The Lugra Dress

I will never forget the first time I wore a lugra¹ – for my Moya². From early on, I wanted my wedding to include as many traditions as possible – I was migrating to a new country after all. To me, the lugra was the one thing that would add flavour to my many-tiered cake of a wedding and would always remind me of the strong ties I have to my identity as an East Indian.

The lugra is a novelty item within the community and even ten years ago, like many brides-to-be, I wanted one of my own to love and cherish forever.

However, the ten yard garment and the way it draped against my body felt alien (I’m not a saree person). Despite being draped by an aunt who was an expert draper, nothing about my outfit felt right. I spent the entire evening worried that it would unravel and that I would trip on the bunched pleats at the center.

I’m happy to report that I survived my Moya without any of this happening.

But I never did wear a lugra again. Until now.

1 NPN Lugra Dress-01

Two months ago I set out on a quest to learn more about the East Indian lugra, a saree typical to the East Indian community of North Konkan. I visited with vendors, drapers, and women who still wear it to do their daily work. I asked them what made the lugra so special, especially today, when everyone wants to wear one for any major event in the community.

With some amusement (I’m sure) they told me that the lugra used to be a simple garment and in the old days, ladies would wear it from morning to night; by peasants, fisher folk and the well-to-do alike. No one thought twice about stepping out in one, and wearing a lugra was never thought of as a special occasion.

I then asked them if they liked the way modern East Indians were changing the rules of the lugra game with the introduction of kurtis, shirts, and the like. Every single one of them thought it was a great move, and were pleased about it.

You see, the lugra has always been a garment that suited the lifestyle of the wearer. From the Koli women who wore it tucked tighter between their legs to the paddy farmers who wore it shorter, and the ladies who wore it to church; in its own way, the lugra is one of the most versatile sarees there is.

There really was no reason why I should be wary about it, and every reason why I should finally own it.

The inspiration for my interpretation of the lugra came from my two grandmothers and their respective styles – one very traditional and one very modern.

1 Old Lugra.pngGrace Nana, a true-blue Vasaikar, used to be a seamstress and would support her family by tailoring blouses for other women. She was an ardent follower of traditions and her clothing always reflected this aspect of her personality.

Pictured to the left is the only lugra she left behind – an exquisite reshmi lugra with actual zari in its border, and a patterned padar (pallu) – a style not made anymore.

Quite her opposite, Monica Nana was an Uttankar but resided in Bandra and her style was flavoured by the fashions of the city. My earliest memory of her is a black and white photograph (now lost forever to us, no thanks to an inheritance-stealing uncle), wherein her face was framed by gently-styled curls, a la an actress from the 50s. She was wearing a dress in the portrait photo and I like to think it was a cheerful, full-skirted number.

My mum told me she would wear dresses all the time – like many other East Indian women who lived in mid-century Bombay City. It is this image of Monica Nana that I had in my mind when I dreamed up the very 50s in style Lugra Dress.

But it was not enough to turn it into a fancy dress. Oh no.

The Lugra Dress had to be practical too. So I gave it pockets.

It had to be suited to the Bombay humidity and heat. So I chose the slightly more expensive cotton as the fabric.

And because music and song and dance is such an intrinsic part of any East Indian’s life, the dress had to be something fabulous that one could twirl in. So with a popular EI dance ditty also playing in my mind, I put together one of the first Lugra Dresses – the Naach Pori Naach Lugra Dress.

1 NPN style Lugra Dress.png

A very feminine, elegant, vintage Bombay-inspired dress that you can wear to dance the night away, the Naach Pori Naach (or Dance Girl Dance for the non-Marathi speakers) Lugra Dress has full skirts that fall a little below the knees, a fitted bodice with a neckline that will show off your Sunday Set to its full glory, and a pocket on each side to do away with the bother of lugging your purse around while dancing.

Later, this style of Lugra Dress will have simpler day dresses for sisters, but this one – the first in our line of Lugra Dresses is special.

There will be only 30 dresses like the Naach Pori Naach Lugra Dress in existence – making it a keepsake, and it will be made in a range of different colours and sizes.

It is made for us lugra-loving but non-saree wearing girls, so that we can finally wear our traditional East Indian fabric with pride and still make a statement.

Whether it is for someone’s Umbra-cha Paani³ in the villages or for traditional days and community gatherings abroad (where we often opt for saris and salwars that speak nothing of our own identity as East Indians), with this dress I hope you are able to own your lugra and your place as a proud member of one of the oldest communities of what we today call Mumbai.

We do invite non-East Indians to wear this dress too, especially if you are fond of the East Indian peoples of Bassein, Bombay and Salsette and are familiar of our ways. Even if you aren’t familiar with our peoples, you will still be paying tribute to one of the indigenous communities of Mumbai.

Visit the product page for the the Naach Pori Naach Lugra Dress to place an order for it.

Footnotes ~
1 Lugra – the traditional 10 yard saree typical to the East Indian community of Bassein (Vasai), Bombay (Mumbai) and Salsette (Thane, Uttan, etc.). These sarees are made of cotton and feature a distinctive checked weave and lined border. 
2 Moya – a pre-marriage ceremony wherein the bride to be wears a lugra (with a shawl to cover her choli (blouse) as she’s still a maiden) and receives blessings from her family and close friends.
3 Umbra-cha Paani – A maudlin celebration called the Umbra-cha Paani follows the Moya ceremony and includes a procession from the bride’s or groom’s house to a close relatives’ for the express purpose of  fetching water for the bride/groom to bathe in on the day of the nuptials. 

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