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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