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Goris in saris

Judy Dench is wearing them and so are the Pussy Cat Dolls. The sari is a hit in the West.

No surprises then that 50 to 65 per cent of the clients of the rent-a-sari services are non-South Asian. "Most of them hire a sari for an Indian friend's wedding, but some also do so for a Bollywood theme party or a formal office event, " says Sreesha Vaman, one of the founders of the Sari Closet.

He attributes the rising demand to the rage surrounding all things Indian in the US. "With the success of movies like Slumdog Millionaire, songs like Chammak challo and India-inspired collections of high-end brands like Chanel, India is the in-culture these days and everyone wants to wear a sari, " he says.

Valerie Barrios, who rented a sari from Luxemi for an Indian friend's wedding in October, is among the many Americans who have used rented saris to "try out" the Indian look. "I love the vibrancy and glamour of traditional Indian attire. But if I purchased a sari, I would feel compelled to wear it three years in a row, " says the hospitality consultant.

The companies also offer special guidance for first-time sari wearers to ensure they look smashing as they sashay down party halls - without tripping on the pleats. BIB sends an instructional guide with the sari and Sari Closet has put up YouTube videos with step-by-step demonstrations. The latter has a panel of sari connoisseurs or 'Saristas' too. These men and women are well-versed with Indian culture and are available to answer any questions. "The non-Indian clients often want to know about the wedding ceremony, what is appropriate and what is not, whether they will offend the hosts by exposing their mid-riff and if the bindi has a religious significance, " says Vaman. - NB

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