Sunday, August 30, 2009


A choli (lengha in Urdu or ravika in Telugu) is a midriff-baring blouse worn in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other countries where the sari is worn. The choli is cut to fit tightly to the body and has short sleeves and a low neck. The choli is usually cropped, allowing exposure of the navel; the cropped design is particularly well-suited for wear in the sultry South Asian summers. Cut-out backs and front-opening buttons are some of the features of contemporary designs.

Saris are often woven with an extra length of material meant to be cut off and fashioned into a matching choli. The choli may be sewn so that the elaborately woven borders of the sari material form the bottom edges of the choli sleeves. However, cholis need not match the sari. There is a growing trend towards stretchy, comfortable cholis made from knit materials.

The traditional choli was worn without a brassiere, as is evident from the images in the Choli Art Gallery, below. However, many modern South Asian women wear a soft bra under the choli, for a firmer appearance of the bust. Expensive designer cholis are sewn with padding and reinforcements so that a bra is not needed and backless or off-the-shoulder cholis can be worn with ease.

Women of the Gujarat and Rajasthan countryside may also wear the choli with a gypsy skirt, or lehnga. Their cholis are often loosely fitted and heavily ornamented with embroidery and mirror work, or shisha embroidery.

When wearing a semi-transparent kameez, women usually wear a sleeveless choli as an undergarment similar to a camisole or a bustier.

Office dress codes usually prohibit cropped, sleeveless cholis; similarly, women in the armed forces, when wearing a sari uniform, don a half-sleeve shirt tucked in at the waist.

Some Western women have started wearing the choli as part of their belly dance costume. They typically wear backless cholis (held together with strings) so that the audience can see a dancer's bare back as she sways.

Backless cholis have become a fashion in India after the movie Hum Aapke Hain Koun ...!, in which Madhuri Dixit wears one.

A lehenga is a skirt worn with a choli, also called a gypsy skirt or gopi skirt. While women of the Gujarat and Rajasthan provinces of India usually represent the outfit for foreigners, the lehenga is native to several other parts of India too. Depending on which part of India one is referring to, the lehenga is worn in different styles, made of different fabrics and includes unique patterns. The lehenga of Rajasthan and Gujarat is known for its bandhni work which is a technique in tie-dye mastered by Hindu women of the region. In the Southern states of India, the lehenga skirt is not as voluminous and is worn without a chunni / chunri but with a kurti that covers the midriff. The lehenga worn in the Northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand has a voluminous skirt and kurti / choli that covers midriff with a long chunni.


Sherwani (Urdu: Shirwan) Is a long coat-like garment worn in South Asia, very similar to an Achkan or doublet. It is worn over the Kurta and Churidar, Khara pajama, a shalwar. It can be distinguished from the achkan by the fact that it is often made from heavier suiting fabrics, and by the presence of a lining.

The Sherwani appeared during the period of British India in 18th century, as a fusion of the Shalwar Kameez with the British frock coat. It was gradually adopted by most of the Indian aristocracy, mostly Muslim, and later by the general population, as a more westernized form of traditional attire.

It is the national dress of Pakistan for men, as it is not specifically associated with any of the provinces. The Founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah frequently wore the Sherwani. Most government officials in Pakistan such as the President and Prime Minister wear the formal black Sherwani over the shalwar qameez on state occasions and national holidays.

In India, it is generally worn for formal occasions in winter by those of North Indian descent, especially those from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabadi-muslims.The Sherwani is closely associated with the nation's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. This led to a modified version of Sherwani known as the Nehru Jacket, which is popular in India ..

Many South Asian grooms wear them as wedding dress. Sherwanis are usually embroidered or detailed in some way.

Langa oni

A Langa Oni (in Telugu) (or Dhavani in Tamil language) is a traditonal dress worn mainly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala by young girls between puberty and marriage. It is also called as two-piece saree or half saree or Paavadai Davani and comprises langa or Lahengaor Pavadai which is tied in the waist using string and an oni or Davani, a see through fine cloth usually 2 to 2.5 metre in length which is draped diagonally over a choli (a tight fitting blouse, same as worn for saree) and is usually woven with cotton or silk. A variant of this is Gagra choli of North India (the difference between the both being in the way of draping the oni or pallu).

The half saree provides a smooth switching from paavadai (full skirt) and sattai (tops), the traditional dress of small girls, to the complexity of draping a saree. Usually the paavadai and oni are brightly colored and contrasting to each other and look like the sari. Just like the sari, oni is also worn by wrapping it around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the midriff.

The influence of western culture and apparent thought of inconvinience of wearing the dress has made many girls to switch from this traditional attire to modern outfits . In recent years, however, Langa Oni is gaining popularity among girls again due to media attention and due to the work of many designers who have brought in many new designs. Once being very simple, Langa Oni now portray extravagant embroidery, mirror or zari work with bold colors like black, grey etc which were once considered inauspicious. The fabric has also been changed from the usual silk or cotton to chiffon, gorgettes and other synthetic materials like crape, georgette, chiffon or nylon. Modern skirts are usually made of light to mid-weight fabrics like denim, jersey, worsted or poplin. Skirts of thin or clingy fabrics need slips to help the material of the skirt wear in a better way. All these changes have made the dress popular again. Once, worn by the south indian community on family functions and festivities, Langa Oni are nowadays worn even as party wears.

Farshi Pajama

Farshi Pajama is a dress that was worn in Muslim courts of Oudh between late 17th and early 20th century as well as by Muslim ladies from privileged classes of Uttar Pradesh (formerly United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in North India.) Modeled after the flowing ball gowns worn by British noblewomen*, the complete outfit consists of three basic parts - The Kurta or a long shirt, the dupatta or the long stole which is an essential piece of cloth in traditional Indian wear covering the head and bossom, and the third and most important, the farshi pajama, which is a flowing two legged skirt held by drawstrings. It falls straight to the ankles from where it starts flaring flowing copiously onto the floor. The farshi pajama, in this era is often called farshi gharara, a term not used before mid 20th century and is considered an incorrect twist. The confusion is said to be because of the Farshi Pajama's similarity with the Gharara.



A rough illustration of a farshi pajama. A woman wearing a farshi pajama while it is spread out, a woman wearing a farshi pajama holding it up while walking.(Img by me)Farshi means anything that is associated with the 'farsh' or floor (for example farshi baithak which is associated with sitting on the floor). When combined with the word Pajama, the term evolves to mean a bottom-wear garment that falls generously on the floor, and trails as one walks, however in reality, during walking, the dress is correctly held in such a way, that the wearer carefully folds the flaring trail and holds in in her left hand keeping the right one free, it hardly trails. The large quantity (historically, 9-15 yards) of expensive cloth, embroidered using the art of goldwork (embroidery) and sterling silver wire threads (Karchob/Zari/Zardozi etc), used to make a farshi pajama mainly reflects the grandeur and extravagance of the nobles and rulers of that era


Kowpeenam or langot is a simple dress worn by saints of India. The devotees of Lord shiva were said to be wearing Kowpeenam. Even lord Murugan of Palani is said to be wearing this dress.


It is made up of rectangular strip of cotton cloth which is used to cover the genitals with the help of the strings connected to the four ends of the cloth. Nowadays disposable Kowpeenam were used in aroma theraphy treatments of kerala.

Patiala salwar

Patiala salwar (also called a pattian walee salwar) is a type of female trousers which has its roots in Patiala City in the Northern region of Punjab state in India. The King of Patiala in earlier times had its Royal dress as Patiala Salwar. The Patiala Salwar has a close resemblance to the pathani Suit which has similar loose lowers as salwars and long knee length top know as Kameez. Over the decade the dress now is not worn by men but has classically transformed itself with new cuts and styling into women's Patiala Salwar.

The reason why the patiala dress is preferred by most of the women of punjab and other regions of Northern India is its comfortability and durability in summers. Since the patiala salwar is very loose and stitched with pleats its a very comfortable outfit to wear. Its distinguishing characteristic is folds of cloth stitched together that meet at the bottom. Patiala salwars require double the length of material to get stitched. The fall of the pleats of the Patiala Salwar is such that it gives a beautiful draping effect.

Patiala salwar with lots of pleats is also referred to as Patiala "Shahi" salwar since it was worn by the shahi (royal) people of Patiala city in state of Punjab.

Dupioni Silk

Sometimes known as dupion or douppioni, silk dupioni is a shimmering silk that is created by weaving silk threads of two different colors into a weave that seems to change colors as the silk is moved around in different lights. Constructed with threads made from rough silk fibers that are harvested from double cocoons or single cocoons that are spun side by side and interlocked, silk dupioni generally employs a set of vibrant colors in the weave. Along with creating the shimmering effect, the choice of two different colors of rough silk fiber help to create a crisp drape quality to the finished fabric.

