A fine yarn

A fine yarn

The vibrant textiles and clothing in Gujarat has a much deeper social bearing than it meets the eyes

Rukmini Guha Thakurta
May 02 , 2014
01 Min Read

In her book Textiles and Dress of Gujarat, Eiluned Edwards quotes Nehru’s remark that ‘the history of India may well be written with textiles as its leading motif.’ Edwards does precisely that in her document of the story of Gujarati dress and textiles, in its socio-cultural context, as she goes back and forth through India’s history.


She devotes the first part of the book to dress. On surveying a local bazaar, she writes that in the context of the Hindu concept of darshan, “little about dress is random; textiles and clothing are a powerful form of non-verbal communication that has been harnessed into a complex symbolic language”. She gives us an account from Ain-i-Akbari on Akbar’s innovations in clothing design, which have been interpreted by the art historian B.N. Goswamy as a device to provide visual distinction between the Hindu and Muslim communities. She also narrates the story of the “suits and boots” wedding of Prabhat, an educated member of the Vagadia Rabari community where the groom makes a statement about his educated status. Edwards writes, “As Gujarat urbanises, attitudes are diversifying.” This transformation of fabric to caste dress; contemporary production and craft practices as well as popular dress — Edwards covers the gamut of what the title of the book promises, concluding with a review of current developments in this sector.


Given the visual and tactile nature of her subject, one would have hoped for a better designed book which employed paper, type and grids more effectively. Though the photographs are illustrative, the portraits are obviously not the work of a professional photographer. This otherwise remarkable book deserved a nicer dress.

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