chola (Wedding Tunic)

About this object

History of use

Worn by the bride at her wedding, then daily until it wears out. After that, salvageable parts are used to make other items, such as purses, cushion covers or door hangings. Wedding tunics are made by the bride’s mother, who begins the embroidery when a girl is born. She continues working on it until the wedding day, sometimes with the help of neighbors and relatives. Razia Ahmed states that “during the wedding ceremony the (neckline) slit is worn to the back, but after the marriage is consummated it is worn to the front. This is symbolic. After the wedding ceremony the slit is, again, worn permanently to the back.” This type of tunic is worn with shalwars (baggy pants), usually made of susi, a special woven cloth made in Sindh. It is rare to see women wearing this type of tunic today. Many of the women who would have made them are now employed in the money economy and no longer have time to embroider, as in the past.


This garment was purchased by the owners of Terlingua, a retail shop in Calgary, from an agent or dealer in Kabul, Afghanistan, and exported to Canada from there. The tunic was offered for retail sale at Terlingua previous to its acquisition by the Museum of Anthropology.

Cultural context


Specific techniques

Many different embroidery stitches, including buttonhole stitch; double buttonhole stitch; cretan stitch; couching; satin stitch; herringbone stitch.

Physical description

A multicoloured woman’s tunic that is embellished with panels and bands of embroidery on both the front and the back, incorporating several styles of embroidery. The colours are muted. On the front, there is a large embroidered panel from shoulder to hip, and the upper edge of this panel extends over the shoulders to form a narrow yoke on the back. The embroidery on this panel is so elaborately detailed and so densely worked that none of the background textile is visible, and this part of the tunic is very stiff. Design elements in this embroidered panel include small circular and double-diamond motifs arranged in rectangular strips, embellished with very small mirrors. Below the densely embroidered panel on the front are three solid coloured horizontal bands of silk and cotton textile (light yellow-orange; light green; light orange), embroidered with triangular, diamond and floral motifs and bordered with braid and rickrack. The back of the tunic has a centre-back neckline slit (29 cm) with twisted fibre ties. Below the back shoulder yoke, a large panel of yellowish white cotton textile is divided into large rectangular compartments that are bordered with red triangular motifs. A narrow horizontal band of machine printed textile separates the shoulder yoke from this panel. Narrow vertical strips of plain cotton textile (light yellow; green; red), edged with braid, form side panels that connect the front to the back. There is a small pocket in the right-hand side seam. Elbow-length, close fitting sleeves are made of solid coloured bands of cotton textile (light yellow; light green; light red), trimmed with silk embroidery, braid and white rickrack. All panels and bands are underlined with cotton textile. A label made of off-white cotton textile, printed with a rubber stamp and handwritten with ball-point ink, is attached at the neck edge on the front with a loose running stitch.