Appliqué derives its origin from the French word ‘appliquer’ which means to apply. So for appliqué artists and creators start with a base. This base can be a single solid piece of fabric or several different fabrics sewn together to form a pattern. Shapes are obtained from other pieces of textiles and sewn or glued together to form the base. Appliqué can have different functions and applications. If the application of the particular appliqué is functional then the attachments have to be firmly glued or attached. They should not get loose. If the application of the particular appliqué is decorative then the attachments can afford to be a little loosely glued or sewn. Appliqué is a very old art form and is used to create distinctive styles and colorful patterns. One of the earliest applications of appliqué designs was in quilts. This is to create bright and distinct designs in quilts. Appliqué designs may also be used to create some impacts in clothing, for embroidery, for wall hangings, for different forms of home furnishings, or make unusual place mats and potholders.
It is difficult to pin point the origins of appliqué style. But it looks like it has come into existence due to convenience or the necessity of difficult times. Appliqué is a form of patchwork and came into being in that form. Most likely it was used to make ripped clothes look decent and wearable. Appliquéd clothes can even be found in 18th century West Africa. It was an established art and craft form and an integral tradition of the times. In India appliqué work is believed to have come into existence earlier and steadily penetrated different celebrations, occasions, and creative applications. In a country specific application, in India, appliqué became popular as a form of embroidery used to adorn Indian sarees with elaborate and vibrant looking borders appliquéd to the main body of the saree. In India, where they use lot of embroideries, we have seen other application of appliqués. Designers use multiple layers of material for a more lush, textural design. Appliqué has found several applications in the Indian society. It is used in celebrations for shamianas, canopies, and walls; for festive decorations in temples and homes; for artistic applications as various home furnishings; for dress material; and for ‘gabba’ or floor coverings.
The gradual evolution of appliqué has seen the origin of a design called reverse appliqué. In this style layers of fabrics are sewn together and then the top layers are cut away to allow the lower layers to see through. This approach can be combined with regular approaches for a dynamic look. The borders can even be embroidered, tucked in, sewn in for proper emphasis and a seamless look. Appliqué, from its roots, steadily spread to other areas like America, Hawaii, Egypt, India, and others. It was widely applied to quilting. But soon evolved as a needlework to sew different pieces of fabric. This was to form unique patterns, designs, and even pictures.
In India reverse appliqué has found regional appeal to become a full scale art form like the one in Gujarat. Here, individual square panels are joined together, sometimes with embedded small mirrors to form home furnishings and apparels. Appliqué is almost a timeless artistic style and is suitable for any occasion and celebration. Appliqué can also be used to make a bold style statement. Garments made out of appliqué are also maintenance free. Once the appliqués have been fused and stitched, hardly any damage can be caused to them.