The salwar kameez is the graceful, loosefitting pantsuit worn by both men and women in Central and South Asia. When worn by men, the neckline is often higher and may be embroidered. Men also generally wear more sombre colours than women. When worn by women, the brilliant hues of the salwar kameeze are echoed by a dupatta, a long shawl worn around the head and shoulders. Salwar kameezes are usually made in cotton, but rayon and silk are also excellent choices.
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Things you need
- Matching thread
- Loose-fitting shirt or blouse
- Straight pins
- Scissors or rotary cutter
- Sewing machine or hand sewing needle
- Ironing board
- Yardstick or ruled cutting mat
- Fabric marker
- Pen or pencil
Determine your desired sleeve length. Measure from your shoulder to where you want the kameez (tunic) hemline to fall. Measure from your natural waist to where you want your salwar (trousers) hemline to fall. Measure your hips at the widest point. Add two inches to these measurements for ease. Measure from your shoulder to your hipbone.
Multiply the measurement from the shoulder to kameez hemline by two. Multiply the measurement from the waist to the salwar hemline by two. Add the two numbers together, and add twelve inches for ease. Get at least this much fabric. Get two more yards If you want a dupatta in the same fabric.
Wash and dry your fabric according to manufacturer's instructions. Iron your fabric.
Preparing to Sew
Measure out the fabric yardage needed for your salwar, plus ease, and dupatta. Cut these and set them aside. Fold the remaining material in half wrong side out, perpendicular to the selvedge,to the desired kameez length. Fold the fabric in half again from selvedge to selvedge.
Tuck the collar and sleeves of your blouse or shirt to the inside of the garment. Fold the shirt or blouse in half lengthwise. Starting at the top left hand corner of the fabric, pin the shirt to the fabric. The centre of the garment should be flush with the fold of the fabric.
Trace the shirt on three sides, except for the hemline. Mark the fabric at your desired hemline and draw the new hemline onto the fabric. Mark the fabric at the shoulder to hipbone measurement. Ensure that all measurements are accurate, and cut out the torso.
Remove the pinned shirt from the fabric. Untuck the sleeve from the shirt and pin one sleeve on the remaining fabric. Trace the sleeve, then move and trace again. Cut out the sleeves. Iron the kameez body and sleeve pieces.
Sew the shoulder seams, then sew sleeves to the body, and sew up the body from under the arms to the hip bone. Finish the sleeves, the neckline and the edges of the side slits. Hem the kameez at the bottom.
Sewing the Salwar Kameez
Fold the fabric in half, wrong side out, perpendicular to the selvedge, then from selvedge to selvedge. Lay the fabric out, folded corners to your left.
Fold the trousers in half lengthwise. Starting at the top-left corner of the fabric, pin the trousers to the fabric. The groin of the trousers should be flush with the fold of the fabric.
Note the trousers hemline, add three inches and mark that point. This is your salwar length. Note the pant-leg width, add three inches and mark the fabric at that point. This is the salwar width at the hem.Trace the trousers at the groin line and waistline. Extend the waistline to the edge of the fabric. Draw a diagonal line from the end of the waistline to the point where the salwar length and width meet. Ensure that all measurements are accurate, and cut out the salwar pieces.
Iron the salwar pieces. With the wrong side out, stitch the salwar legs starting at the ankle up to the groin. Stitch the salwar legs together at the groin up to the waistline. Insert buttonholes on either side of the crotch seam for the drawstring. Fold the waistband down two inches and stitch all the way around. Hem the salwar at the bottom.
Cut the dupatta fabric to the desired length and finish all raw edges.
Sewing the Salwar and Finishing the Dupatta
Tips and warnings
- Interfacing the collar and hemline will give a more professional look.
- If your fabric is a bit stiff for a dupatta (typically a light, flowing shawl) get a matching or coordinating piece of fabric separately.
- If this is your first time making a garment, make a muslin or practice garment first.
- You can finish the raw edges with a zigzag stitch for a longer-lasting garment and a more professional look.
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