A Passage to India 20 Feet at a Time

There was a special rapport and intimacy shared at the recent fabric and embroidery workshops led by Dr. Vaddi Sarvani from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderbad, India. The visiting professor spent a week teaching saree draping and Indian embroideries to Fashion Design and Textile Surface Design students and faculty.  “Her knowledge was textbook and the exciting imagery she showed make it accessible,” said Textile Surface Design Professor Nomi Kleinman.

Saree draping

The demonstrations, including soft draping techniques, are applicable to children’s wear, menswear, women’s outerwear and couture design.

“In my demonstrations for children’s wear students, I used bright red, yellow, and blue colors with bead work in order to bring about cheerfulness into kids wear surface ornamentation,” Dr. Sarvani says.  “For the couture wear classes, I used silk organza fabric, sheer and transparent.”

Embroidery demonstration with Textile Surface Design students and faculty. “She really gave us an extremely in-depth talk and demonstration on traditional embroidery,” said Prof. Kleinman

For menswear students, she used gabardine, woolen striped fabrics in brown and black colors and wool threads in dull shades for attaching little mirrors to jackets and blazers.

Kasuti designs, a traditional form of folk embroidery

But the saree itself, traditional yet popular in India, evolves.

Prof. Rebeca Valez-San Andres, Dr. Sarvani and Fashion Design Chair Eileen Karp

Some Fascinating Saree Facts:

Draping:  An Indian saree is 20 feet of fabric, which can be plain, embroidered or woven. It can be very light, even diaphanous, or quite heavy.

Not just gift-wrapping:  The saree is tied over a petticoat, a six gore skirt made of cotton poplin. A tightly fitted saree blouse is also worn.

Flattering: Sarees are not easy to put on. But they remain popular, according to Dr. Sarvani, because women appear more beautiful and attractive in a saree drape.

Signaling: Adolescent girls are allowed to wear a saree when they reach marriageable age and usually not until any older sisters are married. A married woman or widow is expected to wear saree as a symbol of her status.

Gifting: It is a custom among Indian woman to gift sarees to each other on festive occasions as a symbol of hospitality and friendship. Sizing is, well, easy.

Dr. Vaddi Sarvani demonstrates saree draping with Fashion Design Prof. Rebeca Valez-San Andres

“Dr. Sarvani’s presentations and participation in Fashion Design and Textile Surface Design classes offered an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding of design trends, traditional Indian pattern making and saree draping,” says Deirdre Sato, Dean of International Education.

Dr. Sarvani with saree fabric

Dr. Sarvani came on an International Foundation of Fashion and Technology Institutions (IFFTI) travel grant, which is open to FIT faculty.


Photos: Rachel Ellner

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28 Responses to A Passage to India 20 Feet at a Time

  1. Karamdeep says:

    Congratulations! This blog is really amazing; making India proud! I’m really grateful for having been taught and guided by you. Keep blessing us with your knowledge and love.

  2. Dr. Bilquis says:

    Excellent work dear Sarvani. It’s really a great beginning. Wish u all d best

  3. Palak Goel says:

    Me. Sarvani is a great teacher. I was here student and posses an abundance of knowledge and skills. Great and informative article!

  4. nawazish zameer says:

    Wooww… you did a wonderful job.

  5. Riti says:

    Such a proud moment, showcasing our beautiful culture, our rich traditions and intricate techniques. You are an absolutely amazing teacher Dr. Sarvani!

  6. Raja says:

    Congratulations Mam, learned that behind sarees are so many facts.

  7. Udita Halder says:

    Great work !

  8. J. Padmavathi says:

    Great job. Good Luck.

  9. toni SHARMA says:

    You have added an entirely new perspective to the way we have been seeing sarees. And to actually have faculty members wear it is an entirely new idea and treatment, which I am sure would have helped the wearer appreciate the saree much better. A novel way of presenting a subject!

  10. Dr. Sumantra Bakshi says:

    Congratulations Dr. Sarvani

  11. Girija Jha says:

    That’s wonderful work–reinventing and representing the rich traditional textile secrets of India. A proud moment for all of us!

  12. DRajashekar says:

    Congratulations, good effort.

  13. Rajani Jain says:



    Congratulations Dr.Sarvani. I am very happy to note that a NIFT colleague of mine is highly appreciated for imparting her very traditional and valuable inputs to professionals who are overseas. Highly commendable effort. Best wishes for your future endeavors.

  15. Thadepalli Srivani says:

    Great opportunity and Good Job

  16. Manish Pundir says:

    Congratulations for such excellent work, really wonderful job.
    Wish you all the best.

  17. Sreeni says:

    Thank you Dr Saravani. This blog is really good and helps to visualize the beauty of the great Indian Saree and how its patterns can be used in fashion technology. I can see the usage of Saree growing in multi-cultural society in various social events. Well done.

  18. Pulomi says:

    Great work and presentation. Very proud of you. Best of luck. Hope we see more presentations from you.

  19. Premal Bhadeegar says:

    Congratulations on excellent work. Hope to see more presentations from you and wish you all the best

  20. Priyanka Gupta says:

    Congratulations!!! Awsome presentation. A proud moment for all of us. All the very best.

  21. Sadana says:

    Great work mam .. Congratulations God bless u..

  22. Jisha Annoch says:

    Great going, dear Sarvani! It is wonderful to see my roomie scaling new heights of glory! To be able to showcase the beautiful culture of India and her traditional attire to the eyes of the world is truly a proud achievement. Being a connoisseur of fabrics, you could have chosen any topic under the sky, yet you chose to weave the story of our Indian sari in New York. Commendable effort, dear Sarvani! God bless you.

  23. Rajiv Garg says:

    Excellent. I have been her student and she has always inspired her students with her knowledge and fashion skills. A great human with great passion.

  24. Swati Vyas says:

    Congratulations Mam! Great achievement from NIFT towards promotion of Indian Tradition!

  25. SANJAY SHARMA says:


  26. S V Priyanka says:

    Great Job Dr Sarvani ma’am. Hope you continue to excel in your career and guide others to excellence.

  27. Dr. K. Satish Kumar says:

    Wow that’s great to know Sarvani… wishing you all the best for your future endeavours.

  28. Harshini says:

    Great article, Prof. Sarvani has a wealth of knowledge in fashion and Indian textiles and it’s my honor that I was her student at NIFT. Please continue to inspire and share your knowledge across boundaries.

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