Reusing, upcycling and recycling of old wedding clothes

Nani ki Saari, Amma ka Gharara

Did your life take a bit of a fashion turn when you entered your late-teens, early twenties? Maybe you stepped into the world of saaris at your first farewell at school, or your first properly heavy jora for your favourite cousin’s shaadi? We completely relate. On came a sudden avalanche of jhumkas and khussas to pair with these elaborate dresses but wait… let’s talk about nani ki saari and amma ka gharara. Do you have one? Probably. Either that, or a jamawar shalwar kameez, (very 90s mehndi style!) or a peshawas that looks nothing short of absolute royalty for the modern shehzadi.

We have this beautiful tradition of passing down clothes and reusing them. Now there’s a lot at play here. You have your family heirlooms and the sentimental value attached with them, you have the reusing, upcycling and recycling of clothes, and the act of helping those in need. Let’s look at all these elements that are linked to our clothes.

Your nani ki saari has seen a whole other world. It’s like a vault that holds a completely different era safe inside it. That saari has seen pre-independence Pakistan; it has seen your nani’s friends (Ask nani about this! Who knows? Maybe she was best friends with a Lakshami or Preeti. Listen to her stories). It has seen sorrow, heartbreak, joy, gramophones and radios. It has seen puff sleeved silky shalwar kameez and elaborate hairdos. You can almost feel the “adaab” and the shaayri when you adorn nani ki saari with some contemporary jewelry for a fun fusion!

llustration inspired by Mahnoor’s mothers and aunts wearing Generation.


Your amma ka gharara lived through another world. It was a world of disco deewanay and Vital Signs, Backstreet Boys and Shania Twain, cassettes and walkmans, film cameras and VCRs. It has also seen her college days, her adventures as a vibrant young woman, her trips to Nathia Gali in old school sunglasses and maybe some classic 90s bangs on the forehead. The gharara is a testament to “Sunehre Din”, Dhoop Kinaray”, “Ankahi” and “Tanhaaiyan”. Imagine young Marina Khan, Atiqa Odho and Samina Peerzada – iconic even today. You carry this whole world when you rock amma ka gharara with your sneakers today, whether you’re at the Climate Strike or Aurat March!

llustration inspired by Mahnoor’s mothers and aunts wearing Generation.


But we do so much more with our clothes than this generational travel of our timeless pieces. We also give them out to our helpers – these amazing women who make our lives so much better. You must have heard your mother tell you “jab aik naya jora banwao, tou aik zaroor nikaal dou”. Our mothers might not use the words “reuse” or “recycle” or “de-clutter” when saying this, but we know that these values are a part of us and we learn from our mothers, as they learnt from their mothers. Many of us also give them to charity organizations and contribute in times of crisis such as natural disasters! Of course some of us are hoarders and there are always items that you must keep forever but if you don’t use something at all, nothing feels better than giving out things that you don’t even use anymore to someone who will actually use and cherish them.

Illustration inspired by Mahnoor’s mothers and aunts wearing Generation.


Now let’s talk about the very desi fashion designer inside all of us. Learning from our grandmothers and mothers and aunts, we have this knack for reusing old clothes in an incredible way – yes, making new ones with them! Have you ever used that old gala on a new fabric or maybe that old afghani patti on your new white lace dress! Maybe you attached the sleeves of your old kameez on your new fusion kurta because it goes so well with your funky jeans? There’s nothing better than rescuing the kaam wala border, or the block printed patch from your dying clothes to new, fresh ones. We’re literally creating art all the time in this way and carrying it with the same grace as the old pieces. Isn’t that amazing?

Textile waste is a huge problem around the world. Multinationals that set up huge textile mills contribute to major waste and pollution – the effects of which are felt everywhere. This coupled with impulse buying and fast-fashion leads to a lot of waste ending up in landfills. There’s always a way of reusing, upcyling and recycling. Did you know about the positive role you play by partaking in our indigenous upcyling culture?

Illustration inspired by Mahnoor’s mothers and aunts wearing Generation.


If nothing, you can always get your old kameez made into a lovely tote bag for your everyday grocery runs! In this way you reuse your old clothes while also avoiding plastic bags that are so toxic for the environment!

Comment below and share with us how you and your nani, dadi, amma, khalas and phophos creatively reuse clothes!

Walled City outfit has been illustrated in the featured illustration. Shop our Walled City Collection online.

Illustration Credits: Mahnoor Ahmad

Blog written by Zarlasht Kamran

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