Silk dupioni has an advantage over some other types of silks, in that dupioni tends to resist wrinkles, which helps to enhance the usability of the finished fabric. In addition, silk dupioni also has a tendency to take creases very well, which can give the final product a crisp and formal appearance. As an added bonus, silk dupioni is totally reversible, so it is perfectly acceptable for both sides of the material to be visible.

At the same time, silk dupioni does have a couple of drawbacks. The material has almost no stretching ability, which means that using silk dupioni requires the need to be very exact in the measurements before cutting out any pattern. Also, silk dupioni does not work well with pins, as the pins tend to leave permanent marks in the material. This attribute can be frustrating for some persons attempting to utilize silk dupioni in home sewing projects.

Silk dupioni can be used in a number of different fabric creations. In the way of clothing, silk dupioni works well for flowing jackets, blouses, skirts, dresses, and bridal gowns. For home decorating, silk dupioni can be utilized as drapery panels or other types of window treatments, table runners and cloths, and doilies for accent on tables and sofa backs and arms.

While dry-cleaning is generally recommended for silk dupioni, it is possible to hand wash sections of silk dupioni fabric before the material is cut and used in a pattern. When washed by hand, there is the chance of some shrinkage, and the fabric will most likely lose some of the crisp texture and a portion of the shimmering effect. For finished products constructed with silk dupioni, dry cleaning is definitely the best means of freshening the material.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


The Dhotī or Doti in Hindi, called Dhotiyu in Gujarati, Suriya in Assamese, Vaytti or Veshti(informal) in Tamil, Dhuti in Bangla, Dhoti or Kachche Panche in Kannada, Dhotar,Angostar,Aad-neschey or Pudve in Konkani, mundu in Malayalam, Dhotar in Marathi , Laacha in Punjabi and Pancha in Telugu is the traditional men's garment in India. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 7 yards long, wrapped around the waist and the legs, and knotted at the waist.


In northern India, the garment is worn with a Kurta on top, the combination known simply as "dhoti kurta", or a dhuti panjabi in the East. In Tamil Nadu, it is worn with an angavastram (another unstitched cloth draped over the shoulders) or else with a chokka (shirt) in Andhra Pradesh or jubba (a local version of kurta). The lungi is a similar piece of cloth worn in similar manner, though only on informal occasions. The lungi is not as long and is basically a bigger version of a towel worn to fight the extremely hot weather in India. The sarong is another similar item of clothing.


The dhoti is considered formal wear all over the country. Apart from all government and traditional family functions, the dhoti is also considered acceptable at country clubs and at other establishments that enforce strict formal dress codes. The same is true across the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. In many of these countries, the garment has become something of a mascot of cultural assertion, being greatly favoured by politicians and cultural figures. Thus, the dhoti for many has taken on a more cultural nuance while the 'suit-and-tie' or, in less formal occasions, the ubiquitous shirt and pants, are seen as standard formal and semi-formal wear.


Styles of dhoti seen in Amaravati sculptures of the Satavahana dynasty (from 2nd century BC to 3rd century AD). The draped waistbands are known as kamarbands (source of the Western cummerbund), and are sometimes accompanied by a buckle at the waist (Fig 10).In southern India, the garment is worn at all cultural occasions and traditional ceremonies. The bride-groom in a south Indian wedding and the host/main male participant of other rituals and ceremonies have necessarily to be dressed in the traditional pancha while performing the ceremonies.


Unspoken rules of etiquette govern the way the pancha is worn. In south India, men will occasionally fold the garment in half to resemble a short skirt when working, cycling, etc., and this reveals the legs from the knee downwards. However, it is considered disrespectful to speak to men or to one's social inferiors with the pancha folded up in this manner. When faced with such a social situation, the fold of the package is loosened with an imperceptible yank of the hand and allowed to cover the legs completely.


Pancha are worn by western adherents of the Hare Krishna sect, which is known for promoting a distinctive dress code amongst its practitioners, with followers wearing saffron or white coloured cloth, folded in the traditional style. Mahatma Gandhi invariably wore a pancha on public occasions[citation needed], but he was well aware that it was considered "indecent" in other countries and was shocked when a friend wore one in London. (See The Story of My Experiments with Truth/Part I/Narayan Hemchandra.)


The genteel Bengali man is stereotyped in popular culture as wearing expensive perfumes, a light kurta and an elaborate dhuti with rich pleats ,the front corner of the cloth being stiffed like a Japanese fan and holding it in his hand; whilst feverishly discussing politics and literature. It is considered the most elegant costume and is worn at bengali weddings and cultural festivals.


Over the past century or more, western styles of clothing have been steadily gaining ground in the region, gradually rendering the pancha a garment for home-wear, not generally worn to work. It is less popular among the youth in major metropolises and is viewed as rustic, unfashionable and not 'hip' enough for the younger age-set. However, use of the pancha as a garment of daily use and homewear continues largely unabated.


 Styles and varieties


Similar to sarongs, dhotis are commonly worn with western-style oxford shirts by Indian males.The garment is known as the vaeshtti in Tamil Nadu and Mundu in Kerala. It is called pancha in Andhra Pradesh and panche in Karnataka and dhuti in Bengal. The word is related to the Sanskrit pancha meaning five; this may be a reference to the fact that a 5-yard-long strip of cloth is used. It is also related to the sanskrit word 'dhuvati' .In one elaborate south Indian style of draping the garment, five knots are used to wrap the garment, and this also is sometimes held to have originated the word.


It is usually white or cream in colour, although colourful hues are used for specific religious occasions or sometimes to create more vivid ensembles. Off- white dhuti is generally worn by the groom in bengali weddings. White or turmeric-yellow is the prescribed hues to be worn by men at their weddings and upanayanams. Silk panchas, called Magatam or Pattu Pancha in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively, are often used on these special occasions. Vermilion-red dhotis, called 'sowlay', is often used by priests at temples, especially in Maharashtra. Kings and poets used rich colors and elaborate gold-thread embroideries. Cotton dhotis suit the climatic conditions for daily usage. Silk panchas are suited for special occasions and are expensive.


There are several different ways of draping the panchas. The two most popular ones in south India are the plain wrap and the Pancha katcham or (five knots or five folds). The first style is mostly seen in south India as shown in picture. It is a simple wrap around the waist and resembles a long skirt. It will be folded in half up to knees while working. Second style is folding around the waist in the middle of the garment and tying the top ends in the front like a belt and tucking the falling left and right ends in the back.


The North Indian style, worn in the West by devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, consists of folding the cloth in half, taking the left side, pleating it vertically, passing it between the legs and tucking it in the waist at the back. The right side is pleated horizontally and tucked in the waist at the front. (See image of Gandhi statue)


Along with dhoti, the angavastram or thundu (an extra piece of cloth) will be draped depending on the usage. Farmers carry it on one shoulder and treat it as sweat towel. Bride grooms use it as entire upper garment. It will be folded decoratively around the waist while dancing. South Indian Hindu priests wrap about the waist as the extra layer. North Indian priests (especially those of ISKCON) may drape it across the body with two corners tied at the shoulder (or they may wear a kurta instead).


Kerala Mundu

The mundu (pronounced [muɳɖɨ]) is a garment worn around the waist in Kerala and Maldives related to the Dhoti as well as the Lungi. In South Canara, a district of Karnataka state, the Tulu speaking folk and Beary community wear the mundu. It is normally woven in cotton and coloured white or cream. The colour is dependent on whether the cotton is bleached or unbleached. A kaddar mundu is made using handlooms. When unbleached, the mundu is called a neriyathu. In modern times, two types of mundu are prevalent - the single and the double. A single mundu is draped once around the waist, while the double is folded in half before draping. A mundu is usually starched before use.


A mundu usually has a line of comparatively thicker cloth woven into it near the border called the kara. The kara can be coloured and comes in various sizes. There are also double coloured and ornamental kara (a strip of colour at the end of the mundu). For more ceremonial occasions (like weddings), a mundu has a golden embroidery known as kasavu. The wearer highlights the kara by carefully folding the end of the mundu. The kara generally appears on the right hand side of the person, though styles with the kara on the left side are prevalent. Unspoken rules of etiquette govern the way the mundu is worn. Men will often fold the garment in half to resemble a short skirt when working, cycling, etc., but it is considered disrespectful to speak to women or one's social superiors with the mundu folded up this way, revealing the legs from the knee down. When faced with such a social situation, the fold of the mundu is loosened with an imperceptible flick and it flutters down to cover the legs completely. Very rarely, some men might fold their mundu very short revealing the shirt, although it's not always appropriate to do this.

Traditional dress of Kerala. A Malayali woman in a set-sari (tradition being wearing a mundum neriyathum) and a Malayalee man wearing a mundu with a shirt (tradition being not wearing a shirt).A variant called a mundum-neriyathum is used more often by women. The mundum-neriyathum is a set of two mundus, both having matching kara. The set contains a lower garment similar to the those worn by men. The upper mundu, worn with a blouse, is wrapped once around the waist and upper body and left hanging from the left shoulder, resembling a saree. This is often called a set-mundu. This is usually worn during festivals or special occasions.

