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Fashion Inspirations from Kutch

The Hindi cinema that most of us love, sometimes eulogize and at other times just junk has never seized to inspire – be it in style, fashion, travel locations and well, even mannerisms of the actors. Ever wondered where they go to be inspired? One of the places they do go to are the beautiful regions and states in India. Gujarat, and specifically ‘Kutch‘ has inspired many film makers and films like ‘Mirch Masala’, ‘Jal’ and the more recent ‘Ram-Leela’. Last weekend I happened to watch one of them and was floored by the traditional dresses from Kutch. The variety of embroidery, the styles, the stories and the history…

Smita Patil in traditional Kutch embrodered blouse in ‘Mirch Masala’ via

Historically, it is said that the ‘Kathi’ cattle breeders started the tradition of Kutch embroidery by creating some fine needlework, which displayed a variety of elements, designs, themes and patterns. Sindh also has a tradition of embroidery and the Kutch embroidery clubbed with Sindh tradition owns styles such as Suf, Khaarek, Paako, Rabari, Garasia Jat and Mutava. This style of embroidery is not only influenced by various architectural designs and motifs, but also by romantic motifs as well as patterns of human figurines in dancing poses and dancing peacocks too!  The motifs used and the stitches used determine the style of embroidery done by a particular community. Here’s a brief visual journey of the various styles:

Based on the triangle called ‘Suf’ which is counted on the warp and weft of the cloth where the stitch is worked from the back via
Khaarek embroidery – a geometric style where the artisans work out the structure of geometric patterns with an outline of black squares, then fill the spaces with bands of satin stitching filling the entire fabric. via
Paako embroidery – Paako means solid therefore it is a tight square chain and double buttonhole stitch embroidery. The motifs are primarily floral arranged in symmetric patterns which are sketched in mud with needles beforehand. via
Rabari embroidery – Morchakri.  Mirrors in different shapes, and patterns in chain stitch are used. Also decorated with a sequence of stitches in vibrant colors and decorative back stitching, called bakhiya via
Jat embroidery – two predominant styles – Garasia Jat embroidery is predominantly cross stitch with heavy use of small mirrors. The outline is usually done in white before being filled in. The Dhaneta/Fakirani Jat embroidery are tiny bars of tight, padded satin stitch with radiating circles of a couched stitch. It is the most labour intensive, and expensive form of embroidery. via
Mutava embroidery – Originating from a small group of Muslim herders who have an exquisite style of stitching comprising minute renditions of local styles: jat, paako and khareek work. Their technique is fine and geometric. via

Here’s what each of the patterns means:

The meaning of patterns via

Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya has played a crucial role in providing knowledge and skills directly relevant to the artisan’s traditional art to enable market appropriate innovation, while honouring and strengthening the tradition. Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya is an educational institution open to working artisans of Kutch, conservatively estimated at 50,000. As working artisans can rarely leave their homes and profession for long periods, the course is a series of modular classes conducted over one year in a local residential setting, using the vernacular language. (Source: Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya)

The colours, the delicate embroidery of the tribals along with the mirror work has lured many designers who have used the rabari and kutch embroidery in their collections. There are many uses this embroidery is put to use, namely to decorate fashion accessories like bags and shoes, as well as beautiful ensembles. We scouted for some beautiful pieces, just for you. Sit back as you get inspired to use this when you revamp your wardrobe next.

Beautiful Kutch embroidered skirt via
rabari-kutch-embroidery-vaishali s
Rabari – a collection by Vaishali S via
Keysaria’s collection for Pakistan Fashion week inspired by the Kutch embroideries via
Kutch Hand Embroidery blouses via
Anoushka Shankar in Rabari embroidered choli via
kutch-embroidery -top
A little kutch embroidery detailing via
Some more kutch embroidery via
Malini Ramani’s Kutch embroidered gown via

I could easily carry on writing about this beautiful embroidery, and sharing style inspirations until the cows come home 🙂 I do absolutely love the bright, colourful, elegant tribal embroidery and urge you to make your wardrobe come alive with this embroidery.

Next time you plan to wear a sari, pair it with a heavily embroidered choli or for that festive look a backless choli. Just make sure it fits well! Looking to make a difference to your plain cotton dupattaadd a rabari embroidered border patch to instantly lift it up. Use this form of embroidery on your denims, bags and whatever it is you fancy! Do give it a try…I promise you won’t regret it!

XO, Nupur


Cover image via 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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