rental are fixed, somewhere around $80, which adds certain simplicity to the renting process. The point being that if it is inexpensive saree, why would you want to rent it?

For blouses they have a twist. In a way it is a compromise between people feeling uncomfortable in renting a blouse but wanting to try out saree rental. For some, renting a saree is OK, but renting a blouse is an issue. To them, the blouse is an intimate apparel and shouldn’t be shared. In response to that concern, they have a different solution. You essentially buy a generic gold or silver blouse from them; it is semi-custom made for you, so it will fit nicely. You can use that blouse for other sarees in your collection or for with a subsequent rental from Sari Closet.

As a saree snob, I don’t know if I like the idea of having a non-perfectly-matching blouse, but this service is not designed for saree-snobs, so it doesn’t matter. I have seen generic gold or silver blouses paired nicely with various sarees. Especially if you drape it right, you can de-emphasize the blouse. And then you have a blouse to keep, which you can mix and match with other sarees.


Saree Rental : You have choices    saree rental

Luxemi is another site based on similar premise. They have segregated rental and for-sale catalog, which makes sense. Some of the sarees were interesting; some recognized designer brand and some other high end sarees. Rental prices range from $80 to $300. I saw some sarees/lahenga with rental rates of $300+ for 4 day rental and $400 for 10 day rental.

For blouses, they include two adjustable blouses with each saree rental. Saree selection for borrowing is modest, but I am sure they are adding new things periodically.

For a wedding party, or for a special gathering, if you have a budget of $300-$400 for a saree, chances are you are not exploring the rental route, but it could be perfect for a very special occasion. The rental costs of a wedding gown at local tux shop varies from $100-$500, so this is not out of the line – just addressing different needs and different market. I am glad that they are probing the different segment of the market and more power to them.

I liked the name Luxemi a lot. It combines an allure of luxury with Indian goddess Laxmi, cool!

The whole saree rental idea has potential for sure. And I am happy to help it grow.

All these companies have dynamic leadership and thoughtful and passionate founders, and they are all thinking about how best to address your need. If you need something specific, contact them directly or leave a comment to this post.

I don’t want to say that one service is better than other based on their current offerings, because I have no doubt that by the time the holiday season rolls around, all of them would have changed.

Here are some screen shots from different stores:

Saree Rental : You have choices    saree rental

Sort of reminds me of Rent the Runway site.

Sari Closet Site

Saree Rental : You have choices    saree rental

Luxemi Site : Typical rental screen

Saree Rental : You have choices    saree rental

Collectively, I was expecting a few “designer names” to be prominently featured. For sarees, if you are not an expert, it is hard to judge the real value. Really cheap ones are easy to spot, but once you go above $200, it is very difficult to tell them apart. The way to address this issue might have been to focus on known saree designers and brands. Many of the Satya Paul sarees cost $150-$200; I can imagine an iconic pretty desi women, renting Satya Paul for $40-$60; or an authentic Sabyasachi that can be had for $400-$600 and one can price the rental appropriately. Tuxedo rental places have figured this out. When you rent a tuxedo, it is not just any tuxedo, it is a Calvin Klein tuxedo or Ralph Lauren tuxedo!

Sooner or later some of them would offer the NetFlix model of monthly fees; you get to keep one saree and rent new ones up to six times a year or something similar. Not sure if it would succeed or not, but it may be worth trying.

I wish them great success and I hope if an occasion arises where you need a saree for a special day, or a non-desi friend needs a saree for a special occasion, I hope you will at least think of these services.

Here are the links:

Borrow it Bindaas

Sari Closet


If you have a suggestion, leave a comment or write to them directly. If you decide to give any one of them a try, tell us about it and share your experience with your fellow saree drapers.
I am aware of a few others, Laxmi’s Closet and Rent-a-saree, but they seem to have very limited selection as yet and hence I have not included them here. Iif you know of other saree rental places, in US or in India or any other part of the world, leave a comment or send us an email at sunny at or ria at

I expect that we will review the saree rental sites again in a few months, so come back and visit us.


reflecting on Sabyasachi’s comments on Saree

The Telegraph has an article called Save the sari and they asks Sabyasachi Mukherjee for his suggetions/comments about Saree!

Designers who don’t do saris well:

All the members of my brethren who have cut, pleated, zipped, draped and raped the sari! You might call them creative, I call it nouveau riche.

