Dress for celebrations

By Sathi Sivapragasm

Photo:Sathi and Vicky

Sathi and Vicky

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Glazed cotton and seersucker

We didn't wear saris as children - we'd wear our school uniforms or 'frocks' and sometimes my mother made clothes for us. Maybe some of the clothes that she bought for us were imported. I started wearing saris, to go out, when I was about 18 or 19 years old, and then I wore them most of the time once I got married.

You can buy cheap clothes now, they're not made to last. I liked the fashions back then. There were lovely dresses that were made of 'glazed cotton', and clothes made of 'seersucker' material.

Party frocks

Christmas started in September when we were making the cake, soaking it in brandy. Christmas was a lovely atmosphere, carols and everything, party frocks, lots of frills. Lots of relatives, so many religions in Sri Lanka so we were allowed two public holidays per religion per year - Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, we all celebrated everything! We had Natal Papa (Father Christmas). We ate turkey, chicken, whatever. There was all the cinnamon trade with the Arabs until 1648, so there was always cinnamon in the food in Sri Lanka.

Jasmine and lipstick

My wedding dress was a pure silk red sari, the wedding colour. It was red with gold thread and a red choli (top) underneath. Lots of gold jewellery and flowers. My friends helped me to get dressed on my wedding day. The flowers were jasmine and I wore lipstick. I had a red spot on my forehead made from turmeric, which is also used as an antiseptic. Women wear a black spot on their forehead before they get married, red after. My husband wore a pure silk sarong; it was ivory silk and a kind of Salwar Kameez over it. It went down to his ankles. He didn't wear shoes, nor did I. It is a tropical country so we didn't wear shoes, only the British wore shoes. They made us wear them in church.

13 gold sovereigns

We had two wedding ceremonies: one civil registry, and one cultural ceremony. At the cultural ceremony, they put a solid gold necklace around my neck. Mine had 13 gold sovereigns on it (there always has to be a primary number of coins on a necklace, so that it is non divisible... like the couple!). I didn't have a honeymoon, people did have them in Si Lanka, but I came to England to join my husband who was living here. It was really miserable!

The Queen was like a god

I remember seeing The Queen in 1954 in Ceylon. She was on a Commonwealth tour. Clothes were so expensive but we all dressed up. The Queen was like a god. My mum made two dresses for me, just in case one went wrong.

This page was added by Susan Morrison on 08/02/2008.

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