In Kerala a veshti is a small piece of cloth (generally put on the shoulders) along with a mundu, for formal occasions.

Kerala Lungi

In Kerala the Lungi, locally known as Kaili or Kalli Mundu, is worn by both men and women. It is considered a casual dress or working dress of physical labourers. Lungis are generally colourful, and with varying designs. The plain white version of a lungi is known as a mundu. For more ceremonial occasions (like weddings), mundus often bear a golden embroidery known as kasavu. Lungis are not used during occasions such as weddings or other religious ceremonies. Saffron-coloured mundus are also known as kaavi mundu.


Achkan (Hindi: अच्कन, Urdu: اچکن) is a long jacket worn in South Asia, and together with the Sherwani, is traditionally associated with the Northern Indian, and especially with the Muslim aristocracy. 
The Achkan originated in Central Asia and was court dress of nobles of Turkish and Persian origin in the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire, before being more generally adopted in the late eighteenth century. It is long-sleeved coat-like garment, worn close to the body, reaching down to the knees or even lower, and buttoned in front-middle. 
It is long-sleeved coat-like garment, worn close to the body, reaching down to the knees or even lower, and buttoned in front-middle. It can be distinguished from the sherwani by the fact that it is often made from lighter, finer fabrics, and is generally unlined. 
It also gave birth to the now known Nehru Jacket, which is a shorter form of the achkan.

Gagra choli

Gagra choli is a traditional dress worn by girls of North India. It is a two piece clothing comprising a choli and a lahenga.
Its usually a celebration dress and is worn by unwed girls on festivals, pujas, or weddings. It is often seen as an ethnic Hindu dress.

Gagra cholis are simple long skirts worn with a blouse and a roll over chunari is seen aplenty in the interiors of India. It also has significance in the royal wardrobe. Mostly considered as the traditional wear with Punjabi’s, Muslims and northern India it is now a common sight at wedding receptions irrespective of religion.

Evolution has further developed this attire into a niche wear for special occasions. Be it an engagement ceremony, or a friends marriage, gagra choli makes it presence obviously. Offering better textures in various fabrics like silk, satin crepe, net and georgette you can choose the colours from dull gold, rust and refreshing blue. Zardosi or hand embroidery the gagra choli maintains the tradition. Teamed with the right jewellery this is a perfect dress to exude your confidence.

Cholis make the major statement. Backless or tied up with threads cholis compliment the gagra. The chunari can be worn over the head or pinned artistically over shoulders. Gagras also change fashion like A-line, fish tail or flowing umbrella designs.

The layers add to volume and contrasting fabrics layered in net and satin is appealing. The real grace can be seen as it twirls around during a dance or a graceful walk.


Embroidery in Salwar khameez

Embroidery has traditionally enhanced a dress. A look at the various types of threadwork…

As far as the world of design is concerned, embroidery is the backbone of India and Pakistan. It has left an indelible imprint even on international fashion like Escada, Lingara and Ferra have their ensembles embroidered in India. Do we know enough about our own embroideries and how to use them efficiently? The thoughtful use of embroidery can enhance an ensemble, and take it from the mundane to the extraordinary. Some Indian embroideries that can do wonders for an outfit are:
  • Aabla Mirror work which has its roots in Rajasthan and Kutch.
  • Aari Embroidery done on a cot. Also known as khatla work aari originated in Barabanki.
  • Badla Flat metallic wire, silver or gilt wire embroidery.
  • Butas and Butis Motifs composed of floral forms fitted into paisley shapes derived from the Mughal era.
  • Lari Fine quality gold thread embroidery found in Bareilly , Benaras ( Varanasi ), Lucknow and Agra. These days silver zari is equally popular.
  • Phool Patti Work Applique work from Aligarh where usually organdi or other fabric cutouts in floral and leaf motifs are affixed on to a plain fabric sometimes in tandem with silver tilla embroidery.
  • Chikan Work Originating from Lucknow this involves a technique of finding separated warp and weft threads for a textural effect.
  • Taipchi Darn stitch on muslin.
  • Khatwa Inverted satin stitch on muslin.
  • Murri or Phanda Satin stitch knots.
  • Jaali Network.
  • Phulkari Flower motifs, geometric patterns, surface satin stitching using silk floss threads. Phulkari has its origin in Punjab.
  • Zardosi Leaf-scroll worked in gold and silver thread on silk, satin, velvet and other rich fabrics. Zardosi is also combined with Dabka work and is originally from Lucknow.
  • Mokaish Silver dots strewn all over is Mokaish work.
  • Kashida Mix of textile embroidery and printing.
  • Kantha Work Originally from Bangladesh, it resembles the running stitch.
  • Ek taar Single thread embroidery used in tandem with crystals.
  • Resham Fine silk thread-work.
  • Bead and Crystal Work Resham work is teamed with beads, baggets, diamantes, rhinestones and Swarowski crystal.
  • Sitara Work Sequins are embroidered into the fabric.

Salwar Khameez

Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both religious and regional and one is likely to witness a plethora of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the Indians. Apart from this, the rich tradition of Indian embroidery has long been made use of by fashion designers from other countries.

To a foreigner, the powerful attraction is the colorful attire of the people in India. With globalization, dresses are also getting westernized. Though the majority of the Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men seem to be more comfortable in western clothing.
Salwar kameez is made of a long tunic called a khameez and pyjama-like trousers drawn tightly in at the waist called salwar. Salwar kameez originated in northern India, but soon spread across the country.
Today the salwar kameez stands as the second most popular women’s dress in most parts of India. The popularity and comfort of the salwar kameez has reached such stupendous heights that most of the new breed designers have started channelizing a major portion of their creative abilities to give this ensemble a new look. Varying from the ethnic touch to the cocktail look, the salwar kameez has come to suit all occasions and what could be better and more creative than adaptation of embroideries of various countries on salwar kameez.
Salwar kameez has many different names. Call it Kurta churidar or Punjabi suit

A churidar is similar to the salwar but is tighter fitting at the hips, thighs and ankles more like leggings. Over this, one might wear a collarless or mandarin-collar dress called a kurta.

India has been known to have wonderful dresses and costumes specially Salwar Kameez. Though the majority of Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be found in more conventional western clothing. Tailored clothing is very common in India, as women's blouses have to be made-to-fit. Clothing for both men and women has evolved and is keeping designers busy. The shalwar khameez can be richly decorated or simple for everyday use. Other styles are closely fitted and almost like leggings. The tunic can also vary: long and flared or short and straight. Women today often wear some version of the salwar kameez when relaxing at home, since the costume is very comfortable and practical for daily use.

When women wear the salwar kameez, they usually wear a long scarf or shawl called a dupatta around the head or neck. For Muslim women, the dupatta is a less stringent alternative to the chador or burqa. For Hindu women (especially those from northern India, where the salwar kameez is most popular), the dupatta is useful when the head must be covered, as in a temple or the presence of elders. For other women, the dupatta is simply a stylish accessory that can be worn over one shoulder or draped around the chest and over both shoulders.

Salwar Kameez helps keep cool on those hot sweltering days, as it doesn't cling to the body.



In the 1960s, the most sensational fashion discovery of all times hit the West - the mini. The skirt went an inch above the knee and then higher and higher till there was nothing left to the imagination. The Indian woman was not as daring, but the kameez did sneak up quite a few inches above the knee.

The salwar kameez adapted to fashion changes in the West in terms of cut, length and hemlines. It was a long journey for this peasant attire from the fields of Punjab to the fashion capital of India, Mumbai.

The kurta by now had reached just below the hips. Other innovations that followed the churidar kurta were the lungi kurta and ghagra choli. Sometimes the kurta was worn with bell-bottoms or denim pants. All these innovations that revolved around the kurta made it the most versatile garment of the 1960s and 1970s. By the end of the 1970s the salwar kameez and churidar kurta learnt to co-exist with variations.

Types of salwar kameez
  • Indo-western salwar kameez
  • Casual wear salwar kameez
  • Party wear salwar kameez
  • Printed salwar kameez
  • Kurta churidar
  • Short kurta pant
  • Indo-western salwar kameez:

 The fusion of styles in Indian clothing and western clothing resulted in Indo western salwar kameez. These lady’s salwar kameez suits are specially designed to give western look with Indian tradition. An Indo western salwar kameez suit may have a sleeveless top and a salwar. Indo western salwar kameez suits also come in spaghetti straps instead of sleeves.
Designers have pioneered the concept of blending ethnic ethos and international trends to give a modern and trendy look to contemporary Indian women

The cliché that dressing is done to please others has become passé. Today's generation wears clothes to please themselves. Even designers belonging to the younger breed carry the same chip on their shoulder. 

