Embroidery from India: zari, zardosi, and dabka

Fine metal thread called zari is woven into or embroidered onto many fabrics from India. When the wire is wrapped or woven to form intricate textures and shapes, it is called zardosi or dabka. Zardosi often includes crystals, sequins, and pearl beading.  High-quality zardosi is so finely and evenly worked that it's hard to see the individual coils. On very light fabrics, the zari thread is satin-stitched and pressed flat in a style called kamdani. The word for a particular type of embroidery may vary by language and region.

Related terms: kalabattu, kasab, and salma-sitara embroidery; chickna and kora wire threads, karchobi, dabka, kalabutan

Other spellings: zardosi, zardosy, jardosi, zardozi, zaari, jari, jaari


These are some of my favorite zari, zardosi, and dabka pieces.

A silk saree with a traditional woven zari border:Silk sari with traditional woven zari border


Khadi silk saree with woven zari border

A zari-woven fabric:

Fabric with woven zari pattern


Zardosi work and dabka embroidery

Classic zardosi work on a traditional silk kameez.


Zardosi embroidery on silk crepe (detail)

Detail of zardosi and dabka embroidery:

Look for zardosi coils curving over a line of dabka, outlined by zari chain stitches.

Dabka and zardosi detail

Dabka and zardosi work on a georgette saree:

Dabka work on a georgette saree


Some vintage embroidery styles:

A vintage silk jacket-style kameez with heavy zardosi embroidery.

Heavy vintage zardosi embroidery on a jacket kameez

Mughal-style dabka work on silk:

Mughal style dabka embroidery on pure silk

A silk tissue wedding lehenga from the 1980s with dabka embroideryi:

Dabka embroidery on a wedding lehenga




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