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The DIY Upcycle Project | Go ahead, pick up the fix-it wand

Designer Gautam Gupta on how to turn a Banarasi sari into a casual skirt or a dress for a special occasion—at home

Gautam Gupta of the label Asha Gautam with his mother, Asha. (Courtesy Asha Gautam)

Almost every closet has a garment that was worn once and then packed away, bookmarked for the next special occasion but never used. Somewhere in the pile of clothes is a shirt, gifted by someone special or bought with the first salary, which is too dear to let go of, but the stubborn sauce stains or frayed cuffs ensure it cannot be worn.

What if you could turn that special garment into something that fits into your casual dress wardrobe? Or, a few tweaks to the shirt could make it wearable again?

Upcycling clothes and accessories allows you to give old or underused items a new lease of life—and do your bit to minimise waste.

In this new series, we will invite a designer to guide us on how to upcycle a product—a bag, a kurta, a shirt, earrings. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or step out. All you will need is a measuring tape, a pair of scissors, a marker, a sewing kit, and time out from your busy work-from-home schedule.

This week we have Gautam Gupta, one half of the two-decade-old luxury label Asha Gautam. While creating occasion-wear, which brings together embroideries and weaves such as bandhani, paithani and Banarasi, along with double ikat, Kota doria and even Kanjeevaram, he uses banana and bamboo fibre. “I am not 100% sustainable; it’s not possible. But when it comes to fibre, I ensure it’s sustainable.” Since his expertise is bridal luxury, he tells us how to convert a Banarasi sari, with a zari border and polka dots, into a skirt that can be worn with a shirt for a casual look, or a blouse and a dupatta for a party look. “Turning a sari into something else can be considered blasphemous but at least it won’t gather dust in your closet,” he laughs.


We are using a Banarasi sari, which has polka dots and a zari border

A sketch of a Banarasi saree.
A sketch of a Banarasi saree.

STEP 1: Measure the Banarasi sari’s main body, border and ‘palla’ areas. Our sari is 5m in width and 34 inches in length. Its border is a total of 10 inches and the ‘palla’, half a metre in width and 34 inches in length.

STEP 2: Separate the border, palla and the body to make a skirt, which will be 43 inches in length and 38 inches at the waist. The waist can be adjusted with a readily available drawstring.

STEP 3: Cut the body into 20 panels. Each panel should be 34 inches in length, 2 inches in width near the waist area and 10 inches from the bottom area. To minimise waste, cut one half of the body from top to bottom and the other, bottom to top. Keep a 2-inch gap between each panel for the seam.

STEP 4: Stitch the panels together to make the skirt. Now, add the border. Stitch together the two borders of 5 inches each, so it’s 10 inches in all.

The sari turned into a skirt, which can be worn with a shirt or blouse and dupatta.
The sari turned into a skirt, which can be worn with a shirt or blouse and dupatta.

STEP 5: Your skirt is ready. Any fabric left over can be used to make a scarf or a potli bag.

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