Weaves, Textures, Dyes And Embroidery—The Making Of The Quintessential Indian Ensemble

Written by Nazneen JoshiAug 28, 2014
Indian embroidery has long been applauded and in-demand in every form imaginable. Whether you’re talking about embellishing certain elements of western garments or keeping it traditional with Indian couture—from the ramp to the closet, these distinct styles have made their mark. In celebration of our culture and art—today we’re looking at some the most valued skills that our masterji’s and craftsmen bring to textiles to truly make them distinctive, giving them that outstanding quality, charm and appeal.

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Gota Patti

Did you know that gota work originated from a form of court embroidery? Native to Rajasthan, this style of embroidery uses the applique technique. Small pieces of zari ribbon are applied onto the fabric (satin or twill weave) with the edges sewn down to create elaborate patterns. This is then placed onto fabrics such as georgette or bandhini to create different surface textures.

Pictured here is ace designer Anita Dongre’s traditional silk lehenga in a pretty pink from her Jaipur collection adorned with gota patti—a speciality from the citadels of Jaipur.

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Zardozi Embroidery

Zardozi (in Persian: zar meaning gold and dozi meaning embroidery) work is an ancient Persian form of embroidery done using gold and silver zari threads. Initially, zardozi embroidery was done using real metal threads of gold and silver for the clothes of the rich as well as for royalty and for paintings, tapestries and bed sheets. Today, the application of pearls and precious stones looks stunning when paired with zardozi embroidery on silk, crepe, brocade and velvet fabrics. Since zardozi work is heavy in weight, it requires a thick and heavy fabric to support it. Clothes with zardozi are essential for any wedding as it depicts lavishness and royalty, which is a staple theme of many Indian weddings.

Pictured here is an exquisite piece from Anita Dongre’s collection showcasing the art of Zardozi to perfection.

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Ikat is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs a resist dyeing process on the warp fibres, the weft fibres and in rare cases both, prior to dyeing and weaving.  The resist is formed by binding bundles of threads with a tight wrapping applied in the desired pattern. The threads are then dyed. The bindings are then altered and then the thread bundles dyed again with another colour to produce elaborate, multi-coloured patterns. When the dyeing is finished, the bindings are removed and the threads are woven into cloth.

Pictured here is an Anita Dongre long shift black dress in which the sleeves are highlighted with ikat fabric—an inspiration from the art of origami.

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Kimkhwab is an Indian brocade, woven of silk and gold or silver thread. The word kimhwab comes from the Persian phrase, meaning “a little dream”—a reference to the intricate patterns employed. Kimkhwab also means woven flower, an interpretation that appears more applicable to the brocade—in terms of the floral patterns that are common on the material. Today, Banaras is the most important centre for kimkhwab production.

Pictured here is beige kimkhwab dupatta by Tarun Tahiliani

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Gara Embroidery

Realistically pictorial, lyrically composed, aesthetically colourful and delicately embellished, gara embroidery is an emblem of style and elegance. The rich gara embroidery, originally considered a Parsi family’s heirloom, has become a rare, collector’s item because of its intricate work and beauty. Gara motifs are drawn from the rich repertoire of traditional Chinese textile motifs. The peacock with a trailing tail appears to be an Indian motif adopted by Chinese embroiderers for gara-embroidery. Bamboos, birds, butterflies and blossoms fill in spaces and divide scenes. Embroidering a gara takes several months, depending on the intricacy, fineness and elaborateness of the design. Though expensive, they are likened to buying a piece of jewellery, which can be handed down through the generations.

Pictured here are bags, clutches and potlis embroidered using gara by Malaga Bags available at Aza.

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Resham Embroidery

One of the most common types of embroidery is resham. Widely in demand, resham embroidery is fabricated with extreme precision. Resham embroidery has the power to turn a dull piece of fabric into something truly exquisite. With fine silk threads—resham work is one of the most popular forms of embroidery that can truly elevate a piece of fabric.

Pictured here is fashion moghul, Manish Malhotra’s salmon pink georgette kurta with off-white resham work teamed with a white silk pant.

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Tilla Embroidery

Tilla embroidery is a form of hand embroidery using gold, copper and silver zari threads. Tilla embroiderers were traditionally jingarhs, or the people who made horses’ reigns, decorating them with tilla. They also produced decorative banners for the kings and Maharajas. The men primarily worked on the design and embroidery while the women only added the finishing touches from home.

Pictured here is a Manish Malhotra creation: a coral silk front open Nehru collar jacket with Tilla embroidery motifs all over the front and back with a heavy zardozi embroidered border and long side slits.

Nazneen Joshi

Written by

As the esteemed Dorothy Parker once said "living well is the best revenge" and I take that piece of advice to heart. A babe in the woods for all things theatrical--I like to see drama in the mundane. Fresh off the yacht into this editorial world, I look forward to bringing in a fresh, beautiful perspective.

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