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The Rabari Dress


Rabaris of the Kutch district in western India is famed for its exquisite embroidery. Each veilcloth boasts intricate patterns that convey status and stature within their complex system of lineages (ataks) and atak-atak marriage.

Embroidery was an integral component of women’s dowries for centuries and remains an effective means for expressing individual identity and values today.

The skirt

Rabari women have long used embroidery as a form of self-expression and identity, decorating their clothing with threads and mirrors that reflect both desert surroundings and mythology. Their style and aesthetic, such as their large jewelry pieces and stretched earlobes, have come to symbolize free-spirited bohemianism culture. Originally included as part of the bride’s trousseaus and once considered labors of love by designers, merchants, and collectors worldwide, nowadays, these treasures are valued by designers, merchants, and collectors worldwide.

Historically, Rabari were nomadic people living throughout western India’s desert tracts – particularly Gujarat and Rajasthan states. Their name, which translates as ‘those who dwell outside”, signified their nomadic lifestyle as they closely connected with their cattle.

The Ghaghra skirt was an indispensable part of their traditional attire. It allowed them to move freely across hot and sandy terrain. This long and wide garment featured a drawstring at its waist with embroidery both outside and within its garment, as well as silk lining at its hem for an opulent finish.

This beautiful skirt hails from the Kutch district of western India near Pakistan’s border. Designed as a wedding trousseau and featuring intricate chain stitch embroidery decorated with floral, animal, and geometric motifs, its bright red hue and diamond-shaped mirrors reflect the vibrant desert landscape here. Additionally, its brilliant red color and diamond-shaped mirrors reflect its beautiful diamond-shaped mirrors reflect this ghaghra’s delicate chain stitch detailing as well as intricate floral, animal, and geometric motifs that showcase artisans’ skill – something ghaghra artisans are famed for.

A ghagra is worn over a white blouse and red turban and embellished with various designs and motifs to signify marriage in Rabari culture and show her marital status and status in society.

Our Rabari collection boasts some fantastic pieces from Gujarat’s Kachchh region. One such embroidered Ghaghra from Kachchh features pleated detailing for day and evening wear – perfect for creating an AM to PM look. This particular design from our Kachchh collection of Gujarat is one of our favorites from our Rabari line-up – it strikes the ideal balance between heritage and modernity! With its intricate ruffle detail and pleated hemline, this piece makes an impressionful statement all its own! It features both heritage and modernity perfectly. Pair this piece with flats or heels for an AM to PM look!

The blouse

Rabaris are an indigenous nomadic tribe from Western India renowned for their exquisite embroidery, jewelry, and handmade sculptures that pay homage to traditional Indian culture. Visit their unique community for an unforgettable cultural experience when traveling through this part of India.

Women from this tribe have traditionally been highly skilled embroiderers. They take great pride in embroidering trousseau for brides-to-be, including Ghagra (skirt), Kanchali or blouse, and Ludi (veil). Furthermore, these embroiderers also create exquisitely decorated shawls, children’s cradle clothes, auspicious Torans, etc.

Rabari artisans are highly talented craftspeople. Traditionally, their art has been seen as an indicator of wealth and social status; however, due to globalization and modern lifestyle changes, its importance as a symbol of cultural identity has declined over time. Today’s Rabari artisans may opt for ribbons or trims over embroidery when decorating clothing due to faster lifestyles or exposure to outside influences.

These changes have led to discussions regarding whether Rabaris should remain traditionalist or adapt and embrace modernity in order to survive. As a result, many Rabaris have taken on wage labor jobs in order to supplement their incomes.

Due to these circumstances, embroidery on their clothing has, in some instances, decreased in terms of both quality and level. Yet artisans remain well known for their exquisite work and capacity to produce an array of designs; their inspiration comes from mythology, their desert environment, or simply from themselves and their imaginations.

Rabari style embroidery stands out as it blends chain stitch, mirror work, and artfully designed patterns into its work to produce an artful effect on fabrics – something no other form of embroidery in India can compete with.

Rabaris make for an engaging tour experience as they can be found roaming Kachchh and Gujarat’s barren dunes with their livestock and families as they go about their lives without stopping to rest.

The shawl

Kachhi Rabari tribe members are well known for their intricate house decorations made of mud relief and intricately embroidered clothing, but they also create remarkable blankets – thick and warm, ideal for desert temperatures – which they wear as scarves or wrap around shoulders as shawls.

Embroidery on shawls is executed using a chain stitch technique, drawing heavily from their desert surroundings for inspiration. It’s an intricate art form incorporating various patterns, motifs, and mirrorwork – often taking months to finish one garment!

Traditionally, shawls were an integral part of women’s trousseaus and an expression of labor-love for gypsy women, providing a way to contribute financially and creatively towards the family they married while showing others what skills and creativity she possessed. They served both socially as well as creatively – allowing gypsy women the chance to show others their craft.

As women became less obliged to embroider as part of their dowries for their husbands and children, shawl production became an opportunity to generate additional revenue for Rabari tribe members and outsiders alike. Today, shawls remain significant sources of income.

Shawls are typically hand woven from heavy, hand-spun wool with intricate chain stitch embroidery patterns on them that include peacocks, parrots, scorpions, elephants, trees, flowers, and women carrying water pots on their heads – as well as being embellished by peacocks, parrots and parrots (often depicted with chain stitch embroidery), peacocks parrots scorpions elephants trees flowers, etc.

Rabari embroidery is known for using a range of materials and motifs from its community’s cosmology, mythology, and everyday life as its source. They can be used to illustrate important events, rituals, or values within their tribe as well as share their history.

Shawls can be embellished using various techniques, including embroidery, beadwork, and applique. Mirrorwork or natural dyes may also be added for further embellishment, and the variety of colors makes these pieces great accessories to add ethnic flare to any ensemble. These unique pieces make great statement pieces!

The veil

Rabari embroidery textile tradition has evolved from being used solely as an expression of personal identity or for wedding dowries to becoming a marketable product sold commercially for income generation. Women still practice embroidery as part of their labor, although now often for merchants and designers rather than family groups.

Rabari embroidery, in particular, particularly Kachhi style embroidery, is famed for its use of symbolic motifs such as camels. Rabaris believe that Parvati wiped away Shiva’s sweat while meditating and used this dust as the material for creating its first camel; hence why, animals feature so prominently among Rabari motifs.

Rabaris live as semi-nomads, traveling between villages to graze pastures for their cattle. Men lead herds while women and children remain in village houses to care for domestic livestock and water supplies. Marriage is considered an essential milestone among Rabaris, celebrated lavishly with beautiful textiles that proclaim each woman’s abilities and creativity.

Rabaris of India differs from other tribal groups by using embroidery patterns printed commercially by outside companies to save time and be creative, rather than publishing their patterns from companies outside. Rabaris prefer to create their patterns to express themselves creatively while making their work truly original.

Rabari veils were traditionally made from wool from their herds, which was carded and spun, dyed into various hues, and then woven. Women then embroidered the pieces using tiny cut mirrors. Motifs ranged from floral to birds and animals, with this piece featuring an unusual rooster pattern as most veils feature an eagle design instead. Typical yellow ground colors on Rabari veils identified them as being from Egypt’s south Sinai region; an interesting enough type of face veil can still be worn by Bedouins today!