The timeless elegance of Chikankari embroidery is evident from its massive following among women including our favourite celebs. From extravagant weddings and festive occasions to everyday fashionable comfort, we have seen women carrying this age-old Indian embroidery craft with elegance. Whether you are looking for the ‘girl-next-door’ look or want to up your fashion quotient like the super fashionable Bollywood celebs, this rich and delicate workmanship of authentic Lucknowi Chikankari embroidery is bound to mesmerise you.
When you look at the evolution of Chikankari embroidery you can notice how this exceptional art of embroidery has mainstreamed into the daily and festive fashion of Indian women. Every ethnic silhouette from wedding attires to everyday kurtis is wonderfully complemented by Chikankari embroidery. The subdued colours and intricate designs add a different elegance to your entire look. In this blog, let us explore the ancient art of traditional embroidery and know more about Chikankari embroidery history and the evolution of Chikankari embroidery into modern-day fashion.
Origins of Chikankari Embroidery
India is a land of extraordinary crafts. Chikankari embroidery originated in the city of Lucknow, in modern-day Uttar Pradesh and its origin can be traced back to the Mughal era. Evident from Chikankari origin, this embroidery is considered to be one of the oldest and most traditional embroidery methods.
Chikankari history is mysterious and has much folklore attached to it. Chikankari finds its mentions as early as the 3rd century BC by Megasthenes when he mentioned ‘floral work on muslin’ by Indians (1). However, according to some historians, Mehrunissa also known as Nur Jahan - the attractive consort of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir - brought chikan, a Persian craft, to his court somewhere around 1611 A.D.
The queen was a skilled embroiderer, and her ethereal, white flower needlework won the king's approval to the point where it quickly gained renown and royal sponsorship. The practice and refinement of this embroidery took place in workshops.
The word chikan has different meanings in different languages. In Persian chakin or chakeen means crafting delicate patterns on fabric and in Urdu it means embroidery.
Traditional Techniques and Designs Used in Chikankari Embroidery
Chikankari embroidery uses 36 different stitching techniques for its intricate designs (2). Today many of these stitches are being mixed with pearl, mirror, and mukaish embellishments to give a modern look to the apparel. Some of the stitch names are:
- Tepchi or running stitch
- Bakhiya or shadow work
- Zanzeera or chain stitch
- Keel or stem stitch
- Phanda or French knot
- Murri or small buttonhole stitch
- Jali or net
- Hool or eyelet
- Seed stitch or Khatau
- Banarasi stitch or braid stitch
Although this ancient art of traditional embroidery was done on muslin cloth, with white thread on white fabric, it is now common on a variety of textiles and hues, especially pastels.
Significance of Chikankari Embroidery in Indian Culture
Chikankari Embroidery which flourished in the Mughal era is a gift to Lucknow's rich cultural heritage. Today this exceptional art of embroidery is a symbol of the city's artistic and creative heritage as well as its rich cultural past.
Chikankari embroidery is frequently used to adorn bridal wear and has solidified its place as a standard component of Indian wedding apparel. The bridal dress is given a touch of beauty and grace by the fine, detailed needlework.
In Lucknow and other parts of India, Chikankari needlework supports the livelihoods of many craftspeople, particularly women. The craft has helped maintain and promote Indian traditional handicrafts while also turning into a significant source of revenue for many families.
Contemporary Chikankari Embroidery
The pattern and method of Chikankari embroidery have changed over time in a number of ways. From being a white-on-white design today you can find a plethora of colours and designs that are being used in Chikankari. New motifs and designs added to the traditional repertoire have given the art a contemporary twist.
When at one time Chikankari embroidery was only done on cotton or muslin, today you can find this traditional embroidery on a variety of fabrics like silk, chiffon, georgette, mulmul and more. With the introduction of machine embroidery today the process has become faster. However, the demand for hand-embroidered Chikankari outfits is still high as they are considered more authentic and of higher quality.
Even though it has undergone numerous changes throughout the years, some legitimate shops continue to hand-knit and dye these wonderful garments. They are known as chikanwalas, or manufacturers and vendors of chikan needlework.
How Chikankari embroidery has become popular in Western fashion
Chikankari embroidery has grown in popularity and recognition around the world as a result of the globalisation of the fashion industry. Now that so many brands and designers are using Chikankari embroidery in their designs, it has a truly worldwide appeal.
Traditional Chikankari embroidery was largely designed for ethnic clothing, but now it is also used for modern and fusion clothing like dresses, gowns, shirts and shrugs. The embroidery has been modified to fit the varying fashion trends, increasing its adaptability and availability. This embroidery is used by many designers in their collections, giving it a modern touch and opening it up to a larger audience.
Chikankari Embroidery in the Fashion Industry
Chikankari needlework is versatile and evergreen. This exceptional art of embroidery can be used on different types of clothing, such as sarees, kurtis, lehengas, and chikankari gowns. Because of this, designers can experiment with a variety of styles and designs.
Today it has become a choice for everyone who wants to embrace their cultural roots and uphold the rich crafts and designs of India. For the festive season and wedding season, Chikankari embroidery outfits have become a must-have. People also enjoy using this craft because it is a form of sustainable fashion. Designers and fashion fans have a sustainable and environmentally friendly option in chikankari embroidery by funding local artists.
We have often spotted our favourite Bollywood actresses in Chikankari outfits. Bollywood celebs like Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Aditi Rao Hydari, and Janhvi Kapoor are often seen flaunting their love for the art in different Chikankari kurtis because these beautiful creations offer both comfort and style effortlessly.
Challenges and Opportunities for Chikankari Embroidery
Like any other traditional craft Chikankari embroidery is not protected from challenges. Machine embroidery, skilled artisans, and lack of Govt. backing all poses a challenge to this craft. Chikankari embroidery calls for artists to understand the many stitches and motifs. However, the lack of training and desire among the younger generation makes it harder and harder to find skilled artisans.
However, with increased consumer awareness of sustainable and eco-friendly products Chikankari craft has regained its popularity in ethnic and fusion fashion. This gives artists a chance to show off their creativity and goods to a larger audience. With the emergence of e-commerce platforms today it can reach its fans worldwide.
Chikankari embroidery has the potential to be innovative and modernised in order to adapt to shifting consumer demands. This can entail keeping the embroidery's classic aesthetic while introducing fresh patterns, materials, and techniques.
In conclusion, Chikankari embroidery is a classic and timeless craft that has long played a significant role in Indian culture and fashion. It is adored by fashion aficionados and designers all over the world because of its distinctive designs, precise craftsmanship, and versatility. Chikankari needlework has changed throughout the years, but it has kept its traditional style, making it an important piece of cultural legacy.
House of Chikankari believes in creating a deeper impact on the country's craftsmen and craftswomen. We cherish the craftsmanship of our artisans and want to reach these masterpieces to a larger audience. This Shark-Tank-approved lifestyle brand doesn’t only want to sell handmade outfits but to re-instil the pride of these artisans in their craft and to provide sustainable economic and social empowerment to them.
Our Bollywood favourite kurti collection, Eid collection and festive collections are witnesses of the ethereal beauty of Chikankari embroidery. The decadence of the threadwork and intricate patterns are going to make add a touch of elegance and grace to your look this summer. Celebrate the creativity of Indian artisans from Lucknow with the House of Chikankari.
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