Located about 300 kms from each other, the regions around Lucknow and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh are home to two distinct textile traditions.
Let’s begin with the Banarasi. The iconic brocade Banarasi saree is known for its boundless beauty born of rich jewel tones and shimmering golden motifs called “buti”. According to legend, the zari work of today once was done with real gold threads. The Banarasi comes in many forms depending on the weave – tanchoi silk, kora silk or organza, jacquard, katan, jangla and tissue Banarasi.
And then there’s the white-on-white embroidery tradition of Chikankari, which goes back to more recent history. The craft involves stitches so fine that in the good old days, Chikan work that looked equally beautiful on both sides of the fabric was a mark of authentic skill. Interspersed with metallic embellishment, Chikankari leitmotifs adorned the stitched garments of royalty.
Crafts such as Banarasi and Lucknowi Chikan are timeless and here to stay. No wonder then that they take new avatars, and today, innovation is the name of the game.
Amidst the latest crazy fashion of crop tops, cutouts, jeggings, halters, spaghettis, shorts, peplum tops, faded jeans, mini skirts, bell bottoms, dresses, pintuck tops, palazzos and three-fourth pants, our fascination for an ethnic touch still remains.
Historic craft traditions are no longer just confined to the realm of kurtis and sarees today. What designers are currently creating are adding new horizons to Western wear and fusion wear in India. When you add a hint of traditional embellishment or fabric to effortless modern separates, it reflects a unique sartorial instinct and refined aesthetic.
And thus we have Banarasi tops and Lucknowi tops. A range of such designs are out there, and you can flaunt them on all kinds of occasions. Be it a traditional family gathering like a pre-wedding event, a popular festival, a regular day at work, a night out at a concert, or any other kind of social outing, tops beautified with these centuries-old techniques are wardrobe must-haves.
Tailored in various fine fabrics such as georgette, silk, organza, cambric, silk cotton, and the like, you’ll find tops of a host of versatile silhouettes sporting Chikankari in ways unimagined – minimalist chevrons at the collar, vertical panels on an oversized shirt, subtle leafy vines around the neckline, a shower of tiny motifs across a loose top, or mixed and matched with lace accents in strategic places.
Like true blue Lucknowi outfits, the colour palette is generally light and summary. Think mogra whites, ivory, powder blue, pista cream and pale rose. Pair easily with floor-length skirts, cigarette pants, skinny jeans and culottes.
It’s easy to be enamoured by the lustrous Banarasi brocade. On occasions like weddings, Banarasi sarees and ensembles remain among the top picks of women in India. Contemporary designer tops, though, help you add a spin to your glowing Banarasi look – just pull on a Banarasi silk top cinched at the waist with a drawstring or belt. This is usually available as a complete set with a pair of shararas or palazzos. You can even mix and match with a block-coloured or sequined silken lehenga skirt.
For some of the most unique collections of Lucknowi and Banarasi tops and blouses, check out online stores like Jaypore, Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop, Ajio Luxe, Myntra Luxe, Tata CliQ Luxury, etc.