Rewind to Kareena Kapoor Khan’s wedding when she wore her mother-in-law Sharmilla Tagore’s heirloom gharara set, restored by Ritu Kumar. Or to the recent wedding of Princess Beatrice who wore a vintage gown borrowed from her grandmother Queen Elizabeth for her ‘I dos’. Prince William too had proposed to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with his mother Princess Diana’s sapphire and solitaire ring.
Be it your grandmother’s brocade sari passed on to you by your mother or a generational diamond necklace that your in-laws bequeath you with, heirloom pieces are made special not just by their ancestry but also by the memories attached to it. Nothing compares to the welcoming wave of nostalgia that envelopes you or the sense of belonging that spreads through your body when you wear something that has been saved for you for years, if not decades.
Old is gold, after all. And our mothers and grandmothers, and theirs before them, have had the innate knack for buying beautiful pieces that are heirloom-worthy, painstakingly curated with the intention of being passed down for generations, along with the stories that make them so special. The need to buy such lasting quality over quantity has become even more important today. We need to buy less, buy better and cherish every addition to our wardrobes. With longevity taking focus, intent (and not impulse) should drive buying decisions. Here is how you can build a wardrobe full of potential heirlooms:
- Trends are ephemeral, and won’t age well. But classic silhouettes like saris, an embroidered lehenga, or a handwoven dupatta will never go out of style.
- What matters most is the make — buy one timeless handmade outfit over five pieces that you will only wear a few times. Quality fabrics and handcrafted embroidery will last for generations when preserved with care.
- Educate yourself on textiles, and the provenance of your purchases. Choose reputed labels who work directly with specialised craftsmen for pieces with artisanal value.
- What really makes an heirloom truly special is the story behind it — perhaps you worked with the designer to customise the border of your wedding sari with your initials hidden in it. Or you used an heirloom fabric passed on to you to make a new anarkali set . Whatever it is, involve yourself in every new addition to your wardrobe. Make it personal.
As author Elizabeth Aston rightly said, “Anyone may have diamonds: an heirloom is an ornament of quite a different kind.” And the same goes for all your other sartorial choices too.