Miss Universe 2000 Lara Dutta won the award for the most outstanding evening gown designed by Ritu Kumar. Author of a well-received book Costumes and Textiles of Royal India, she is considered a pioneer in Indian fashion. Her Indo-Western fusion wear has trappings of block prints, embroidery and craft inputs.

 Casual wear salwar kameez:



The casual salwar kameez are wonderfully comfortable, ideal for the long hot Indian summer. Available in designs ranging from ethnic chic to traditional, to modern prints, in a wide range of fabrics. Many kurtas are free size, and with their flowing lines, are wonderfully flattering for the fuller figure. Women of all sizes can wear these outfits with confidence, knowing they will turn heads everywhere they go.

Cotton is the best salwar kameez as casual wear. They are cool, flowing and elegant. Fancy shalwar kameez are suitable for any occasion, casual or formal. Traditional salwar kameez are the ideal dress for going to temples, birthday parties, and eveningwear, while working at home or office.

Party wear salwar kameez:


Party wear salwar kameez are made up of a silk, satin, crepe and georgette fabrics, can be worn on festivals or other celebrations. Feminine and graceful, the Indian Party wear salwar kameez is decorated with embroidery and mirror work. The dupatta is also in festive colors and has gorgeous embroidery. Indian Party wear salwar kameez suits come in many different styles. People prefer Party wear salwar kameez in silk, satin, crepe and georgette fabric embroidered with as many as eighty panels with ornate embroidery and mirror work. Many could afford more intricate brocade, tanchoi and heavy satins even with real gold and silver embroidery, studded with precious stones.

Embroidery beautifies salwar kameez. Embroidery, like every other art form, needs to be understood to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Insight of the principles not only creates the urge to "paint" with needle and thread but also gives one the knowledge that enables a more keen perception of the old masterpieces as well as modern day pieces. There are no fix shapes and sizes of embroidery. It may vary from inches to feet.

Printed salwar kameez:

Indian salwar kameez suit is one of the most successful evergreen attire of Indian sub-continent. Indian salwar kameez suits are available in many types. One of the famous types is Printed salwar kameez. Different type of printing is done on fabrics like cotton, crepe and chiffon. These fabrics are very comfortable for daily use.

  Printed salwar kameez looks very pretty. It is not necessary that both salwar and kameez have to be printed. Most time it is the kameez, which is printed, and the salwar is in contrast color.

Generally printed salwar kameez are available in sets. The sets consist of kameez, salwar and dupatta.


 A churidar is similar to the salwar but is tighter fitting at the hips, thighs and ankles more like leggings. Over this, one might wear a collarless or mandarin collar dress called a kurta. The churidar is longer than the legs. Their extremes are crinkled and crumpled to fit. Creases thus developed resemble 'churis' or bangles, hence the name churidar kurta. Kurta churidar is very popular in the north especially Punjab hence is it also know as Punjabi suit.

The next innovation to salwar kameez after churidar was the short kurta pant. With westernization the salwar kameez adapted to fashion changes in the West in terms of cut, length and hemlines. The kurta did sneak up quite a few inches above the knee. And instead of the salwar, pants were worn, making it ideal for office and formal wear. The short kurtas came in different styles, some embroidered some plain. The pants came in parallel, capris and bell-bottom styles.

Short kurtas are also called as kurtis.

The salwar kameez seems to offer limitless design possibilities.


 Designer salwar kameez:

Designer salwar kameez are designed by professionals keeping in mind the changing trends. Fashion savvy people always keep themselves updated on the latest designer salwar kameezs.


Silk in the Indian subcontinent

Silk in India, as elsewhere, is an item of luxury.For more than four thousand years, this cloth produced from the cocoons of caterpillers, has been associated with crowned heads and riches throughout the different ages. As a designer once said "Silk does for the body what diamonds do for the hand". It was China that was the birth place of the production of raw silk and silk weaving. The fiber produced was so treasured that it became a measure of currency and reward. The imperial courts in China even established factories to weave silk fabrics for ceremonial use and for gifts to foreign powers.

China was exporting silk to countries as far away as Rome, as early as the second century B.C. China remained the major silk producer for centuries. The Chinese silk industry was highly organized and supported by the state which made silk into a veritable cash crop. Thus, silk became the industrial wealth for China, and its production was a jealously guarded secret so that it could retain its monopoly of the trade. Imperial law decreed a death penalty for those who disclosed the secrets.
The silk route

The Sassanids, realizing the trade potential in silk, became intermediaries for the Chinese silk trade. Sassanids were mainly responsible for the export of silk from the East to the West. Silk both woven and raw was traded to Mediterranean countries via Parthia and Syria, from where it made its way to Europe. Silk fabrics, influenced by Chinese prototypes, were also woven in the Sassanian weaving centers of Khurasan, Kashan and other places. Soon these silk brocades became known for their beauty and were exported to other countries. Sassasian polychrome silk became very famous during this time. These were the most sought-after gifts, presented to Emperors by envoys and traders. Khurasan was renowned for this fabric. These later would also influence Indian silk brocades.

Sericulture was taken outside China in the second century A.D. According to legend, it was smuggled out by a Chinese princess who was married to a prince of Khotan in Central Asia. She hid the silk cocoons in her coiffure and took them to her adopted country. The introduction of sericulture made Khotan prosperous. Over the centuries, silk weaving also became popular in other areas as well, particularly in Persia, and in the region around Syr Darya and Oxus rivers. Khotan, Bulkh, Kashgar, Bukhara, Khurasan, Kashan, Damascus and Gujarat in India became the known centers. Persia especially was a dominant center early on and Persian weavers were in great demand. Damascus became particularly famous for making such highly coveted patterned satin fabrics known as "Damask satin". Later Timur, the central Asian conqueror, deported the weavers of the damask cloth from Damascus to Samarkand and Bukhara.

One such group of Persian Zoroastrians migrated from Southern Persia (Faristan) to Saurashtra in Gujarat and are called Parsis in India. The weavers among them must have introduced to this region the Sassanian motifs and techniques popular in their own country. Since they came from the area around the Persian Gulf, known for its high quality pearls, their beautiful embroided borders use real pearls. The influence of these Gujarati fabrics greatly affected the rest of the Indian brocade industry as far as technique and design were concerned – migrating Gujarati weavers were responsible for setting up many new weaving centers and re-enforcing existing ones.

Silk Goes to India

The brocade weaving centers of India developed in and around the capitals of kingdoms or holy cities because of the demand for expensive fabrics by the royal families and temples. Rich merchants of the trading ports or centers also contributed to the development of these fabrics. Besides trading in the finished product, they advanced money to the weavers to buy the costly raw materials that is silk and zari. The ancient centers were situated mainly in Gujarat, Malwa and South India. In the North, Delhi, Lahore, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Veranasi, Mau, Azamgarh and Murshidabad were the main centers for brocade weaving. Northern weavers were greatly influenced by the brocade weaving regions of eastern and southern Persia, Turkey, Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Gujrati masons and weavers were brought by Akbar to the royal workshops in AD 1572. Akbar took an active role in overseeing the royal textile workshops, established at Lahore, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri where skilled weavers from different backgrounds worked. Expert weavers from those distant lands worked with the local weavers and imparted their skills to the locals. This intermingling of creative techniques brought about a great transformation in the textile weaving industry. The exquisite latifa (beautiful) buti was the outcome of the fusion of Persian and Indian designs. Brocades produced at the royal workshops of other well known Muslim centers in Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Persia were also exported to India. Under the Mughals, sericulture and silk-weaving received special encouragement and silk cloth produced in the Punjab came to be prized throughout the world. Lahore and Multan developed into major centers of silk industry. The tradition continues.


Silk brocades, texturally, are divided mainly into two groups.


Kam means little or scarcely. Khwab means a dream and it’s said that even with such a name ‘Its beauty, splendor and elegance can be hardly dreamt of’. Kinkhwabs are heavy fabrics or several layers of warp threads with an elaborate all-over pattern of extra weft, which may be of silk, gold and / or silver threads or combinations. There may be three to seven layers of warp threads. (Tipara means three layers and Chaupara means four layers to Satpara meaning seven layers). Kin means golden in Chinese. Its specialty is in profusely using the gold and silver thread in a manner that sometimes leaves the silk background hardly visible.

When the figure work is in silver threads with a background of gold threads it is called ‘Tashi Kinkhwab’. This is a variety of ‘Kinkhwab’ which has a ground worked with an extra warp of gold [badla (flat wire) zari] and the pattern created with an extra weft of silver badla zari or vice versa. A satin weave is very often used, resulting in a smooth ground for the fabric. The heavy fabric appears to be in layers, as the warp ends are crammed drawing three, four and up to seven ends per dent for the Tipara, Chaupara up to Satpara respectively.

