Hand embroidery is an art of adorning a fabric using thread, yarn, and needle. This art form started somewhere around the Iron Age and has been passed down from generation to generation. After the world became more industrialized, embroidery with machines became a quicker and cheaper option. However, in Pakistani bridal and formal fashion, the time-consuming art of hand embroidery is much preferred. This year I have seen designers such as Alexander McQueen and Oscar de la Renta use hand embroidery in their gowns and western formal wears as well. I think the world is learning about this ancient craft and making it modern.
Traditionally, embroidery was done with various threads, coils and yarns. I have even heard of actual gold and silver threads being used back in the day. Today, embroidery has evolved and there are more cheaper options for consumers. These days other materials such as crystals, stones, sequins, tinsels, metal strips and coils enhance the thread work previously done solely. Even though today’s designing is a little more complicated and multi-dimensional with the introduction of modern cuts and silhouettes, traditional embroidery holds a steadfast hand in Pakistan. Today, designers have adopted embroidery art that has been handed down from different parts of the world, instead of just the Sub-continent. Elan, a Lahore-based designer is an excellent example. The reason her clothes are applauded as distinct, yet traditional at the same time is because they incorporate a lot of Parisian and European motifs and embroidery techniques. However, other designers such as Umar Sayeed and Bunto KAzmi stick with traditional style with zardozi and gota.
There is a myriad of different styles of hand embroidery used in bridal and formal wear. Since hand-work is time-consuming and expensive, it is exclusively used for bridal and formal wear; pret wear usually have machine work on them. Kashmiri work, phulkari embroidery, chikankari, crewel embroidery, zardozi, crochet are also some examples that are used in clothes. Each type needs careful concentration, skills and expertise, and hours of a worker’s time.
Through my research on the topic, I came across how Pakistan’s roots played a part in influencing it’s fashion. “Pakistan possessed many textile production ideas from the start and also adapted some at the time of Partition. Many craftsmen moved from the neighbor country to Pakistan. Not only this, but Pakistan also adapted some of the embroidery techniques from Afghanistan, Iran and China so it must be said that most of the Pakistani embroidery techniques are a mixture of these four countries.” Thus, with its rich, political history influencing its fashion, Pakistan now holds a position on a global platform. Here are some kinds of embroidery to consider for your formal and bridal wear.
1. Aabla-Mirror work which has its roots in Rajasthan and Kutch.
2. Aari-Embroidery done on a cot. Also known as khatla work aari originated in Barabanki.
3. Badla-Flat metallic wire, silver or gilt wire embroidery.
4. Butas and Butis-Motifs composed of floral forms fitted into paisley shapes derived from the Mughal era.
5. Lari-Fine quality gold thread embroidery found in Bareilly , Benaras ( Varanasi ), Lucknow and Agra. These days silver zari is equally popular.
6. 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.
7. Chikan Work-Originating from Lucknow this involves a technique of finding separated warp and weft threads for a textural effect.
8. Taipchi-Darn stitch on muslin.
9. KhatwaI- nverted satin stitch on muslin.
10. Murri or Phanda-Satin stitch knots.
11. Jaali- Network.
12. Phulkari- Flower motifs, geometric patterns, surface satin stitching using silk floss threads. Phulkari has its origin in Punjab.
13. 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. Also important to note that Zardozi and zari are synonyms and refer to any gold or metallic embroidery. I’ve noticed that people from Karachi use the term zardozi more, and the people of Lahore use the term zari more.
Types of zari kaam are dabka, tilla, kora, ari, nakshi, etc. Literally there are dozens upon dozens of types of zari, but most are technical terms for the people who do it. Dabka is the kind of embroidery that is made of thin gold thread (almost a wire) that’s been coiled around. Most wedding clothes have dabka in them. Kora is a flat golden stitch, ari is a very fine flat golden chain stitch usually used to outline other embroidery, nakshi is a shiny, faceted type of stitch.
14. Mokaish/Kamdani- Silver dots strewn all over is Mokaish work.
15. Kashida- Mix of textile embroidery and printing.
16. Kantha Work- Originally from Bangladesh, it resembles the running stitch.
17. Ek taar- Single thread embroidery used in tandem with crystals.
19. Resham- Fine silk thread-work. Resham work is traditional thread (not metallic) embroidery. Things like satin stitches, french knots, chain stitches, lazy daisy, ribbon work, etc are resham embroidery.
20. Bead and Crystal Work- Resham work is teamed with beads, baggets, diamantes, rhinestones and Swarowski crystal.
21. Salma Sitara Work- Sequins are embroidered into the fabric.
22. Nalki– Thin long tubular beads.
So my reader know that you have endless options to incorporate in your wedding and formal attire. One word of advice I would give you if you do not want to pay for the convenience of designer wear is to know someone local in Pakistan, who can take you to places where workers do this for a fraction of price that designers charge. If you do not know someone in Pakistan, then PKDL in USA and other fashion suppliers in Europe carry designer and non-designer brands of good quality. Just do the research. In Karachi (because I know the city well) I have shopped at Tariq Road and Bahadrabad; I have even heard Defence’s Zamzama Lane and Gizri market are good options for handwork. According to the fashion blog, Karachista.com, there is Jama or Bolton market that can do cheaper, but good quality Kamdani work. For more shopping options, do read the article here
Like always, I will end with my easy, breezy phrase: Happy Shopping!