Creating outfits for vegetables
We do not know exactly when or where Una collected the fabrics used to make the vegetable dolls, but a number of them are easily identifiable as Indian due to their structure or pattern. Una travelled to India in 1916, so perhaps acquired some of the materials then, bringing them back with her to London before making the dolls around 1920. Of particular note are the outfits worn by Miss Lettuce and Mademoiselle French Bean, which are likely made from the ornately patterned edge of a sari (or saree).
Lord Cucumber and Lord Cabbage both wear garments made from mashru; a satin weave cloth traditionally produced in Muslim regions of India and Turkey, with a silk warp and cotton weft. The silk on the surface gives a lustrous appearance but only cotton is worn against the skin. This was in keeping with a teaching in the Hadith, which forbade Muslim men from wearing silk. The word ‘mashru’ means ‘permitted’.
Like Lord Cucumber, many of the other male characters wear Indian-influenced outfits, in different versions of tunics and pyjama trousers in woven or printed patterned textiles. Lord Leek wears a cotton angrakha, a garment introduced to India by the Persians, also worn as uniform by the British Army irregular cavalry in the early nineteenth century. Angrakhas were worn by Indian princes and other elite men from the early nineteenth century onwards. Presumably this garment was chosen by Maw to reflect Lord Leek’s status as Prime Minister within the Vegetable Kingdom.