When the Persian invaders brought Zardosi to India, the motifs and colours were primarily Persian. This kind of Zardosi was of three types:
a) The basic fabric stitched to produce novel patterns and colours, such as the Baloch's Souzan-douzi, Rasht's Qollab-douzi and Kerman's Pate-douzi.
b) The base fabric stitched with less dense work. The craftsmen crossed the strings throughout the woof of the fabric and stitched them to each other to form a colourfully patterned lattice, such as sekke-douzi or qollab-douzi.
c) A variety of patterns were stitched on the original fabric with gold and silver strings, to make the intricate Zardosi patterns.
L: A stunning Persian-influenced peacock motif in Zardosi work
R: Detail of motifs on Lady Curzon of Kedleston, Vicereine of India’s orchid gown, late 1800s/early 1900s
Under Akbar’s reign, the designs were primarily Mughal in nature, consisting of the elaborate floral patterns and leaf designs for which that era is known. Motifs of peacocks were also widely used and considered auspicious.
L: A floral-inspired Zardosi motif
R: Blue and gold Zardosi
Over the years, local craftsmen infused their own sensibilities to make designs which were a fusion of Persian, Mughal and Indian styles. The patterns have evolved ever since and geometric motifs are the primary focus of Zardosi work today. Flowers, petals and leaves are still appreciated for their highly traditional and timeless appeal.
L: Floral motifs on a 1920s Zardosi cape
R: Motif detail with embellishments
The motif selected for pre-tracing on the fabric depends on the level of intricacy desired and the weight of the final garment required, since the zari, along with the sequins and beads, makes the fabric extremely heavy. Another common way of using Zardosi work in garments is to keep the attire simple and have heavily embroidered borders in floral motifs.
Bright red bridal wear with heavy gold zari thread detail
Since Zardosi work is chiefly used on wedding attire, the colours used are bright red for a marriage ceremony, maroon, turquoise, royal blue, mauve, pink and bottle green for a more regal look. The overall look is shimmery because of the gold and silver zari, which makes these garments stand out.
Images: Amazon, Costume Textile and Fashion, Thea Oz, Museum of New Zealand Te Pa Pa Tongarewa