A walk through Awadh

Oct 08, 2012, 09:56 IST | The Guide Team

For centuries, the Awadhi style of dressing has intrigued fashion enthusiasts. Its fabrics, embroideries and precision in design influence not just connoisseurs of fashion but also the style enthusiast. The Guide brings you a slice of the Nawabi era, as we cull out designs from the grand title, Costumes & Textiles of Awadh, to showcase the evolution of motifs that have played an integral role in the development of patterns across centuries

The ground of the choga here is formed in a trellis pattern of the burfi motif, woven in silver zari. The paisleys that adorn the choga have been a favourite in Awadh from the very beginning.

The Koel (cuckoo) is another motif that attained prominence not many years ago. It is associated with the flowering of the mango tree, a fruit motif, typical of Awadh.

With increasing industrialisation, machines replaced hand-stitching. The cock motif became famous and was preferred because it symbolises humility.

In this a floral motif is embroidered in pure gold zari with tilla, salma, sitara and precious stones on velvet. This motif being opulent and luxurious in nature, was greatly adopted and appreciated by the nawabs during the early years.

Intricately embroidered kanta-patti stitches were initially used to embellish chogas, but now the stitches have become a style statement for many and are being used for other garments as well.

Star, flower, raw mango, tree, buds, sun and jasmine bud motifs became popular when the gota work gained prominence. They look beautiful and offered a variety to the crafstman.

During the British Raj, Awadhi workmanship was amalgamated with European and Chinese influences. The elaborate embroidery and rich borders of floral motifs used to be in pure zardozi and were much sought after.

The morpankhi (peacock’s feather) motif was adopted in the later years. It was often added to blouses that were made in an array of colours and fabrics including cotton, silk, satin georgette and crepe.

The motifs on caps assumed great importance. Zardozi work with silver thread, precious stones and kundan work was preferred by nawabs. Kundan work motifs are used even today.

Awadh’s fashion influence
Awadh (the region of the modern state of Uttar Pradesh around Ayodhya, west of Varanasi) holds a special place in the history of India, largely due to its culture and costumes amongst other things. The era of Nawabs, who were predominant in Awadh during 1722 to 1856, particularly influenced the evolution of fashion. The aristocracy of Lucknow gained immense wealth with the feudal system and spent extravagantly on their dresses. This had an impact on the dresses of the courtiers and the Awadhi people in general. The emphasis was not only on costumes and textiles, but also on how they were worn.

Impact of courtesans
It is said that courtesans of the eighteenth century strongly influenced the dressing mode amongst the begums or royalties of that time. The courtesans would always dress themselves in Cashmere wool and brocade shawls along with bejewelled caps and shoes, etc. 

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