Fashion Industry in India and Women Clothing Tradition

Through sharp analysis of Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Hindi, as much as Arabic and Persian sources, they have brought within reach a rich body of material. The inherent difficulty in the matter of interpreting this material and relating it to surviving archaeological and visual evidence naturally leaves some matters obscure, and others open to controversy. But a very substantial body of information has been collected.

Fashion Industry in India and Women Clothing Tradition



When the century dawned, fashion was an exclusive enterprise, the pursuit of the wealth. The lower tiers of the society settled for garments that were more often than not entirely family hand-made-downs or stitched at home. With time, however, networks of neighborhood tailors began to evolve into a retail history and the boom followed by boutique selling. Today, garments are laser cut by computers and sourced from all over the world and can easily be bought sitting in the comfort of one's home via the internet.


A question that needs to be disposed of rather early is whether, in the indigenous Indian tradition, stitched garments were known or used at all. From time to time statements have been made that the art of sewing was unknown to the early Indians, and that it was an import from outside. Serious and early students of Indian costumes, like Forbes Watson, have stated, mostly on the authority of other scholars, that the art of sewing came to India only with the coming of the Muslims.' This statement needs no longer to be taken seriously. It is possible that the view that "before the invasion of India by the Mohammedans,the art of sewing was not practiced there" was formed not on the basis of any historical or scholarly inquiry into this matter but simply 'observation': observation of the dresses of two different categories of people, those who were far more rooted in the Indian soil and could thus be taken as representing the long Indian tradition of wearing costumes in a particular fashion, and those who could be linked with outsiders' who came to India late, and visibly preferred different kinds of dresses.


The 'timeless' Indian dress of men, thus, consists of garments that use no stitching, garments in other words that, as Forbes Watson says, "leave the loom, ready for wear". The Dhoti, the Scarf or Uttariya, and the Turban, which have never really disappeared from any part of India, belong to this category, and their marked visibility in India could have led one erroneously to conclude that the early Indians did not use any sewn garments. Likewise, for women, the Dhoti or the Sari as the lower garments, combined with a Stanapatta or breast-band for covering the breasts, forms a basic ensemble, and once again consists of garments that do not have to be stitched, the breast-garment being simply fastened in a knot at the back. And the Dhoti or the Sari worn covering both legs at the same time or, in the alternative, with one end of it passed between the legs and tucked at the back in the fashion that is still prevalent in large area of India.


But the preference of Indian men and women for these garments, rational and understandable in the context of the generally hot Indian climate, does not afford any proof that for long periods of time the Indians knew no other garments than those which "left the loom, ready for wear".


As it is Indian fashion is extremely alive and whatever the decade or the century, it is here to stay. For not only it is comfortable, practical and aesthetically beautiful but has changed with time with the result that it has, in the past century,and will in the coming one, remain contemporary Which is why the start of the new century tempts us to dream and remember the past.

In the indigenous Indian tradition, stitched garments were not known or used at all. The art of sewing was unknown to the early Indians, and that it was an import from outside. Serious and early students of Indian costumes, like Forbes Watson, have stated, mostly on the authority of other scholars, that the art of sewing came to India only with the coming of the Muslims.'

The 'timeless' Indian dress of men, thus, consists of garments that use no stitching, garments in other words that, as Forbes Watson says, "leave the loom, ready for wear". The Dhoti, the Scarf or Uttariya, and the Turban, which have never really disappeared from any part of India, belong to this category, and their marked visibility in India could have led one erroneously to conclude that the early Indians did not use any sewn garments.

Likewise, for women, the Dhoti or the Sari as the lower garments, combined with a Stanapatta or breast-band for covering the breasts, forms a basic ensemble, and once again consists of garments that do not have to be stitched, the breast-garment being simply fastened in a knot at the back. And the Dhoti or the Sari worn covering both legs at the same time or, in the alternative, with one end of it passed between the legs and tucked at the back in the fashion that is still prevalent in large area of India.

The Amirs and the Maliks and other officers at the Sultanate courts are described as wearing "gowns (tatailyat), jakalwat and Islamic qabas of Khawarizm tucked in the middle of the body" and short turbans which did not exceed five or six forearms. Of other Amirs we learn that they were as well dressed "as the soldiers except that they did not use belts and at times they let down a piece of cloth in front of them after the manner of the sups.

Here is a Research paper on ancient Indian clothing


From the earliest period of Indian proto-history, the Harappan culture, the evidence about textiles and dresses is scant but not unimportant. The survival of an actual fragment of cotton cloth, and the upper garment draped around the body like a shawl as seen in a sculpture, offer interesting examples, although it is difficult to give to these pieces any kinds of names.

The veil that women still use so extensively in India, something like the dupatta or odhani of modern times, has its early prototype in the Vedic period, and various words signifying the same article of apparel are used, with differences between one and the other that may not be easy to identify. Minor differences and modifications apart, this dress seems to remain as a standard 'for women for an uncommon length of time, not only because women's dresses tend to be more conservative but also because these garments together belong to the 'timeless' garments of India.

When it comes to head-gears, there are many names that one comes upon, including usbnisba, kirita, patta, veshtana, vesbtanapatta, sbirovesbtana. The manner of wearing the turban evidently varied as much in ancient India as it did in medieval. The range of turban-styles that we encounter is reminiscent of the many styles in the 19th century, each style having a specific name for it as recorded by Forbes-Watson." However, there are close-fitting caps that one finds soldiers and some foreigners wearing in Indian sculptures and paintings. Exceptionally every head was covered by a turban.


There are specific references to the clothing of religious men, special mention being made of the sanghati or double chadar that the Bhikshuks of the Buddhist orders were meant to wear. This was combined with an antarvasaka or loin-cloth and a dupatta or loose upper garment, also called the uttarasanga. Short tunics are also heard of, but not seen too often. At the same time, drawers of the kakshya types, stitched and worn quite tight around the loins, especially by soldiers and men needing to be active in their movements, the prototypes of the later jangbias, make frequent appearance.
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About Neha Nair

Despite being raised Hindu where parents enrolled in a Catholic school and proceeded to enroll in university to study medicine but become model cum entrepreneur.
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