Tying the Knot with Swati Bagaria Bhakta

Indian weddings are typically extravagant and beautiful affairs. Yet there’s one component that is often surprisingly complex for South Asian brides planning their weddings in the U.S., and that’s selecting bridal party attire. “The bridal party piece of Western culture has been adopted into Indian weddings, and brides often have to go to great lengths by traveling to India to get their bridesmaid dresses and explaining why they need 10 of the same dress in the same color,” says Swati Bagaria Bhakta, founder of South Asian bridal party outfitter Pleats & Petals, based in Jersey City, New Jersey. “Or they go to a South Asian clothing store in the U.S. and have to pick what’s available off the racks.”

With a strong belief that choosing bridesmaid dresses and other wedding attire shouldn’t be the most stressful part of wedding planning, Bhakta took steps to change the current retail market. She decided to quit her full-time job to pursue her passion, traveling back to India to pound the pavement and discover how to set up a manufacturing process for custom clothing and ways for U.S.-based brides and their families and friends to access it. 

Pleats & Petals offers a custom design concierge service, which begins with a free phone consultation to discuss with customers whom they’re looking to outfit, what they have in mind, and all the details of their vision. Then, Bhakta designs and helps to create the perfect items for the occasion. 

“Starting Pleats & Petals required a lot of trial and error,” Bhakta says, explaining that becoming a solo entrepreneur means that you wear many different hats. “It involved some missteps along the way, but eventually things started to fall into place. Now I travel back to India about once a year to select new styles and fabrics and focus most of my energy here in the U.S. to share my passion for custom South Asian clothing with others and make it more easily available.” The company will soon offer online shopping as well. 

“I learned over time that you should outsource what you can and focus on what you’re truly best at, so that you can develop those skills and talents that make up the heart and soul of your company,” Bhakta says. 

The company caters to brides and grooms looking for their own clothing and hoping to color-coordinate the bridal party. “We’re focused on the idea of providing a high-touch customer service experience that delivers the true traditional styles many brides and grooms are looking for, but with a new twist.”

“We’re ultimately creating a fusion of South Asian and Western fashion to make unique styles that blend both cultures,” she adds. 

Prices range from about $175 to $400 for bridal party attire, and from $1,000 to $4,000 or more for especially heavy and detailed bridal outfits. Some pieces are quite intricate and involve custom embroidery. Bhakta therefore recommends that brides begin shopping at least six months before their wedding.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing that you made this really important time in someone’s life easier or more positive,” Bhakta says. “Knowing that I delivered a piece of joy on one of the most important days of someone’s life is invaluable.”