Zari is generally of two types Badla and Kala batto. Badla Zari was made of flattened gold or silver wire with the ancient method of making zari from pure metal without any core thread. This accounted for its peculiar stiffness. Sometimes cracks would develop in the metal during the process of weaving which resulted in the loss of its natural luster and smoothness. Therefore weaving with Badla Zari was difficult and required great skill. Often a touch of Badla was given to floral motives to enhance the beauty. This type of zari has mostly gone out of favor amongst the contemporary weavers and they mostly depend on polyester or pure silk as a substitute.


Kinkhwab was originally an elegant, heavy silk fabric with a floral or figured pattern known most for its butis and jals woven with silk as the warp and tilla as the weft, produced in China and Japan. Tilla in the earlier times was known as kasab. It was a combination of silver and tamba (copper) which was coated with a veneer of gold and silver.

Silk brocade of Banaras, Ahmedabad and Surat were well known in the seventeenth century. While Banaras continues to be a center of production of Silk Brocades, Ahmedabad and Surat have practically nothing to show today. On the other hand, Silk Brocade weaving has gained ground in the South of India.

Kinkhwabs have also been known as ‘Kimkhabs’, ‘Kamkhwabs’, ‘Kincobs’, ‘Zar-baft’ (Gold Woven), zartari, zarkashi, mushaiar.


These are called Katan (a thread prepared by twisting a different number of silk filaments) brocades. Pot-thans are lighter in textures (lower thread count) than Kinkhwabs but closely woven in silk and all or certain portions of the pattern are in gold or silver zaris. These fabrics are mostly used for making expensive garments and saris. Very often the satin ground weave is particularly used for garments fabrics. These fabrics are characterized by their jals which are normally made out of silk & tilla.

Bafta refers to a kind of wool that was used in Kashmiri shawls. When this wool became thinner and began to be used in a fabric, the fabric was known to be bafta-poth.


The cloth was distinguished by its butis woven in circular shapes that gave an impression of ashrafis (gold coins). The ashrafis were usually woven in gold zari.

This is a mixed fabric with a woven stripe or zigzag pattern. The warp and weft used were of two different materials (silk and cotton, cotton and linen, silk and wool or wool and cotton) in different colors. It was used mostly for lower garments such as trousers, the lining of the heavy brocade garments or as furnishing.

Gul Badan (the literal meaning of which is ‘flower like body’) was a known variety of mushru (cotton and silk) popular in the late 19th century. Sangi, Ganta, Ilaycha were types of mushru too. These were popular since ancient times and were known to be woven at all leading silk centers. One reason for their popularity was Islam. Since Islam does not allow men to wear pure silk, mashru (literally meaning permitted) became very popular amongst Muslims.

Himru or Amru

A type of Indian brocade is the Himru, a specialty of Hyderabad and Aurangabad, which is woven from silk and zari on silk to produce variegated designs, woven on the principle of extra weft. Himru can be very pretty with a pseudo-rich effect in general. It continued to be in popular demand on the account of its low price as compared to the pure silk brocades. Another point in its favor is that it can be woven very fine so as to give it a soft feel, thus making it more suitable as a fabric for personal wear than the true brocade.

The cloth is distinguished by its intricate char-khana (four squares) jal. These are woven like kinkhwabs, but without the use of kala battu (zari) instead badla zari is used.

Contemporary Trends

Kinkhwabs fabrics of India have earned a great reputation for their craftsmanship and grandeur. By and large, still continue to do so, even in the face of fierce competition from other types of woven and printed fabrics.

Kinkhwabs today are typically ornate, jacquard-woven fabrics. The pattern is usually emphasized by contrasting surfaces and colours and appears on the face of the fabric, which is distinguished easily from the back. Uses include apparel, draperies, upholstery and other decorative purposes.


Gyasar is a silk fabric of a Kinkhwab structure with ground, in which the gold thread is profusely used with Tibetan designs. The fabric is especially popular with Tibetans and used extensively in their dresses as well as in decorative hangings, prayer mats, etc.


Gyanta is a silk fabric of Kinkhwab structure of a satin body with or without the use of gold thread. These sometimes have a tantric design (which is also known as Tchingo) of human heads with three eyes woven in gold and silver threads on a black satin ground.


“Jama” means robe and “war” is yard. The base of the jamawar is mostly resham, with perhaps an addition of a little polyester. The brocaded parts are woven in similar threads of silk and polyester. Most of the designs seen today are floral, with the kairy (i.e. the paisley) as the predominant motif.

Today, the best jamavar is woven in Pakistan. This fabric is widely used in that country for bridal and special occasion outfits. The texture and weave of patterns is such that the fabric often gets caught when rubbed against rough surfaces (metallic embroidery, jewellery etc.) it must therefore be handled delicately when worn.



Banaras is situated on the Calcutta / Delhi rail route 760 km (475 miles) from Calcutta. It has always been a big textile center of silk weaving. European travelers like Marco Polo (1271-1295) and Tavernier (1665) do not mention the manufacture of Brocades in Banaras. Ralph Fitch (1583-91) describes Banaras as a thriving sector of the cotton textile industry. The earliest mention of the brocade and Zari textiles of Banaras is found in the 19th century. With the migration of silk weavers from Gujrat during the famine of 1603, it is likely that silk brocade weaving started in Banaras in the seventeenth century and developed in excellence during the 18th and 19th century.

Distinguishing Characteristics

The following are considered to be the main characteristics of the brocade fabrics of Banaras.

  1. Heavy gold work.
  2. Compact weaving
  3. Figures have small details.
  4. Metallic visual effects.
  5. Pallus
  6. Jal (A net like pattern)
  7. Mina work.

Banarasi brocade produced two sub-variants from its original structure namely:


  •  Katan
  • Tanchoi


Katan, a thread, prepared by twisting a different number of silk filaments according to requirement gives a firm structure to the background fabric. Katan is a plain woven fabric with pure silk threads. It consists of two threads twisted together and is mostly used for the warp of light fabrics.

Katan can be further classified into the following:

Katan Butidar: Fabric with Katan warp and weft with butis (designs and patterns) in gold or resham (untwisted silk).

Katan Butidar Mina: Katan Butidar with Mina work (design made out of zari thread) in butis.

Katan Butidar Paga Saree: Saree with Katan warp, resham weft, small butis all over body, closely spaced (about 10 cm (4") apart), about 5 cm (2") wide border and 30-55 cm (12-22") wide pallu.

Katan Brocade: This is a fabric with Katan Warp and Katan weft with figures in gold thread with or without mina, with the traditional styles being ‘katrawan’, ‘kardhwan’ and ‘Fekva’.

Katrawan: A technique or design in which the floating portions of the extra weft (laid from selvege to selvege) at the back of the fabric is cut.



Jangla: Plain fabric of Katan warp and Katan weft, with all-over floral designs in an extra weft of either silk or zari.

Katan Katrawan Mina: A fabric in Katrawan style with Mina.

Katan Motifs and designs

These days the currently used designs & motifs involving Katan are:


 Katan Jal Set: Over the years with minor innovations and influences from other materials, Jangla is now known as ‘Katan Jal Set’.

Katan Buti Zari Resham: Katan Butidar has evolved over time to become Katan Buti Zari Resham.

Katan Stripe and Katan Check are also popular variants found in the markets.


Plain woven body with one color extra weft, one color weft and one color warp. Relative to the jamawar, it is lighter and softer. Tanchoi could be further classified into the following:

Satan Tanchoi is the satin weave (four ends and eight picks or five ends and five picks satin) with the warp in one color and the weft in one or more colors. The extra weft in the design may also be used as body weft.

Satan Jari Tanchoi: Satan Tanchoi with weft in the order of one silk and one gold thread (Jari), or two silk (double) and one gold thread.

Satan Jari Katrawan Tanchoi: Satan Jari tanchoi in which the floating, extra weft, gold thread at the back is cut and removed.

Atlas: Atlas is a pure satin body. Relative to other fabrics, Atlas is thicker, heavier and is shinier than other fabrics because of the extra use of zari. It is also known as gilt, because it is even shinier than the katan.

Mushabbar: The cloth is distinguished by its jal woven as bushes and branches of trees. The normal association with the design was that of a jungle.

Concluding Remarks

The most common & popular fabrics remains the banarasi, jamawar, pot-thans, atlas and katans. These are the fabrics that a person can usually find in our local markets and have a high level of demand. However the other materials like tanchoi, mushabbar, himru / amru, mushru, etc. have been relegated to selective niches in the market. Most people even after coming across these fabrics usually refer to them directly as jamawar due to the absence of such materials in popular use and lack of awareness in general of the availability of these fabrics.

Awareness of these materials will have to be started at the top with the elite of the society (since they are the ones who have the resources to buy these expensive clothing). Thus, we will require special exhibitions of designers who work with these materials, displaying of these materials at fashion shows, promotion of the clothing designed in the materials with the high end boutiques and awareness creation through experts & designers talk shows on television, radio, etc.




