Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Skirt

{Driving a Hard Bargain in Bapu Bazaar}

See my new skirt? It's my Make Sh*t Happen skirt. Some of you might remember I only have one pair of pants in India, so what with these 100+ degree days and a lot to get done a breezy skirt is a welcome addition to my strict minimalist traveler's wardrobe.*

Here's the back-story: after a wonderful tour and visit at the local design college, one of the adorable students insisted she take me to chaotic Bapu Bazaar in the ancient walled city section of Jaipur, which is famous for cheap locally-made textiles and traditional Rajasthani shoes. It's also famous for ripping off tourists, but I was intent on proving my bargaining skillz. And after nine months of intense study, I'm getting pretty good at it. The Art of the Indian Bargain is a good-natured if histrionic charade (by both parties) involving theatrical hand gesturing and excessive head-bobbling, and often climaxes with a dramatic, empty-handed storming out of the shop and a final bargain stuck on the pavement. It goes like this:

Me, pointing disinterestedly to a pile of skirts that I am secretly very interested in: Kitnai? How much?
Shopkeeper: 400 rupees only. Very nice. Quality A+ first class.
Me, displaying look of shock, insult: 400?! No no, too much. 
Shopkeeper: Yes, madam, very nice quality. You buy now.
Me, picking up skirt: Look at this stitching! No good. No one will buy this. 
Shopkeeper: Ok I give you good deal, you buy. 350 rupees only.
Me: I don't want it. But I'll take it for 150 rupees.
Shopkeeper, dramatically rolling eyes: Nooo, madam, actually, that is no good. 300 rupees only, last price. 
Me, waving skirt away: 300 rupess, TWO SKIRTS. Final offer. 
Shopkeeper, feigning shock and horror: 300 for two skirt?! 400 only!
Me, clucking with my friend and walking out of shop: No, uncle, you insult with 400 rupees.
Shopkeeper, running after us with both skirts: OOOOKAAAAY FINE! 350 final offer!
Me, head bobbling, releasing dispassionate but secretly thrilled sigh: Ok, why not.

And so. 350 rupees ($7) for two totally wacky geographically schizophrenic South Asian/Southwestern cotton wrap skirts = happy shopkeeper (I still overpaid) and happy me.

* Full disclosure: the collection of textiles I've amassed abrogates whatever minimalist credibility I may have accrued with the one pair of pants stunt.


  1. That skirt is amazing!! I love reading your posts/adventure etc. Lily, you are RAD!!!!!

  2. Oh dear, I feel that I would be very bad at bargaining. I get all overheated and sweaty when I have to deal with confrontation. I would end up an overpaying puddle at the feet of this tough shopkeeper!

    your skirt is fantastic-along with those lovely lace up sandals.

  3. Oh, your negotiation skills! I have to learn a lot. I chicken out at first resistance....
    Love the skirt and If I would be there I would go crazy about all the wonderful fabrics!

    You are home soon, right? And come to NYC!!!! Yeah!

  4. carry on abrogating girlfriend!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. So lovely! Very happy I found your blog, such an interesting and visual treat! Yesterday, I said to my there's this couple that up and moved to India, what do you think about living on the other side of the world for a while...? Very inspiring!

  7. I got you same sandals! Aren't they so beautiful?

  8. you are such a riot!
    i would be a complete pushover and just give what they ask ... (i know cuz when i was in mexico, i was completely weak and they loved it!)

    love your skirt ... love all the colours of that culture ... rich and vibrant!
    i would say you did real good, girl ... : )

    hmmm ... and really drawn to your sandals. they remind me of 'sandals by henry' ... a fellow who made me a hand stitched pair of sandals at a folk fest quite a few moons ago ... i still pull them out in the summer for 'special' do's ...

    take good care over there ~

  9. Love this!

    I'm also completely obsessed with intense, nonsensical, wacky fabrics and have been drooling all over your pictures. And agreed! Quite frankly who needs another pair of pants when one can wrap herself in yards of handwoven delight?

  10. Gorgeous skirt, and right on trend with all the maxi styles for this summer ;) Love your blog, you are a fantastic writer!

  11. Great print sister! Those fab orange sandals aren't too shabby either. I'm glad you're getting in some retail-fashion therapy.

  12. that skirt looks so nice on you! i am impressed when anyone can bargain. i am so weak; i wish i was better at confrontation.

  13. oh my goodness. what a dream! i want to buy tons of skirts in india!

  14. You know, I thought I was an edumacated girl, but your vocabulary blows my mind sometimes:) I'm adding words to my arsenal...abrogate. Nice. I know if I were in such a textile rich country I'd be abrogating them, as well.

  15. seven dollars for two skirts and you still overpaid, isn't that crazy? But the one in the picture is fab. I was thinking what I can buy with seven dollar here. Nothing came to my mind. This is crazy too.

  16. You guys are giving me way too much credit. After nine months of getting ripped off left and right, it was my duty to finally cowboy up and take a page out of the How To Be a Pushy Indian Auntie and Get What You Want book. But it took NINE. MONTHS.

    Some of you guys dig the sandals, called chappals here- I wonder if there's a good exporter who sells them online? I live in these babies. They're hand-made out of camel leather, so comfortable, and last forever. They're ubiquitous in every vendor's stall in Goa, but I see them for sale all over India. $5. Pretty stellar. If someone knows where you can buy them online, do share!

  17. Well done! Of course, if you had been born into a Jewish family you would have emerged from the womb bargaining.

  18. i feel like we need to play poker when you move here.

  19. I think it's crazy amazing you only had one pair of pants in India, I also think you look adorable in your beautiful skirt :-) You have so many wonderfully exciting adventures!!

  20. This is a bit off subject, but could you suggest any Indian music to listen to? Or a specific type of Indian music that you prefer? I feel as though google is only giving me the top pop stuff and I'm searching for more traditional. I'd really appreciate it. Thank you, I live vicariously through your posts until I can make my way there.


  21. so in love with the skirt lily! the perfect pattern. and good bargaining skills!! the "walk away" method works wonder! i travel in asia a lot and am very familiar with how that funny to read your convo. love this post!

  22. Bonnie, that's why I have you and George. xo

    Lauren, it's ON.

    Katie, thank you! But I wouldn't recommend the 1P'o'P thing.

    Samantha, when I catch up I'll try to put a post together a Best Of post for you!

    Jen- you're such a sweetheart. Glad you've got some good bargaining skills under your belt, girl!

  23. hi, greatpost, I am planning a trip to india and am textile designer. What was the name of the design school you visited? I would love to visit also and any others you found inspiring.


  24. This implies the must be some competitive edge over the other.
    That is exactly why free chat no registration situations are
    the wave of the future. o Vista and Windows 7 users: C:\Users\Your User Account Name Here\App - Data\Local\Google\Google Talk Plugin.
    Feel free to surf my page - sexchat


Your turn: