Hi readers, thank you for visiting! This is a brief post about a garment which is a wardrobe staple in the South Asian countries of Pakistan and India. Today, these two nations are among the very few countries where ancient garb is still worn on a practical, daily basis.
The kurta is a tunic worn over pants (the shalwar and other bottom garments which I’ll write about in a future post). It is a unisex garment which is unique in that it takes on a feminine look when worn by women, and on men it looks, well, manly. You can safely say that a kurta is a distant cousin to the caftan.
The next photo shows how drapey and feminine it looks when worn. (No, I did not sew the pink chiffon kurta pictured below.) You can also see the seams if you click to enlarge the image. I’ve worn kurtas my entire life; not everyday, but quite a lot. I think it is elegance and comfort personified. A note about the metallic embroidery – it’s called “kamdani” and is done with very narrow metal strips. Kamdani embroidery is unique to the South Asian region.
The brief information below was a presentation I did many years ago for my local American Sewing Guild neighborhood group. I thought you might enjoy it, too. Here goes:
- Components of a traditional kurta are all geometric shapes. When pieced together, they form a loose unstructured garment.
- The neck is the only curved edge. It is normally finished with a bias facing or bias binding.
- The neck has a placket opening
- A shoulder seam is optional since the front and back can be cut as one long piece, but it’s advisable to have a shoulder seam since, like all garments, a kurta hangs from the shoulder.
- The only bias edge is one edge of each side piece ( each side piece is called a “kali”)
- Suitable fabrics range from soft cotton lawn, voile, shirtings, chiffons to raw silk, hand wovens.
- Traditionally, the entire kurta was hand sewn. As in anything handsewn, the results were soft and exquisite. No one sews a kurta by hand anymore.
- Seams are traditionally very narrow and felled on the wrong side. French seams are also used. A serger rolled hem or a very narrow three-thread seam can also be used for some quick sewing.
- The only interfaced part of a kurta is the placket.
- Hidden side seam pockets are added to men’s kurtas.
- Lengths follow the fashion of the day.
- The underarm gusset is one of the great traditional features of the kurta.
- Side slits are optional. Old kurtas had no side slits, but slits are added to modern versions.
See below for a couple of close-ups and details:
The neck placket on this kurta is “faux”. The designer outlined a placket shape in “kamdani” embroidery and called it a day. This time I agree with the designer because a real placket in chiffon would have taken away from the airiness and lightness of the garment. What do you think?
In a future post, I will detail the construction order of a kurta! Do you think you would be interested in making one? This will not be a sew-along but just one post and you will be free to ask any questions you may have.
Simplicity pattern 4528 resembles a kurta, and of course I’ve made at least three versions of this pattern. Can you think of any other western adaptation of the kurta? I would love to see your thoughts in the comment section.
As always, I’m thrilled that you read this post. Thank you!