The Revival of Kalamkari: How to Wear It Right

The Revival of Kalamkari: How to Wear It Right

Rich cultural heritage and indigenous art forms always have a unique charm and exquisiteness that stand out. Kalamkari, a traditional art form that originated in Andhra Pradesh, is no exception. The word Kalamkari has been derived from two different words- kalam (pen) and kari (work). The art form involves hand painting or block printing on cotton or silk fabrics using a pen made of bamboo, and natural dyes extracted from vegetables and plants. The result is a beautiful and intricately designed piece of clothing.

For a long time, Kalamkari suffered a setback due to the invasion of synthetic fabrics and mass-produced clothing. The style of Kalamkari was relegated to ethnic wear, making it less common among younger generations. But, with the recent growing interest in sustainable fashion, Kalamkari has been making a comeback, gaining popularity globally. Investing in a Kalamkari item is a great way to approach fashion more sustainably and support a heritage art form.

However, Kalamkari is not merely a piece of clothing. It’s a reflection of one’s creativity, personality, and lifestyle. While some people find it difficult to incorporate Kalamkari into their wardrobe, once you start playing around with it, you’ll come to realize how versatile it can be. You can try different styles like fusion wear, where you combine traditional and contemporary pieces. You can wear it as a statement piece or add a touch of it in accessories.

In this article, we will break down the art of wearing Kalamkari and explore ways to wear it right. We’ll understand the history, the process, and the symbols used in Kalamkari motifs. We’ll also provide some tips on styling Kalamkari for different occasions and incorporating it into your daily wardrobe seamlessly.

The revival of Kalamkari is not just about fashion, but also about reviving a cultural heritage. It’s a way to move beyond the mass-produced fashion industry and embrace unique and ethical fashion. By choosing to wear Kalamkari, you’re not just making a statement about your fashion sense but also expressing your support towards sustainable living, preserving a rich legacy and empowering the artisans.

So, let us walk you through the world of Kalamkari and how you can incorporate this traditional art form into your wardrobe with sophistication and panache. Let’s discover the beauty and elegance of Kalamkari that speaks volumes about our roots, culture, and way of life. Join us on this journey of embracing ethical fashion and discovering the revival of Kalamkari.

Kalamkari is a hand-painted or block-printed cotton fabric that originated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the oldest forms of art, with a history of over 3,000 years. Kalamkari derives its name from two words, ‘kalam’ meaning pen, and ‘kari’ meaning work. The art form has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, and is experiencing a revival in the fashion industry. The intricate patterns, vibrant colors, and unique techniques used in Kalamkari make it a special fabric that deserves a place in every fashion-conscious person’s wardrobe.

Choose the Right Style

Kalamkari looks great in both traditional and contemporary styles. A well-tailored blouse with a Kalamkari saree can make you look elegant and stylish at the same time. A Kalamkari dress or an indo-western outfit can be perfect for a semi-formal occasion. However, it is essential to select the right style for your body type and occasion.

Accessorize with Care

Kalamkari clothing deserves attention, so it’s essential to accessorize with care. Simple and elegant accessories can work wonders with Kalamkari outfits. You can opt for traditional jewelry like jhumkas, bangles, or a neckpiece with bold colors. A Kalamkari clutch or handbag can be a perfect accessory to complete the look. It’s best to stick to minimal or no accessories, as the fabric is the star of the show.

Play with Colors

Kalamkari is known for its bright and eye-catching colors that are never too loud. While you can never go wrong with a black or white Kalamkari outfit, one can experiment with different shades and hues. Colors like indigo, red, yellow, and green can add a pop of color to any outfit.

Pick the Right Footwear

While the right accessories are essential, the footwear can make or break the look of Kalamkari outfits. Metallic sandals or juttis can add a touch of glamor to ethnic wear. For indo-western outfits, pumps, loafers, or even sneakers can work, depending on the occasion.

Hair and Makeup for Kalamkari

When it comes to hair and makeup for Kalamkari outfits, less is always more. Natural makeup with light lip color and kohl-lined eyes can complement the vibrant colors of Kalamkari. For hair, a simple braid, a bun, or letting your hair down can work well for traditional or indo-western outfits.

Care for Your Kalamkari

Kalamkari is a delicate fabric that requires gentle care. It’s best to hand wash Kalamkari and avoid harsh detergents and bleach. One should also avoid direct sunlight while drying Kalamkari outfits. Proper caring and storage can ensure that your Kalamkari outfits last for years.


Kalamkari is a traditional art form originating in Andhra Pradesh, involving hand painting or block printing on cotton or silk fabrics using a bamboo pen and natural dyes extracted from vegetables. Due to synthetic fabrics and mass-produced clothing, Kalamkari took a backseat; however, the art form is making a comeback with the growing interest in sustainable fashion, gaining popularity globally. Kalamkari reflects creativity, personality, and lifestyle, and it can be worn as fusion wear or statement pieces or added as accessories. By choosing to wear Kalamkari, it supports sustainable living, preserves a rich legacy, and empowers artisans, making a statement about fashion sense.

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What is Kalamkari and how is it revived?

Kalamkari is a centuries-old Indian textile art that involves hand-painted or block-printed designs on natural fabrics like cotton and silk using special pens and dyes. The word “Kalam” means pen and “Kari” means work. This art form was traditionally used to depict mythological stories, nature, and scenes from daily life. Kalamkari suffered a setback for a while due to the increasing popularity of machine-made textiles. However, with the growing demand for handmade and sustainable fashion, Kalamkari is experiencing a revival. Artisans and designers are combining traditional techniques with modern designs to create unique and contemporary clothing and accessories.

What are the different types of Kalamkari prints available?

There are mainly two types of Kalamkari prints available- Srikalahasti and Machilipatnam. Srikalahasti is known for its intricate pen work and is characterized by mythological depictions, and Machilipatnam is known for its block-printed designs depicting nature. The prints can be further categorized as figurative, floral, or geometric. Figurative prints feature mythological or historical figures, floral prints typically depict flowers and vines, and geometric prints include patterns like stripes and dots.

How can Kalamkari be worn for everyday use?

Kalamkari can be incorporated into your everyday wardrobe in many ways. A Kalamkari skirt paired with a solid-colored blouse can create a beautiful fusion look. A Kalamkari dress can be worn for a formal occasion or dressed down with flats for a casual outing. A Kalamkari scarf or stole can add a pop of color to a plain outfit. For men, Kalamkari shirts and kurtas are perfect for a festive or formal occasion. Kalamkari accessories like bags, shoes, and jewelry are also available in the market and can be paired with any outfit for a subtle touch of traditional flair.

How to take care of Kalamkari garments?

Kalamkari garments are made of natural fabrics and hence need special care to maintain their quality. They should be washed separately in cold water with mild detergents and should not be soaked for too long. Avoid using bleach or harsh detergents as they can fade the print. It is recommended to dry Kalamkari garments in shade to prevent color fading. Ironing should be done on low heat, and it is advisable to iron the reverse side of the fabric to prevent any damage to the print. With proper care, Kalamkari garments can last for years and become cherished heirlooms. Newsletter



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