A Few quirky ways to wear a sari

| Sheer sari with a printed petticoat

| Organic sari with a well washed pure leather blouse

| Sari worn with a man’s shirt tucked into a petticoat

| Sari worn with a blazer, pallu wrapped scarf style around the neck

| Chotu Sabya Sari (in picture above) with Chanel leather boots

Five best blouses

| Prim Chinese collar blouse. Think Brahmo Samaj. The historically challenged can think matronly.

| Front-tied. Think Dimple in Jhooth bole from Bobby

| Three-quarter sleeve backless blouse. Modest from the front but a different story altogether from the back!

| Katori cut Rajasthani choli.

| Good old rubia blouse worn with a chiffon and bespoke pearls.

Five elements of a Sabya sari

| Good textile

| Multiple borders that are lovingly known in the market as patti-patti! It’s a task for my sales team to sell a sari without these!

| A three-quarter sleeve blouse or churi sleeve blouse

| Contrast — I can’t get rid of the Frankenstein I created!

| Handmade tassels for the blouses.

This is an image of chhotu saree with boots.

reflecting on Sabyasachis comments on Saree    designers

Full discussion here.


Saree or Not a Saree and all about being a traditionalist about a saree

Saree or Not a Saree and all about being a traditionalist about a saree    miscelleneous

Sigh… I have to start a new category called “saree or not a saree”!

I am not a purist or traditionalist about sarees; yes, I prefer an unstiched six yards of garment draped in a flowing fashion, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a little short cut here in there.

I respect the saree, but I respect the woman wearing the saree even more – let her decide what she wants to wear.

If somebody says to you that they are traditionalists about the saree and don’t like pre-stitched sarees or lahenga saree – ask them whether they’d prefer a saree without a blouse and a saree without a petticoat or thinnest of sarees without any under garment? Of course not; because their “traditional” roots are shallow and go only about 100 years and not 2000 years.

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer. Traditionalists are pessimists about the future and optimists about the past and I am not one of them.

I want the saree to provide a bridge between the old world and the new world and not be used as a leash to hold a woman in the old world.

So whether you chose to call this a saree or not; it does create an interesting silhouette and let us admire and appreciate that.

Forget Kilts, What Do They Wear Under Their Saree?

Forget Kilts, What Do They Wear Under Their Saree?    saree pics saree humor  Mrs. Smith has a delightful post:

Ever wondered how a saree stays on? I figured it was some ancient Indian folding technique passed down from mother to daughter. Maybe a few safety pins thrown in for good measure. No, there is a secret that nobody tells you. Not the people who sell you the saree, not the tailor who makes the blouse to go with it, not even your American friends who are supposed to be smarter than you. They wear a petticoat! They tuck the saree into the elastic waistband of the petticoat! My only contact with a petticoat up to this point in my life was “Petticoat Junction”, an old show that I used to watch the reruns of as a kid. I could sing the theme song for you, but that’s not really pertinent.

Twenty minutes passed and Camla came upstairs to help me make a dress out of a huge piece of fabric and I was waiting for her in my blouse and my underwear. That’s right. Poor Camla, she was so embarrassed and just didn’t know how to explain to me that I was missing a vital part of the whole saree ensemble. Finally she flipped up the end of her own saree to show me her petticoat. I was mortified. Eventually we found something that would work for the night and off I went. “Why is she telling us this?” you might ask. You are just full of questions today! This week Mr. Smith received another invitation to another wedding. This time my saree will be green, as will my brand new petticoat.

Mrs. Smith looks gorgeous in her saree.

We have talked about the petticoat before. It is the most under appreciated and most vital part of the saree.

It was less than 100 years ago when women did wear the saree without the petticoat and not the thick cotton sarees but the thinnest ‘makhmali’ transparent sarees!


Sensual Scent of Spring

Daylight saving starts today, it means Spring is closer than you think…but what is Spring without brilliant riots of colour? This photograph by Tarun Vishwa for ELLE’s July edition 2013 under the watchful eyes of the creative director Prashish More and fashion director Malini Banerji … reminds me of the sensual scent of spring with its gorgeous colours; royal blue, crimson, fuchsia and plum.
Sensual Scent of Spring    traditional sarees saree pics designer saree