Stoles Steal the Lime­light!

Stoles are in­creas­ingly be­ing adopted as a mod­ern, trendier al­ter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional du­pat­tas that ruled the In­dian ap­parel scene. Chi­tra Bala­sub­ra­ma­niam ex­plores the trend.

Apparel - - Contents -

Ex­plor­ing the trend of stoles tak­ing over the tra­di­tional In­dian du­patta

Walk down any mar­ket or shop­ping mall and one of the com­mon­est fash­ion ac­ces­sories you can spot is the ubiq­ui­tous stole. Stoles are ‘in’, haute, hap­pen­ing and more im­por­tantly prac­ti­cal, such that own­ing half a dozen of them might just not be enough. They can be termed a ‘re­peat buy’, bought with­out a sec­ond thought. The stole is uni­sex and ver­sa­tile; it can be teamed with In­dian wear or even used as a cra­vat. Stoles have taken over the In­dian ap­parel mar­ket by storm. In the ear­lier days, it was the du­pat­tas which were used by women reg­u­larly. Ev­ery mar­ket or shop­ping cen­tre had ar­rays of du­pat­tas fly­ing in the wind; they can still be spot­ted but the pride of place has been taken over by the stoles. Stoles are more com­fort­able, shorter and eas­ier to han­dle. Also, with more and more women opt­ing for western wear, stoles make for an in­ter­est­ing ad­di­tion. More im­por­tantly, they can also be teamed with tra­di­tional In­dian wear such as sal­war-kurta and churi­dar-kurta en­sem­bles.

What makes stoles so much in vogue in In­dia is the sheer depth of ma­te­rial avail­able to make them. In the In­dian con­text, it ranges from the hum­ble hand­loom to the luxe ma­chine-made ones. The ma­te­ri­als–cot­ton, muslin, nat­u­ral

veg­etable dyes, silk ( tus­sar, muga, eri), the pride of place – pash­mina or cash­mere, as well as bam­boo, net­tle, hemp, the glo­ri­ous mix of pash­mina and silk, jute and silk, voiles, vis­cose, satin–are part of a de­signer’s reg­u­lar col­lec­tion of scarves, stoles and du­pat­tas which sells the en­tire year. In In­dia, the pres­ence of tex­tile craft means that there is plenty of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with em­broi­dery–zardozi, se­quins, tilla, makkaish, also with ap­pliqué and other forms of tribal em­broi­dery. Al­most all brands which deal in shawls and du­pat­tas also have a range of stoles. Stoles are tech­ni­cally half the size of the du­pat­tas, width-wise, though the length can be smaller and the width even smaller. They range from 60-90 cms by 150-200 cms and some­times even smaller. Cus­tomised stoles are also wo­ven on the loom. Thus, two stoles can be wo­ven si­mul­ta­ne­ously on the loom, the width be­ing di­vided be­tween them.

It is the ma­te­ri­als which make the stoles so spe­cial. In­dia’s di­ver­sity makes the list long and never-end­ing. We take a look at some of the ma­te­rial choices avail­able.

THE PASH­MINA AND SEMI PASH­MINA SAGA

The world calls it ‘cash­mere’–our pash­mina. Pash­mina stoles are the ‘ever­green cat­e­gory’ and are a must-buy for those vis­it­ing In­dia and for the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially the elite and those stay­ing in the North where it is cold. How­ever, the com­bi­na­tion of pash­mina yarn with other yarns has made it to other parts of the coun­try as well. These stoles make for ex­cel­lent gift­ing op­tions and are hugely pop­u­lar with for­eign­ers. In In­dia also, they are catch­ing up as op­posed to the tra­di­tional shawls. Pash­mina stoles come in al­most all va­ri­eties; con­tem­po­rary pieces do not have much of ‘work’ or em­broi­dery, but it is the colour com­bi­na­tion and play with the tex­tures which stands out. The sheer va­ri­ety is unimag­in­able; soft pas­tels, baby blues, baby pinks work with the con­tem­po­rary colour pal­ette. They are fur­ther worked upon with se­quins, zardozi and em­broi­dery. Tra­di­tional crewel and sozni em­broi­dery of Kash­mir are com­monly seen. Kani shawls are see­ing a re­vival too. Along with them, kani stoles are also wo­ven. Kani weav­ing is a slow, time-con­sum­ing process and there­fore ex­pen­sive. Stoles af­ford a com­par­a­tively cheaper op­tion and of course, there is the added ad­van­tage of team­ing them with western clothes as well.

