Review: Tribal Skirt from Sai International

A while ago, while talking to a friend, I told her that making your own tribal bra was a bit of a rite of passage. I was making it up (sort of), but getting a 25 yard skirt is DEFINITELY something you need to do at some point or other. Of course, if you’re on the curvier side, you might find this difficult.

I have mentioned elsewhere how you can make one. Yes, that’s 12 metres, so about half the 25 yards touted as “standard”. You need a HUGE amount of fabric for making these, and while they’re easy to make, if you want something like a dip-die edge, you’re out of luck unless you want a LOT of extra work, which most of us can’t put in (or don’t have the facilities to do).

25-yard SkirtMost local places have told me they were selling skirts, but none had anything I could pick and be certain that it would fit me right. So I turned to eBay to see if anybody was offering bigger sizes there. Turns out they weren’t, but a few inquiries did find me an indian manufacturer called Sai International more than willing to do it, for a price that was about £10 more than buying the amount of fabric my calculations told me I would need to make one. Sounded like a match made in heaven… almost. And today, after merely a couple of weeks, the skirt arrived.

The good:

  • prompt and clear communication: they got back to me within hours, if they were away, they told me they would be
  • clear explanation and requests: fundamental if you’re doing something for someone else
  • reasonably priced: about 1/3rd below the amount I would have been charged for an american standard skirt (without the extra charge for customisation for bigger sizes, and of course without the hideous shipping fees!); around the same as one bought locally, but again, no chance at customisation…I think overall, with shipping, it was about £38.
  • Shipping was FAST, via DHL… it left India on Friday and was here on Monday, and shipping charges were very reasonable (£3.50 or so)
  • decent but lightweight fabric: it’s a nice cotton, without being that horrible light cheesecloth that starts opening at the seams after two washes, and which we see often on summer clothing
  • the red dip-dyed colour is lovely; the black could be stronger, but I understand that with the procedures used, it’s far more difficult to get a deep black colour

The bad:

  • for all the “made to measure” requirements, apparently they forgot to increase the size of the underskirt accordingly, so while it does have a bigger waist, the underskirt was made for a much smaller person than me, and sits TIGHT… I can’t understand why you’d make this piece as a straight tube the size of the waist… anybody wanting these for their waist, or with a bigger bum than their upper hip measurement would have issues… And this on a garment advertised for DANCING, which should mean they should allow for a range of movement. This means I’ll have to either open it up fully, or remove it completely and trust that a second underlying skirt and pantaloons will give me enough of a modesty cover
  • the 25 yards are at the bottom, apparently (I haven’t measured) but the upper tiers haven’t really been scaled and are rather smaller than what I was expecting giving the 25 yards at the bottom the feel of… a flounce. The dip dye line in that photo is 1-third up the next tier, if that gives you a better idea of depth. This is particularly puzzling as the actual tier is about 1cm less than on my own monsterskirt, but for some reason it feels like it is far less
  • linked with the above, the top tier doesn’t *quite* flow as well as it could, so no skirts whirling all the way to the top for me, at least not with this one
  • worringly, half the seams on the skirt were not finished: some edges were overlocked to prevent fraying, but half of them aren’t; the same goes for the inside seam on the underskirt; yes, there are double straight-stitched seams on these, but I am still not happy with the lack of finishing of the seam edges
  • and finally, more importantly and most annoying of all… the hem was very uneven

Gypsy CostumeI’ve discussed the uneven hems in the past, I know this is a risk for fuller figures, and I have encountered it myself on nearly every single skirt that I’ve ever worn except those that I made myself to counteract for it. So this was expected. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would be SO noticeable. The monsterskirt, with its sari third tier, shows any unevenness VERY clearly, and lowly me, with little experience doing a skirt before, managed to make a 12-metre one that, when I have taken the time to arrange it properly, is STRAIGHT. You can see this clearly in the photo, where the edge is even at about 1″ from the floor. My new dip-dyed skirt hitches at the sides, and I’m not sure about the back because the fullness covers it, but I’m pretty sure the front is longer. And it’s also rather short for my liking. Granted, these issues are not deal-breakers if you’re using your skirts wrapped or hitched, they don’t matter, but me? I’d rather start from a flawless point, and not have to rely on hacks to mask the issues.

I’ve found that, side by side, my 12 metre skirt doesn’t appear to be substantially smaller or less full than the new 25-yarder. So, to sum it up, what have we learnt today?

  • beware of postal made to measure
  • I should really, REALLY, go for a circle top tier next time, as it’s less bulk and more “flow”
  • I should also really, REALLY, make the next one myself; I’ll have close to zero choice of colours, but it will fit exactly right

Overall, I am a bit disappointed as I expected a bit more, but if you don’t tend to have problems with skirts off-the-peg, or for wrapping around, at the price these skirts are quite decent. I might order another one if I require a very specific colour, as finding suitable fabric for them seems to be difficult, but for the next one, probably an underskirt in cream or white? I’m definitely making my own. And a black one to follow too.

