Indian Clothing

Indian clothing before the influence of traders and invaders was very minimal. Indian clothing, around 5300 years ago was mostly wore for religious purpose such as with priest who wore cloaks with circular patterns. These cloaks would often be dyed red due to the influence of the indo Aryans and the popularity of their beliefs in worshipping fire. Nudity was commonly excepted usually the only clothing wore would have been gold bracelets and jewellery.

Clothing came nearly 2000 years later in the form of simple white cloth that was unstitched and covered only the bottom half of the body for both men and women, it was only wore for protection from the heat. Religious figure still wore more clothes, all unstitched as well which they observed as inauspicious in puja ceremonies. They often believed that stitching cloth was unfavourable. However, India soon became influenced by those who travelled there either as traders in the south such as Romans or Arabs or as invaders like the Greeks, Persians and Huns. In 5BC the Greeks and Persians invaded the north of India, die to the fact they couldn’t cross the Himalayas to reach the south. It was also during with time that trade routes with China and the Romans open up bringing silk to India. Where people continued to wear unstitched garments, finer materials were started to be used to show class status. They also started to wear clothes on the upper body. This was due to travellers being seen wearing clothes on their upper body, especially in women who saw the style as more attractive and tried to mimic it. This was also due to religion, as Jainism, Christianity and Buddhism, all saw the body as sinful by this point. However, in art the Gods and Goddess were still depicted as nude.

The first Saris came to India 2100 years back by the Romans and were called Palla or Antariya. These were pinned cloth to one shoulder with the same look of the Deccenari sari today with the Kaccha style. Mundum Neriyathum is the oldest remnant of the ancient form of the saree which covered only the lower part of the body, a traditional dress of women in Kerala, South India.

Throughout history, there were big differences between the North and the South in terms of clothing; with the Islamic invasions around 1000 AD, Persian fashions in clothing entered India and became popular especially in the north, though they never replaced the sari or the dhoti. Both women and men began to sometimes wear trousers with long tunics over them down to their knees, called churidar or salwar kameez. Women generally wore churidar with a long veil or scarf over it. Indian women who could afford it usually wore a lot of silver or gold jewellery, especially earrings and nose-rings. Sometimes they also put a spot of red on their foreheads called a bindi as a decoration. In general, those in the north had more emphasis on stitched garments due to the colder weather, whereas the indigenous people of the south continued to wear more traditional clothes.

500 years back the Sari style changed in the north from Kaccha to Lungi which was more feminine though royalty continued to wear Kaccha. Men in the north also started to adopt the Lungi style which was easier to drape than the dhoti style. The officers of the Sultanate such as the Amirs and Maliks wore gowns such as tatailyat with short turbans. However, there were others dressed like soldiers, learned men wore ample gowns.

Mughal empire ruled from 1526 to 1857. While royalty up held conservative clothing, noble men started wearing turbans, veils and nose rings, whereas kurdah and salwar kameez. The Jama is a long coat which was popular during this period. There are many types of Jama costumes which were worn in various regions of South Asia, the use of which began to wane by the end of the 19th century A.D. Noblewomen would wear exaggeratedly wide trousers under a full, short overdress which were popular in several centres of North India during the first half of the 19th century. The common way to wear a Sari at the time was around the waist and draped over one shoulder. Women also wore short-sleeved blouses called choli or ravika. Man’s robe of white cotton, with repeating staggered pattern of embroidered floral motifs in gold-wrapped thread and floss silk. Long sleeves, front opening, floor-length gathered skirt. This elegant robe would have been worn by a man at one of the courts of northern India. The floor-length gathered skirt was popular in the 18th century, in contrast to the shorter robes of the previous century. For most of the 16th-19th century hairstyles are flat and either depicted loose or plaited. As always with Indian hair jewels and flowers are present minimally or in abundance; Additionally, flowers or jewellery can be arranged along the parting. Apart from the decorative aspect, there are ritual aspects to the hair parting, for example the sindoor was a mark of marriage (on Konkona) in some parts of India or the simantonnayana (arranging the parting of the hair) ceremony.

In the present day, The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the midriff. The sari is usually worn over a petticoat. Teenage girls wear half-sarees, a three piece set consisting of a langa, a choli and a stole wrapped over it like a saree. Indian wedding saris are typically red. A dhoti is from four to six feet long white or colour strip of cotton. This traditional attire is mainly worn by men in villages. It is held in place by a style of wrapping and sometimes with the help of a belt, ornamental and embroidered or a flat and simple one, around the waist. Over the dhoti, men wear shirts. A Lungi, also known as sarong, is a traditional garment of India. A Mundu is a lungi, except that it is always white. It is either tucked in, over the waist, up to knee-length or is allowed to lie over and reach up to the ankle. It is usually tucked in when the person is working, in fields or workshops. An Achkan or a Sherwani is a long coat that usually sports exposed buttons through the length of the jacket. The length is usually just below the knees and the jacket ends just below the knee. Achkan is usually worn during the wedding ceremonies by the groom and is usually cream, light ivory, or gold coloured. It may be embroidered with gold or silver. Turbans are distinctive in style and colour, and indicate the caste, social class and region of the wearer. In the hot and dry regions, turbans are large and loose. The colour of the pagaris have special importance and so does the pagari itself. In the past, saffron stood for valour and chivalry. A white turban stood for mourning. The exchange of a turban meant undying friendship.


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