Traders introduced this Chinese silk cloth to India, mainly from Samarkand and Bukhara and it gained immense popularity among the royalty and the aristocracy. King and nobles bought the woven fabric by the yard, wearing it as a gown or using it as a wrap or shawl. Jamawar weaving centres in India developed in the holy cities and the trade centres. The most well known jamawar weaving centres were in Assam, Gujrat, Malwa and South India.

Due to its rich and fine raw materials, the rich and powerful merchants used jamawar and noblemen of the time, who could not only afford it but could even commission the weavers to make the fabric for them, as in the case of the Mughals. Emperor Akbar was one of its greatest patrons. He brought many weavers from East Turkestan to Kashmir.

One of the main reasons for the diversity in the designs of the jamawar cloth was the migratory nature of its weavers. Ideas from almost all parts of the world influenced these designs.

The Indian motifs were greatly influenced by nature like the sun, moon, stars, rivers, trees, flowers, birds etc. The figural and geometrical motifs such as trees, lotus flower, bulls, horses, lions, elephants, peacocks, swans, eagles, the sun, stars, diagonal or zigzag lines, squares, round shapes, etc. can be traced through the entire history of jamawar and are still being used but in a rather different form in terms of intricacy and compositions, thus creating new patterns.

Indian weaver predominantly used a wide variety of classical motifs such as the swan (hamsa), the Lotus (kamala), The Tree Of Life (kulpa, vriksha), the Vase of Plenty (purna, kumbha), the Elephant (hathi), the Lion (simha), flowing floral creepers (lata patra), Peacocks (mayur) and many more. Mythical creatures such as winged lions, centaurs, griffins, decorative of ferocious animals, animals formally in profile or with turned heads, animals with human figures in combat or represented in roundels were also commonly used motifs. These motifs have remained in existence for more than two thousand years. However, new patterns have consistently been introduced; sometimes some of these are even an amalgamation of the existing patterns. Such attempts at evolving new designs were particularly noticeable from the 10th century onwards, when patterns were altered to meet the specific demands of the Muslim rulers.

The bull or the swan, arranged between vertical and diagonal stripes can still be found in the silk jamawar saris of India. Patterns with small flowers and two-coloured squares (chess board design) are seen, used both as a garment and as furnishing material – bed spreads with same kind of pattern are still woven in some parts of Gujarat.

Jamawar dating back to the Mughal era however contained big, bold and realistic patterns, which were rather simple with ample space between the motifs. The designs stood out prominently against the background of the cloth.

Complex patterns were developed only when additional decorative elements were included in the basic pattern. During later periods, the gap between the motives was also filled with smaller motives or geometrical forms. The iris and narcissus flowers became the most celebrated motifs of this era and were combined with tulips, poppies, primulas, roses and lilies. A lot of figurative motives were also used in the Mughal era such as deers, horses, butterflies, peacocks and insects. The Mughal kings played a vital role in the enhancement of jamawar by putting their inspirations into the cloth’s designing and visiting the weavers on a regular basis to supervise its making. Shining, decorative pallus were jals were the main designs of this time. The borders were usually woven with silk and zari.

After the Mughal period, the figurative motifs were discouraged by the Muslims and more floral and paisleys were introduced. However, inspiration was taken from these figurative motives and put into designs as in the case of using only the peacock feathers instead of the complete figure.

Another big change was brought about in 1985, where the source of inspiration was the Chinese Shanghai cloth. The patterns of the Chinese Shanghai were amended in accordance to the weave construction of the jamawar cloth and introduced in the cloth. This proved to be a very successful change and is still appreciated by many.

In recent years, the Indian government has attempted a modest revival of this art by setting up a shawl-weaving centre at Kanihama in Kashmir. Efforts to revive this art have also been made by bringing in innovations like the creation of jamawar saris by craftsmen in Varanasi. Each sari is a shimmering tapestry of intricate design, in colours that range from the traditionally deep, rich shades to delicate pastels. A minimum of four months of patient effort goes into the creation of each jamawar sari. Many of the jamawar saris now have matching silk shawls attached to them, creating elegant ensembles fit for royalty.


The Process Involved In the Making of Jamawar in Pakistan

It is woven on the jacquard loom. Joseph-Marie Jacquard, improving on the original punched-card design of Jacques De Vaucanson’s loom of 1745 developed the Jacquard system in France in 1804-05. The pattas, which are the punched cards, controlled the actions of the loom, allowing automatic production of intricate woven patterns . The bigger the motif, the greater the number of cards required to make them.

Pakistan makes its own yarn from the imported cocoons that come from China. The yarn is cultivated in areas like Orangi town & Shershah which is then sold to the weavers. The pure silk yarn, before it can be used, has to undergo treatment such as bleaching or washing (in soap) and then dyeing. In its raw state, the silk is hard due to the sericlan ; therefore it has to be removed. A single filament of the silk yarn is not strong enough to be woven on its own; therefore, it needs to be twisted in order to give it strength and hold.

A specific person who is called a naqsha-bandh first draws the patterns or designs on paper which are then transferred on a graph paper on a comparatively much bigger scale. Every square in the graph signifies a specific number of threads on the loom. The unfinished, rough ideas and sketches are provided to these naqsha-bandhs by the wholesalers and are thus plotted on the graph. The use of various threads in the pattern such as, zari, resham, polyester etc. are separated on the graph with the help of colours indicated on a key chart. The wholesalers later decide the main colours and this information are forwarded to the weavers. The naqsha-bandhs do not have say in the designing of the motifs and patterns. They do what they are told to do.


In this way, the pattern or motif is drawn on the graph paper to provide the weaver with the exact picture of each thread making up the design in the process of weaving. The designs and patterns are then transferred from the graph paper on a wooden frame and are referred to as the naqsha. The naqsha that is made with cotton threads is a smaller sample of the actual design, which is to be woven on the loom. The warp is then taken for the weaving process, which is carried out, on various looms such as the pit loom, jacquard loom and power loom. There is a vast difference between the outputs of the three types of looms. The power looms cannot match the intricacy that can be achieved using the pit or jacquard loom. This is the reason for the far superior workmanship that can be found in the earlier designs dating back to the Mughal era.


 Nowadays brocade is being produced on the power looms for its wide-scale production for the market. Several kannis or little wooden shuttles of different colors are used for a single weft line of the fabric. Up to 50 colours could be worked into one shawl made of the jamawar cloth. The most popular colours being zard, sufed, mushki, ferozi, ingari, uda gulnar and kirmiz.


This thread can also be twisted with gold threads in order to make zari . The zari fibre is doubled with the yarn to prepare it for the process of weaving. Another reason for twisting the zari fibre is to reduce its excessive shine. The zari fibre is wrapped on reels and is doubled with the yarn with the help of a machine, on cones. These fibres are then wrapped on reels with the help of a doubling machine. The threads are then steamed and wrapped on the final spools . The required threads (silk, zari, etc) are then taken to the charkha, which is a machine used to make the warp for the weaving process.





“Jama” means robe and “war” is yard. The base of the jamawar is mostly resham, with perhaps an addition of a little polyester. The brocaded parts are woven in similar threads of silk and polyester. Most of the designs seen today are floral, with the kairy (i.e. the paisley) as the predominant motif.

This fabric is widely used for bridal and special occasion outfits. The texture and weave of patterns is such that the fabric often gets caught when rubbed against rough surfaces (metallic embroidery, jewellery etc.) it must therefore be handled delicately when worn.



The cloth was distinguished by its butis woven in circular shapes that gave an impression of ashrafis (gold coins). The ashrafis were usually woven in gold zari.

This is a mixed fabric with a woven stripe or zigzag pattern. The warp and weft used were of two different materials (silk and cotton, cotton and linen, silk and wool or wool and cotton) in different colors. It was used mostly for lower garments such as trousers, the lining of the heavy brocade garments or as furnishing.
Gul Badan (the literal meaning of which is ‘flower like body’) was a known variety of mushru (cotton and silk) popular in the late 19th century. Sangi, Ganta, Ilaycha were types of mushru too. These were popular since ancient times and were known to be woven at all leading silk centers. One reason for their popularity was Islam. Since Islam does not allow men to wear pure silk, mashru (literally meaning permitted) became very popular amongst Muslims.

Kinkhwab (Brocade) sarees

Kinkhwab (Brocade)

Kam means little or scarcely. Khwab means a dream and it’s said that even with such a name ‘Its beauty, splendor and elegance can be hardly dreamt of’. Kinkhwabs are heavy fabrics or several layers of warp threads with an elaborate all-over pattern of extra weft, which may be of silk, gold and / or silver threads or combinations. There may be three to seven layers of warp threads. (Tipara means three layers and Chaupara means four layers to Satpara meaning seven layers). Kin means golden in Chinese. Its specialty is in profusely using the gold and silver thread in a manner that sometimes leaves the silk background hardly visible.

