The craft behind Talitha’s embroidered pinafore dress
When the Talitha team began researching ideas for the Pre-Fall 2017 collection, they stumbled upon a striking pattern woven into an African Zulu basket, which inspired the embroidery pattern found on the bodice of this pinafore dress. Shon Randhawa, Talitha co-founder, explains the manufacturing processes involved in the making of the dress. “The multiple rows of tiny wooden beads on the yoke of the dress are expertly sewn by hand by our craftsmen at the atelier in India. There are many processes that go into creating a dress like this: the yoke is embroidered separately; the wooden beads are sewn onto the embroidered pattern of the yoke; the skirt is modelled on a mannequin to ensure it drapes correctly; the embroidered borders on the hem are individually appliquéd with precision so the patterns don’t overlap when joining; the cowrie shells are applied by hand after each disk, at uniform intervals, along the two embroidered hem borders; and finally, the handmade tassels are sewn onto the bottom of the yoke. It’s the sum total of all these multiple processes and the small details that make the dress so special.”
Why we used cowrie shells
Adorning the hem are embroidered motifs inspired by traditional Maasai kente cloths and tiny hand-sewn cowrie shells. “In ancient Africa, cowrie shells were used in religious ceremonies, as currency and are thought to signify prosperity and destiny, which added a deeper layer to their inclusion in our Pre-Fall collection,” says Talitha co-founder Kim Hersov. “Our shells, however, are slightly unusual. I was at a vintage textile fair when I found an old jar full of heirloom, bleached cowrie shells at a stall owned by renowned African bead historian Barbie Campbell Cole. What I loved about these vintage shells is that they were the perfect size and colour and had lost their typical glossy sheen, replaced instead by an unpolished texture. Our artisans in India spent time recreating the look of the vintage shells, which is why the shells on the dress have a matte finish.”
As with all Talitha garments, the olive tassels that edge the bodice of this dress are handmade and cut, as are the dip-dye tassels that close the neckline. “For inspiration, I often turn to the books of Angela Fisher, an Australian photographer who has spent more than 30 years documenting the traditional ceremonies, costumes and culture of African tribes,” says Kim. “While leafing through one of her books, I noticed a shawl with an ombre tassel and it provided the inspiration for the tonal dip-dye tassels on this dress.”
Wear Talitha’s Maasai embroidered pinafore dress on its own with a flat sandal or wedge for a summery holiday look; take it into the weekend with a white T-shirt worn underneath, white Stan Smith trainers and an oversized denim jacket, or for a sleek way to transition the dress into autumn, team it with a white shirt, block heels and masses of bangles.