As you enter the Pantheon Street in Egmore, an array of dress materials in red, yellow, fuschia, green and blue meet your eyes. This street is often referred to as Cotton Street by Chennaiites. From paisleys and florals to kalamkaris and madhubani; you name it, they have it. And if you thought that they only sell cotton stuff, check out their variety in synthetic and lace materials. On any given day you will find a bunch of girls checking out materials for salwar and chudhidhar at each and every stall and haggling with the vendors. It works as there are more than 30 vendors selling dress materials for your summer wardrobe and competition is extremely high.

Even though the ready-made garments have eaten into their business pie, the shopkeepers insist that they do get a decent crowd especially at the beginning of summer season. Cotton Street draws bargain hunters, college students, film associates and the fashion-conscious to have their fabrics handpicked, mix-matched and stitched to perfection for home furnishing, film costumes/sets and personal use. A decade ago you could get fabric for as low as Rs 30 per metre and it went upto Rs 100 per metre. With the changing times and dip in business, the prices has shot up. One can start from Rs 60 per metre and it can go upto Rs 350 per metre. The designs and prints of the fabrics have undergone a sea change from checks and patterns to a plethora of prints and lots of solids.

One of the shopkeepers, Kadhir who has had a stall for more than three decades puts forth, “The designs have to change with time. The younger generation loves prints and solids. We try and keep that in mind. The crowds have dwindled but there are many regulars who come around the beginning of summer to check out our stock. Many a times, they come with a readymade kurta and look out for the material for salwar or chudhidhar.”

While most of the shops open by 11 am in the morning, it gets the maximum crowd from 2 pm onwards. Most of the stalls remain open till about 8.30 pm.

Take a walk through this street to get the widest possible selection of dress materials in cotton, synthetic and more.

Cover image source :