When the figure work is in silver threads with a background of gold threads it is called ‘Tashi Kinkhwab’. This is a variety of ‘Kinkhwab’ which has a ground worked with an extra warp of gold [badla (flat wire) zari] and the pattern created with an extra weft of silver badla zari or vice versa. A satin weave is very often used, resulting in a smooth ground for the fabric. The heavy fabric appears to be in layers, as the warp ends are crammed drawing three, four and up to seven ends per dent for the Tipara, Chaupara up to Satpara respectively.
Zari is generally of two types Badla and Kala batto. Badla Zari was made of flattened gold or silver wire with the ancient method of making zari from pure metal without any core thread. This accounted for its peculiar stiffness. Sometimes cracks would develop in the metal during the process of weaving which resulted in the loss of its natural luster and smoothness. Therefore weaving with Badla Zari was difficult and required great skill. Often a touch of Badla was given to floral motives to enhance the beauty. This type of zari has mostly gone out of favor amongst the contemporary weavers and they mostly depend on polyester or pure silk as a substitute.

Amru brocades

Varanasi is an important center for weaving silk sarees. Of the many styles of brocades used for adorning these sarees, Amru is the famous one. It is done using silk threads. The Amru style employs an overall pattern of buds, called ‘buttis’. The borders and the pallu (hanging end of the saree) are the most decorated portions of the saree. The pallu contains flowering bushes and flowering mango patterns. Red, orange and yellow are the usual shades that are employed.

Tanchois Sarees

Tanchois Sarees

Tanchoi sarees are another famous type of sarees of North India. Like the banarasi sarees, these sarees are also produced by Varanasi weavers. These sarees are not heavy like Banarasi sarees but can be worn for all types of occasion.

Fabric in Tanchois Saree

Employing a technique similar to that of brocade, weavers of Benaras make sarees using colorful extra weft silk yarn for their unique patterns. This variety is known as Tanchoi. Tanchoi weaving is based on the weaving technique brought from China by three brothers, called Choi (tan-three, Choi-brothers). The tanchoi weavers wove silk saris and yardage, which was mostly used by the Parsi community initially. Today, tanchoi fabric has remarkable fame in India and the world over.


Tanchoi saree resembles a fine miniature. In tanchoi sarees, the designs are alway floral with interspersing of birds. Figures of flying birds, paired cocks amidst floral sprays are worked on them. The usual ground is bright blue, purple, green or red with areas patterned in tabby weave. Sometimes the pallu is done more solidly with peacocks, baskets or bunches of flowers or hunting scenes. Tanchoi silk sarees are also in
dazzling floral, geometrical and paisley designs. The weavers also use tone-on-tone colors as well as multiple color combinations in jacquard weaving. Tanchoi from Gujarat creates an extra weft layer to produce the
effect of embossing on silk. There are also combination of brocaded gold butis and borders in a background of self patterned tanchoi. Some tanchoi sarees have a rich gold border and two gold bands on the pallav. The more exclusive ones have gold checks with lotus roundels all over which are known as butis.

Konrad Saree

Konrad Saree

The konrad or the temple saree is also a speciality item from Tamil Nadu. These sarees were original woven for temple deities.

They are wide bordered sarees and are characterised by wedding related motifs such as elephants and peacocks, symbolising water, fertility and fecundity.

Traditional colours for these sarees are earth shades of browns, greys and off-whites. However, brighter shades have been introduced for the North Indian buyer.

Balarampuram Saree

Balarampuram Saree

Balarampuram Saree is a famous produce of Balarampuram, a town situated in Thiruvananthapuram District. This is a handloom product woven from un-dyed natural cotton. The typical climate of this region greatly contributes to the softness and durability of the fabric.

Balarampuram Saree is known for its simplicity. It contains patterns of buds made in a geometric fashion. The border is simple and plain, with the same color as that of the patterns. The saree boasts of heavy ‘zari’ embroidery work. Silver wires, coated with gold, are employed for the embroidery.

Types of saris

Types of saris

While an international image of the 'modern style' sari may have been popularised by airline stewardesses, each region in the Indian subcontinent has developed, over the centuries, its own unique sari style. Following are the well known varieties, distinct on the basis of fabric, weaving style, or motif, in South Asia:

o Tanchoi

o Shalu

Eastern styles

• Baluchari – West Bengal

• Kantha – West Bengal

• Ikat Silk & Cotton – Orissa

• Cuttacki Pata Silk & Cotton – Orissa

• Sambalpuri Pata Silk & cotton Saree – Orissa

• Bomkai Silk & Cotton – Orissa

• Mayurbhanj Tussar Silk – Orissa

• Sonepuri/Subarnapuri Silk – Orissa

• Bapta & Khandua Silk & Cotton – Orissa

• Berhampuri Silk – Orissa

• Tanta/Taant Cotton – Orissa, West Bengal & Bangladesh

• Jamdani – Bangladesh

• Jamdani Khulna – Bangladesh

• Dhakai Benarosi– Bangladesh

• Rajshahi silk– Bangladesh

• Tangail Tanter Sari– Bangladesh

• Katan Sari– Bangladesh

Western styles

• Paithani – Maharashtra

• Bandhani – Gujarat and Rajasthan

• Kota doria Rajasthan

• Lugade – Maharashtra

Central styles

• Chanderi – Madhya Pradesh

• Maheshwari – Madhya Pradesh

• Kosa silk – Chattisgarh

Southern styles

• Kanchipuram (locally called Kanjivaram) – Tamil Nadu

• Coimbatore – Tamil Nadu

• Chinnalapatti – Tamil Nadu

• Chettinad – Tamil Nadu

• Madurai – Tamil Nadu

• Arani – Tamil Nadu

• Pochampally – Andhra Pradesh

• Venkatagiri – Andhra Pradesh

• Gadwal – Andhra Pradesh

• Guntur – Andhra Pradesh

• Narayanpet – Andhra Pradesh

• Mangalagiri – Andhra Pradesh

• Balarampuram – Kerala

• Mysore Silk – Karnataka

• Ilkal saree

• Valkalam saree

Saree Fabric & Colors

The Fabrics

In India, one of the most preferred choices for a bridal sari will comprise of silk. In fact, traditionally also, people have opted for silk for the bridal wear. However, the trend is changing with time. Now-a-days, we find brides going for fabrics like crepe, disheen, georgette, new, tissue and shamoi-satin as well. Generally speaking, the choice of fabric depends upon the latest trend, the personal preference of the bride as well as the budget. However, one thing is for sure, the sari is adorned with heavy embroidery, stone work or other embellishments.

The Colors

Red sari has been traditional choice for bridal wear in India, since times immemorial. The color is considered to be very auspicious and is deemed to be associated specifically with marriage. However, these days, many brides have started opting for other colors in their sari as well, such as golden, pink, orange, maroon, onion-color, magenta, brown and even yellow. Even dual toned saris, as in red and yellow, green and brown, yellow and orange, pink and blue, have started wooing the brides of the present generation.

Chettinad Saree

Chettinad Saree

This cotton sari is unique in the dramatic and spontaneous use of colour and pattern with bold checks, stripes and contrasting hues. Its vibrance and its weight are its distinguishing factors. The thickness of this sari and changing demands have kept this sari out of production for nearly a hundred years. Records and old photographs show the use of this sari by previous generations, before the advent of blouses and underskirts, worn rather differently from the regular sari.

Styles of draping sari

Styles of draping sari

The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with the loose end of the drape worn over the shoulder, baring the stomach. However, the sari can be draped in several different styles, though some styles do require a sari of a particular length or form. The French cultural anthropologist and sari researcher, Chantal Boulanger, categorizes sari drapes in the following families:

• Nivi – styles originally worn in Andhra Pradesh; besides the modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked into the waist at the back. This allows free movement while covering the legs.

• Bengali and Oriya style.

• Gujarati – this style differs from the nivi only in the manner that the loose end is handled: in this style, the loose end is draped over the right shoulder rather than the left, and is also draped back-to-front rather than the other way around.

• Maharashtrian/kashta; This drape (front and back) is very similar to that of the male Maharashtrian dhoti. The center of the sari (held lengthwise) is placed at the center back, the ends are brought forward and tied securely, then the two ends are wrapped around the legs. When worn as a sari, an extra-long cloth is used and the ends are then passed up over the shoulders and the upper body. They are primarily worn by Brahmin women of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

• Dravidian – sari drapes worn in Tamil Nadu; many feature a pinkosu, or pleated rosette, at the waist.

• Madisaara style – This drape is typical of Brahmin ladies from Tamil Nadu and Kerala

• Kodagu style – This drape is confined to ladies hailing from the Kodagu district of Karnataka. In this style, the pleats are created in the rear, instead of the front. The loose end of the sari is draped back-to-front over the right shoulder, and is pinned to the rest of the sari.