TUS­SAR MA­NIA

One of the ear­li­est ex­per­i­men­ta­tion that hap­pened is with tus­sar. Tus­sar be­ing a more in­ex­pen­sive silk saw a whole range of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion as stoles. The rea­son is not dif­fi­cult to see; the rugged colour­ing of the tus­sar ap­peals to the eye. The nat­u­ral colour of tus­sar and the fact that it can be hand-wo­ven with other yarns has made it a pop­u­lar ma­te­rial for stoles. Tus­sar silk is ver­sa­tile with dra­pa­bil­ity, the coarse weav­ing of the fab­ric ap­peals to the de­signer’s eye and there has been much ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with it. Tus­sar has been com­bined with muga, eri and mul­berry silk also. Pure eri stoles are also equally pop­u­lar. The tus­sar pock­ets of Mad­hya Pradesh, Bi­har and Jhark­hand have come to the fore­front in the weav­ing of tus­sar stoles. More­over, since a lot of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with de­sign in­ter­ven­tion has taken place, the mix and match of colours, and weav­ing it in a com­bi­na­tion of geo­met­ric pat­terns with other colours works very well. Plain with twill weav­ing or the very pop­u­lar chashme bul­bul or bird’s eye de­sign too work bril­liantly. One of the best com­bi­na­tions that have proved very pop­u­lar is the oak tus­sar from Ut­tarak­hand, hand-dyed us­ing nat­u­ral veg­etable colours and then wo­ven into stoles. It uses con­tem­po­rary mod­ern de­signs where gra­da­tion of colours and mix­ing of tex­tures is wo­ven into the stole.

THE BLOCK PRINTED STOLES

One of the lat­est trends is stoles made us­ing tra­di­tional block prints, es­pe­cially ajrakh, which is then fur­ther em­broi­dered. Ajrakh from Gu­jarat is done us­ing nat­u­ral colours and its beau­ti­ful colour com­bi­na­tion done painstak­ingly by the crafts­men is a rage in In­dia and abroad. The com­bi­na­tion of nat­u­ral colours with the beau­ti­ful block print de­signs adds to the beauty of the piece. The stoles and scarves find huge fol­low­ing over­seas. Other block print­ing tech­niques like San­ganer, Dabu, Bagh and kalamkari are also used. Hand­painted kalamkari is also see­ing a re­vival from a wall art to a wear­able form.

EM­BROI­DERY

One kind of stole which has taken the world and In­dia by storm is the patch­work Kan­tha stoles. Up-cy­cled or re­cy­cled us­ing old silk saris patched to­gether, it is worn with élan. Wear­ing old re­cy­cled cloth as ap­parel has been a strict no-no in In­dia; the use of Kan­tha stoles is see­ing the re­ver­sal of such a trend. The patch­work quilted stole which can be worn ei­ther ways is go­ing strong over sev­eral years. In the same vein, the heav­ily hand-em­broi­dered Kan­tha stoles made us­ing new silk is equally pop­u­lar. Done on tus­sar silk, its vi­brant yet sub­tle em­broi­dery has made it a die-hard favourite. Apart from stoles em­broi­dered here, stoles em­broi­dered us­ing khamak em­broi­dery of Afghanistan are also pop­u­lar here. More­over, lawn fab­ric from Pak­istan is used in in­no­va­tive ways. Em­broi­dered stoles with work done by the Ban­jara com­mu­nity– ban­jara em­broi­dery, shisha or mir­ror work, ka­suti, zardozi–can be seen too.

Apart from this, screen-printed stoles with some awe­some de­signs with con­tem­po­rary logo are pop­u­lar. Graphic prints are in de­mand; loin loom wo­ven stoles are an­other spe­cialty. Those with words writ­ten across them are also sought-after. There is much ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with ikat in stoles; ikat hand-wo­ven stoles, dyed in or­ganic colours as well as the tra­di­tional ones are made. In Andhra Pradesh, the ikat tra­di­tion from other parts of the world is also in­cor­po­rated to give the stoles a very unique touch. In the nat­u­ral yarn range, net­tle is hand-spun to make beau­ti­ful stoles; bam­boo stoles which look like stoles made from any other ma­te­rial are also com­fort­able to use and ex­per­i­ment. Or­ganic cot­ton is com­bined with hemp to form in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tions. It can fur­ther tie-dyed to give it a very dis­tinct touch.

What make stoles so pop­u­lar are the sheer va­ri­ety that is avail­able and the abil­ity to wear it in as many ways. It can be used as an ac­ces­sory, tied around the neck, draped and knot­ted. It can be paired with a T-shirt, a top or a shirt. It can be worn el­e­gantly with a sari or a sal­war-kameez ensem­ble. An in­for­mal at­tire gains for­mal­ity just by the drap­ing of a stole. Stoles are here to stay; it is one trend that man­u­fac­tur­ers can probe as it is ever­green and an im­pulse pur­chase.

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