Legal Disclosure: I was not paid for writing this review, nor I received any free service or product in exchange for it.

The Right Fit

We’ve all had that moment, when we look at ourselves in the mirror while trying something on, and we go “hmmm”. This doesn’t just happen with costumes, but also with standard clothing, and quite often we give in because, being a bit on the generously proportioned side of humanity, we feel it’s nearly impossible to find anything that “works”. Or worse, we’ve grown accustomed to get stuff that doesn’t fit us right -neither in size, or in style- because we feel we won’t be able to find what we want since nobody makes it. Or even worse, depending on how much of a pummelling your self esteem got, that you will never find it, because your body is the problem.

This it not right.
Let me repeat that again, just in case:

Fitting curvier bodies, regardless of  actual size, is notoriously difficult, because the same measurements can give vastly different bodies. This reflects in manufacturers cutting, for the most part, for an average shape, and everybody thinking their bodies are the ones with issues. And of course this results in nothing fitting anybody properly, and everybody thinking it’s their fault.  However, there are some things you can do to minimise these issues, and that will result in clothing that works better with your body and flatters you.

  • never buy something you are iffy about: this will result in yet another piece of clothing left in your wardrobe that you will rarely, if ever, wear
  • never buy something that is too tight: it’s very difficult to let out an outfit, and the shape that it currently has might not sit right onto your body if you loose the weight
  • wear the right base garments when trying on clothing: this means the right bra, and if you normally wear shapewear, those too.
  • buy the right cut for your shape

When checking if something is too tight, watch out for signs:

  • pulls (those unsightly horizontal wrinkles that don’t appear to have any rhyme or reason; if the garment is loose and those are still there, then it means there’s a construction problem and you should leave it anyway, as it’s not made correctly)
  • uneven lines (lines or seams that should run totally horizontal or parallel don’t do so; slits are gaping wide open, etc)
  • darts opening when they should lie flat
  • overstuffed sausage look, where you’re spilling over your bra, the upper side of your dress, the hip belts, the cutouts, muffin tops, etc; you’ll know it when you see it
  • skirts in particular, although I’ve seen it happening with other garments, that are too short because the stretch on the horizontal has shrunk the fabric on the vertical plane
Also look for other signs of potential problems:
  • skirts that are too short (pay attention to this if you’re tall, or if you’re buying from China, as their standard sizes are quite petite in height); your dancing skirts for the most part should always be brushing the top of your feet if not longer… I like mine 2cm from the floor.
  • uneven hems on your back (or sides or front) produced by body areas that are more plump; this can be the bane of a lot of people; if the hem suddenly goes up at some point because of a generous bum or tummy, this problem can only be sorted out by making the bottom even or adding some material on the top, and if the skirt is already at the maximum length it will be, it cannot be solved; if that is the case, leave it, no matter how pretty it looks, otherwise you’ll have something that will look uneven and unprofessional;
  • slits that come up too high and instead of making you look alluring, show off your undies or open too much under the strain of your movement; at least these you can correct with stitches at regular intervals creating “peek-a-boo” holes, or you can add some chiffon to hide the offending part, as long as this slit isn’t spread open like a clock striking 8:20
  • weird-looking cleavage, produced often by hard-moulded cups that have unflattering shapes, or are too far apart, risking an overspill or wardrobe malfunction

A lot of people will try to tell you that what you’re experience is “normal” and that “if only you’d loose a couple of pounds” it will look better. Or if only you wore a bodystocking. Or some similar statement. These are an awful lot of “if only”s that, for the most part, are unlikely to give you the expected result (a smashing look), and personally, I’d rather not bet the several hundreds that a costume can be on such a flimsy possibility. Seriously, I’ve been told the “if only you’d loose a couple of pounds”  by well meaning staff for an evening gown that I *had* to wear for a formal function; nowadays, my husband can insert two arms up to his biceps on the back of said gown while I wear it, and it still doesn’t fit right; so much for that!

Never, ever settle for what you can find if what you can find isn’t what you like. Ill-fitting garments that are too short, too tight, too baggy, or too ugly, belong somewhere else -sometimes even the bin-, but never on you. If you go to a costume provider and they insist you take something that you don’t like, politely decline. Don’t settle for a folk-style garment if you were after a cabaret style, or be talked into a 2 piece outfit if you feel awkward showing off your tummy, or if the cut isn’t working for you. Try to negotiate a made to measure garment, if you have the option, or else look elsewhere, but when buying, buy only what you want, and don’t settle for peer pressure, because you will hate yourself for it afterwards, and your wallet will wail in agony too. You deserve the best you can afford, in a shape and cut that flatters you and shows you off in the best light.


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