Lengths of fabric are magically transformed into beautiful sarees thanks to the handiwork of karigars, or embroiderers, who painstakingly adorn your future heirlooms with a collection of sequins, metallic thread and crystals for that 'wow' factor. It's this extra hand-work that really makes your piece distinctive and there are a whole lot of types to choose from (at least 40 different stitches are documented, of which about 30 are still in daily use). So we at VIVA-LUXE, the good samaritans that we are, have decided to make that decision of choosing what to wear a little bit easier! Here’s a guide to just some of the different types of hand and thread-work that you could opt for on your saree:
1. Zardozi: Incredibly popular, Zardozi work has royal lineage and was often favored by kings and queens for their heavy-duty embroidery - the word itself in Persian, translates into ‘sewing with gold string’. Originally done with real gold and silver wires, today a polyester wire is plated with the metal and stitched on to add texture and an air of regality to your garment! The wire is often beaten for a thicker look although a thin, dull-gold thread, when contrasted against a bright fabric is the best look in our humble opinion. Popular designs such as ethnic mangoes or aambis, and delicate flowers filled in line by line with zari work are often accompanied with beads or stone-work. It is usually done on heavy fabrics such as velvet and raw-silk. A lot of bridal wear uses this work for its air of grandeur.
2. Resham: If shiny shimmerings don’t float your boat, choose a resham-embroidered sari. Resham is the Hindi word for silk, and the patterns, although very similar to those done in zardozi work, are all made from a variety of coloured silk threads. Resham work guarantees a more colourful saree and can be worn for events across the board - choose to dress it up with jewellery or be the gorgeous girl-next-door by wearing it with a simple blouse and funky bindi!
3. Sequin and Crystal: Fashion’s always moved with the times and often the traditional is updated to trendy, as is the case with the sequined sarees that seem to be getting muchos love from designers this season! These tiny beads add shine and new-age glamour to the timeless saree – they got their name from the Arabic word, Sikka, originally used to describe the coins sewn onto a woman’s clothing in an attempt to demonstrate the family’s wealth. Sequins and crystal beads add weight to a saree, thus influencing its drape and fall. We particularly love Seema Khan’s dusky-gold number that would look as good on you as it would on your grandma! A guaranteed head-turner: check. and Shehla Khan's timeless coral coloured crystal saree for that understated glamour.
4. Shisha: Carried down through Rajasthani and Gujarati cultures, mirror-work is also known as Shisha embroidery (taken from shisheh, which means ‘glass’ in Persian). Small mirrors are cut into different shapes and stuck or stitched onto the saree. They reflect the light and give your saree a sparkly touch. Once used only by hardcore traditionalists, today’s designers are adapting this work to ensure you are literally the light of the party! When paired with cream and beige tones, the mirrors aren’t competing for attention from pop colours and shine to their maximum effect but if you like your colours bold, we’d recommend pinks, reds and yellows, as you'd wear during traditional festival time . This Vikram Phadnis half and half concept saree is subtle take on this Rajasthani tradition, and the very SAME saree as owned by Sonakshi Sinha!
5. Chikankari: Nobody really looks at the back of a garment, but here’s where all the interwoven magic takes place when embroidered in the traditional Lucknowi style. Also known as ‘shadow work’, Chikankari is characterized by the exclusive use of white-thread to make intricate patterns on thin cottons or georgette saris. Entirely hand embroidered, these sort of sarees are expensive but well worth the extra moolah. The stitches cross over at the back of the fabric to create a mesh-like design that gives a shadow-effect on the front of the cloth. This sort of work was made popular by Noor Jahaan, and if it’s good enough for the Mughal Madam, it’s good enough for us.
6. Aari Gota: The most fluid yet tedious sort of embroidery is the aari-gota method. It traces back to the Mughal period- designs are sketched onto the fabric, and then a long-needle is used to pierce holes along the fabric which is stretched out onto a frame for a perfect finish! Although both aari-gota and chikan work use an interlocking stitch, the aari gotas are not limited by colour. These days, they are made jazzy with eye-catching beads and their elaborate designs. Embroiderers are saved a lot of squinting thanks to mechanised needles that now do the tricky bits for them and create a beautiful saree for you! Look at this stunning Shehla Khan number using golden, silver as well as ivory threads to see what we mean!
So next time you get a compliment on how fab you look in your saree, take a moment to to savor the generations of handicraft that you are modeling - happy shopping, ladies. May the nine yards be ever in your favour!