• Gond – sari styles found in many parts of Central India. The cloth is first draped over the left shoulder, then arranged to cover the body.

• the two-piece sari, or mundum neryathum, worn in Kerala. Usually made of unbleached cotton and decorated with gold or colored stripes and/or borders.

• tribal styles – often secured by tying them firmly across the chest, covering the breasts.

The nivi style is today's most popular sari style. (Dongerkerry K. S.)

The nivi drape starts with one end of the sari tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. The cloth is wrapped around the lower body once, then hand-gathered into even pleats just below the navel. The pleats are also tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. They create a graceful, decorative effect which poets have likened to the petals of a flower. After one more turn around the waist, the loose end is draped over the shoulder. The loose end is called the pallu or pallav. It is draped diagonally in front of the torso. It is worn across the right hip to over the left shoulder, partly baring the midriff.The navel can be revealed or concealed by the wearer by adjusting the pallu, depending on the social setting in which the sari is being worn. The long end of the pallu hanging from the back of the shoulder is often intricately decorated. The pallav may either be left hanging freely,tucked in at the waist, used to cover the head, or just used to cover the neck, by draping it across the right shoulder as well. Some nivi styles are worn with the pallu draped from the back towards the front.

The Nivi saree was popularised through the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. by modifying the south indian saree called mundum neriyathum. In one of his painting the Indian subcontinent was shown as a mother wearing a flowing nivi saree.

In Bangladesh

The Sari is worn by women throughout Bangladesh. There are many regional variations of Saris in both silk and cotton. But the Jamdani Tanta/Taant Cotton, Dhakai Benarosi, Rajshahi silk, Tangail Tanter Sari– and Katan Sari as the most popular in Bangladesh.Popular actresses Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit wore the Dhakaiya Benaroshi Sari in the song"Dola re Dola" of the film "devdas".

In Pakistan

In Pakistan, the wearing of saris is less common than the more traditional shalwar kameez which is worn throughout the country. The sari does however remain a popular dress for formal functions such as weddings. The sari is sometimes worn as daily-wear, mostly in Karachi, by those elderly women who were used to wearing it in pre-partition Indiaand by some of the new generation who have re-introduced the interest in saris. The reason why the sari lost popularity in Pakistan, was due to it being viewed as a Hindu dress. Although she was seen wearing them, Fatima Jinnah, the "Mother of the Nation", called the sari "unpatriotic" and the wife of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf stated that she never wears the garment.

In Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan women wear saris in many styles. However, two ways of draping the sari are popular and tend to dominate; the Indian style (classic nivi drape) and the Kandyan style (or 'osaria' in Sinhalese). The Kandyan style is generally more popular in the hill country region of Kandy from which the style gets its name. Though local preferences play a role, most women decide on style depending on personal preference or what is perceived to be most flattering for their figure.

The traditional Kandyan (Osaria) style consists of a full blouse which covers the midriff completely, and is partially tucked in at the front as is seen in this 19th century portrait. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring the midriff. The final tail of the sari is neatly pleated rather than free-flowing. This is rather similar to the pleated rosette used in the 'Dravidian' style noted earlier in the article.

Kandyan style is considered as the national dress of Sinhalese women. It is the Uniform of air hostesses of Sri Lankan Airlines.

In Nepal

In Nepal, a special style of draping is used in a saree called Haku patasi. The saree is draped around the waist and a shawl is worn covering upper half of saree which is used in place of "pallu".

Pochampalli sarees

Pochampalli sarees:

Pochampally is an interesting collage of tradition, history, heritage and modernity. Surrounded by hills, tanks and ponds, and lush green fields, spread-out silk warps, neera tapping from palm trees, mat-making women, open-sky chatrashala houses, a perennially full tank, hills, temples, Vinoba Mandir - Bhoodan Ashram, and cultural complexes, Pochampally makes up for an exciting destination to spend one’s vacation.

Living: Pochampally is the place where threads and colours find their way into the hands of skillful weavers and meander into the market as beautiful sarees and dress material is the most typical weaving village in Nalgonda District of Andhra Pradesh.

Basking under the glory on par with the weaves of other places (Such as Kanchi, Dharmavaram, Gadwal, Venkatagiri etc), Pochampally weave is popularly known as ikkat or tie and dye weave. The uniqueness lies in the transfer of design and colouring onto warp and weft threads first and then weave them together. The fabric is cotton, silk and sico - a mix of silk and cotton. Increasingly, the colours themselves are from natural sources and their blends.

Pochampally has traditional looms, whose design is more than a century-old. Today this Silk City is home to more than 10000 weaving families in 100 villages.

The fabric is marketed through the cooperative society and APCO, the master weavers and the business houses in Pochampally. Pochampally does more than Rs.1000 Million annual business in terms of yarn sales, purchase of handloom products and sales.

The consumer-weaver interactions provide inputs for new designs. The weavers from the older and new generation have shown resilience and adapted themselves to the changing tastes of the consumers – from telia rumals, bedsheets, to sarees to dress materials for the modern woman and man; from cotton, to silk & to sico. The women are also making garments and other products from the fabric. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Konda Laxman Bapuji and similar others were instrumental in weavers' efforts to adapt.

Recently Chenetha Gurukulam has been started with the spirit of introducing & handing over the ancient art to the world. With experienced Gurus here popularly known as MASTER WEAVERS, the Gurukulam teaches the entire process of Weaving since from its inception to Ready to wear condition. The Gurukulam comprises different programs with multiple course durations. Overall it makes one's vacation to be learn encroached, spirit & joy filled. It is the Tourist's one of dream spot to explore the Villages & Culture of India.

Paithani sarees

Paithani sarees from Paithan

Paithan very close to Aurangabad (40)kms visited by the Greek traders from 400to200BC . Today is the ancient industry of gold and silver threaded embroidery for which the motifs are derived from the Ajanta Caves. The other point of interest are:Jain temple, Temple of sant Eknath, on the banks of Godavari river, Samadhi of sant Eknath, and of Navnath. Situated at the bank of a river is a very huge dam "Jayakwadi", which provides water to Aurangabad city and surrounding place.

Recently built is very famous "Sant Eknath Garden" spread over huge 97 acres of land. This is a replica of the Vrindavan Garden of Mysore, and is used to shoot various scenes for the Hindi and Marathi Movies

Paithani Sarees

Known the world over as a poem hand woven in silk and gold, Paithani Sarees are for those with discerning and refined taste. The art of weaving Paithani flourished in 200B.C., during Satvahana era. since then Paithani is coveted in India as a precious heirloom passing on from generation to generation. Exquisite silk from Paithani was exported to many countries and was traded in return for gold and precious stones. Shear dedication and the faith of the weavers has kept alive Paithani silk work for more than 2000years. Real Paithani is hand woven pure silk and gold/silver

Intricate designs on pallu and border is a specialty of Paithani Sarees. Motifs on pallu are generally peacock, lotus, mango and other designs taken form Ajanta Caves. Traditional creative artistry and pain staking workmanship combine to form this unique cloth. Paithani Sarees can take between 2 months to years to manufacture, depending on border and pallu design and costs from Rs.6000/- to Rs.500,000.

Described in early literature as Maharashtra. "the great fabric, a cloth is being woven since thousands of years from a very ancient and popular city known as Supratishthapuram, a silken cloth brocaded with golden threads, is what we call today the Paithani. The city is today known as paithan, giving fabric its modern name.

The fabric woven in traditional ways even after many centuries, is renowned as "the great fabric" not only for Maharashtra but also from India. Even in today's advanced world the methods of weaving Paithani have not changed at all , the reason why its not lessened by a whisker. Woven with extremely dedicate silk threaded sticks, the Paithani is one fabric, which cannot be matched by any other cloth today that is why it is enchanting legacy from Maharashtra and fabric of beautifully women.

In the gifted city the silken cloths are being woven over last mancentories. There are also places in India having old traditional of weaving silk but Paithani has carvedand retained a destinative niche since ancient times. A germentfor ladies and the Pitambara,the yellow cloth are the two types in which the Paithani is made today

Like its technique, the design patterns used on the Paithani are also special. Moreover, the silk that is used in weaving it is also very delicate. Only the nature source such as various leaves, flowers, tree-skin, soils, lamps soot, etc. are used to make these brilliant and attractive special colors.

The names of Paithani are based on their colors. The harmony between the design of the borders and the overall color is also important, thus what color should go with what designs is predetermined and depending on these combinations the Paithani. References to this pattern can also be found in folksongs and literature.

Another fascinating attribute of Paithani is the embroiders on its borders. Some of the ancient designs of embroidery on the borders the inner design made up of small orbs is similarly important from five hundred to nine hundred such orbs can be found in one design. The Paithani is also considered holy in Indian tradition because of use silk, which has a special importance in Indian marriages.

Call it a garment or call it a legacy of art, Paithani is the glory of Maharashtra