Classic Miniature Costumes

By Geeta Khandelwal

Inspired from ceremonial and everyday attires of the Maharajas of India from 1850-1950s

OCT 2, 2019 - DEC 25, 2019

Indian costume is a wide and varied field, one that incorporates richly brocaded silks to sumptuous velvets and finely woven cotton. Each article of clothing demonstrates the range of materials and weaving techniques prevalent in the country, including embellishments in the form of intricate embroidery, beads or semi-precious stones.

No one enjoyed dressing up more than the maharajas as they held court dressed in all their finery, displaying their status and prosperity. Unfortunately not much has survived in the shape of actual costumes, as the climate in India makes it difficult to preserve textiles. But historical visuals, in the form of paintings and sculpture, have allowed us to see and study the rich variety of costumes that existed. At the same time, some textile traditions have persisted in the country showing the continuation of methods and techniques in their production.

In this exhibition, textile artist Geeta Khandelwal has meticulously recreated miniature garments of ceremonial and everyday attire of the maharajas of India, drawing on fabric and styles over a span of a hundred years, from 1850 to 1950. Geeta has based her recreations on references drawn from the Calico Museum’s publication ‘Indian Costumes in the Collection of the Calico Museum of Textiles’ by B. N. Goswamy and Kalyan Krishna (1993). The book includes detailed patterns by Tarla P. Dundh, which give measurements and show individual sections of the garments. Types of fabrics used, colours, details of embroidery, buttons and ties are also illustrated in the publication.

Following patterns available in the book, Geeta has recreated male attire consisting of long robes known as jamas, angarkhas, choghas or sherwanis. Each miniature garment has been hand-stitched, in collaboration with master tailors and embroiderers. She has used largely vintage fabrics from her personal collection, which reflect the great diversity of Indian materials in use since the early 19th century. These range from fine silks and brocades of Varanasi, hand-block prints of Gujarat and Rajasthan, fine muslin of Bengal, pashmina jamavar of Kashmir, and chikankari embroideries of Lucknow amongst others.

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Geeta Khandelwal is a textile artist from Mumbai who has been working in the field for over fifty years. She is a passionate quilt maker and has served on the board of the International Quilt Study Center from 2003 to 2008. She has also participated in many quilt exhibitions around the world, including the Houston Quilt Festival (1985) and the Patchwork Quilt Festival of Alsace, France (2014). Geeta is the author of ‘Godharis of Maharashashtra, Western India’ (2014).


Free Workshop | Create your own Miniature Costume!

OCT 20, 2019,       11:30 am - 1:30 pm

Inspired by the exhibition 'Classic Miniature Costumes'


Join us for a fun, DIY workshop on how to create miniature Angarkhas, Jamas, Choghas, and Sherwani. The workshop will start with a walkthrough of the exhibition. This will be followed by a simple activity where you can make your own miniature garment using basic stitches and pattern cutouts.


Public Lecture | 'Courtly Indian Menswear' by Dr. Toolika Gupta

OCT 22, 2019,       6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

After the revolt of 1857, the British Crown took over the direct rule of India from the East India Company, and there was a shift in not only the governance in India but also in the social and cultural milieu. Changes were also noticeable in the clothing preferences of the Rajas, Maharajas and upper class Indians. India was a melting pot of cultures and ideas, with the coexistence of the British, Turks, Arabs, Chinese, French and Portuguese, among the Indian community.

The lecture will discuss how politics and technology influenced the courtly attire in India from 1857 – 1947, from jamas as seen in the miniature paintings of the 17th Century, to sherwanis as seen in the photographs during the 1940s.

Dr. Toolika Gupta, Director, Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, is a fashion historian, researcher and educator in the field of crafts and design. She has a Ph.D. in History of Arts (Dress and Textiles) from the University of Glasgow, U.K. She is one of the thirteen founding members and the secretary of the society – TCRC (Textiles and Clothing Research Centre) in India.


Free Activity | Attires - Now and Then!

NOV 23, 2019,       3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Inspired by the exhibition 'Classic Miniature Costumes'


Join us for a tour to learn about the ceremonial and everyday attires of the Maharajas of India from 1850 to 1950s. Compare these to how people in Mumbai dressed in the 19th - 20th century by observing the Museum’s collection of clay models and dioramas that document people, lifestyles, and culture in Mumbai from the late 19th to the early 20th century.

Participants will be encouraged to consider the differences in the attires of the past and the present and be inspired to create their own illustrations to reflect what they see around them in today.