I consider this the prize of my sari collection. It’s an antique silk Parsi Gara sari made in China, probably around the end of the 19th or early 20th century. On their travels to China, Parsi tradesmen from Gujarat fell in love with traditional Chinese embroidery and began to have saris embroidered there. They brought them back and sold them to wealthy Parsi women. This trade stopped after the Chinese revolution, and there have been no true Parsi Gara saris made since about 1950. There are very few whole saris left, and most of those are family heirlooms. The majority have been cut up and the borders preserved, while the silk body of the sari disintegrated.
This sari is one of the older ones, and has a wide border around the entire sari. This makes the sari extremely heavy, and later saris were made without the border along the edge that is tucked in to wear. Traditional designs included scenes from Chinese life, pagodas, figures, birds, flowers, trees. The embroidery is so fine that it’s hard to tell the difference between the right and wrong sides:
It’s also almost three dimensional in appearance because of the different angles of the stitches:
Because these saris took so long to embroider, they were extremely expensive and craftsmen in Surat began to copy them. The border below is an example (this type of French knot work was not done in China). The stitches are tiny (for scale, the border is less than 2″ wide).
This one is also probably Indian-made:
Gorgeous! Fortunately in the last ten years or so, this type of embroidery has been given a new lease on life. One of these days I’ll have a new one too!