This article analyses the homologies between colonial knowledge projects and post-colonial revival programmes through Indian textiles and dress. In the nineteenth century, the colonial bureaucracy treated Indian textiles as samples of ‘native’ artisanship, using them to police discourses of race, gender and citizenship. Concomitantly, the nationalist movement created a model of Indian womanhood that conscripted women to be both ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’, signified in the Nivi sari, linking this to emerging craft conservation movements. Post-Independence, elite women became the directors of craft revival by linking sartorial taste to ideal womanhood in a continuation of colonial discourse. © 2019 South Asian Studies Association of Australia.