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Transcript of clothing
One. Many, especially men, began incorporating some elements of western-style clothing in their dress. The wealthy Parsis of western India were among the first to adapt Western-style clothing. Baggy trousers and the phenta (or hat) were added to long collarless coats, with boots and a walking stick to complete the look of the gentleman. To some, Western clothes were a sign of modernity and progress. Western-style clothing was also especially attractive to groups of dalit converts to Christianity who now found it liberating. Here too, it was men rather than women who affected the new dress styles. When western-style clothing came into India in the nineteenth century, Indians reacted in three different ways Many, especially men, began incorporating some elements of western-style clothing in their dress. The wealthy Parsis of western India were among the first to adapt Western-style clothing. Baggy trousers and the phenta (or hat) were added to long collarless coats, with boots and a walking stick to complete the look of the gentleman. To some, Western clothes were a sign of modernity and progress.Western-style clothing was also especially attractive to groups of dalit converts to Christianity who now found it liberating. Here too, it was men rather than women who affected the new dress styles. There were others who were convinced that western culture would lead to a loss of traditional cultural identity. The use of Western style clothes was taken as a sign of the world turning upside down. Some men resolved this dilemma by wearing Western clothes without giving up their Indian ones. Many Bengali bureaucrats in the late nineteenth century began stocking western-style clothes for work outside the home and changed into more comfortable
Indian clothes at home.Still others tried a slightly different solution to the same dilemma. They attempted to combine Western and Indian forms of dressing. These changes in clothing, however, had a turbulent history. Though there were no formal sumptuary laws as in Europe, India had its own strict social codes of food & dress. The caste system clearly defined what subordinate & dominant caste Hindus should wear, eat ,etc., & these codes had the force of law. Changes in clothing styles that threatened these norms therefore created violent social reactions. What happened in Travancore In May 1822, woman of the Shanar caste were attacked by upper-caste Nairs in public places in d southern princely state of Travancore, for wearing a cloth across their upper bodies. Over subsequent decades, a violent conflict over dress codes ensued.
The Shanar (also called Nadars) were a community of toddy trappers who migrated to southern Travancore to work under Nair landlords. As they were considered a ‘subordinate caste’, they were prohibited from using umbrellas & wearing shoes or golden ornaments. Men & women were also expected to follow the local custom of never covering their upper bodies before the upper caste.
Under the influence of Christian missions, Shanar women converts began in the 1820s to wear tailored blouses & clothes to cover themselves like the upper castes. Soon Nairs, one of the upper-castes of the region, attacked the woman in public places tore off their upper cloths. Complaints were also filed in court against this dress change, especially since Shanar were also refusing to render free labour for the upper-castes. At first, the Government of Travancore issued a proclamation on 1829 ordering Shanar women ‘to abstain in future from covering the upper parts of the body.’ But this did not prevent Shanar Christian women, & even Shanar Hindus, from adopting the blouse & upper cloth.
The abolition of slavery in Travancore in 1855 led to even more frustration among the upper castes who felt they were losing control.
In October 1859, riots broke out as Shanar women were attacked in the marketplace & stripped of their upper clothes. Houses were looted & chapels burned. Finally, the government issued another proclamation permitting Shanar woman whether Christian or Hindu , to wear a jacket, or cover their upper bodies ' in any manner whatever, but not like the women of high caste ’.
In different cultures, specific items of clothing often convey contrary meanings. This frequently leads to misunderstanding and conflict. Styles of clothing in British India changed through such conflicts. Consider the case of the turban and the hat. When European traders first began frequenting India, they were distinguished from the Indian ‘turban wearers’ as the ‘hat wearers.’ These two headgears not only looked different, they also signified different things. The turban in India was not just for protection from the heat but was a sign of respectability, and could not be removed at will. In the Western tradition, the hat had to be removed before social superiors as a sign of respect. This cultural difference created misunderstanding. The British were often offended if Indians did not take off their turban when they met colonial officials. Many Indians on the other hand wore the turban to consciously assert their regional or national identity. Designing the National dress The British first came to trade in Indian textiles that were in great demand all over the world.
India accounted for one-fourth of the world’s manufactured goods in the seventeenth century.
There were a million weavers in Bengal alone in the middle of the eighteenth century.
However, the Industrial Revolution in Britain, which mechanized spinning and weaving and greatly increased the demand for raw materials such as cotton and indigo, changed India’s status in the world economy.
Political control of India helped the British in two ways.
Indian peasants could be forced to grow crops such as indigo, and cheap British manufacture easily replaced coarser Indian one.
Large numbers of Indian weavers and spinners were left without work and important textile weaving centres such as Murshidabad, Machilipatnam and Surat declined as demand fell.
The change of dress appealed largely to the upper castes and classes rather than to those who had to make do with less and could not afford the new products. After 15 years, many among the upper classes also returned to wearing European dress.
Though many people railled to the cause of nationalism at this time, it was almost impossible to compete with cheap British goods that had flooded the market.
Despite its limitations, the experiment with Swadeshi gave Mahatma Gandhi important ideas about using cloth as a symbolic weapon against British rule. Changes in styles of clothing are thus linked up with shifts in cultural tastes and notions of beauty, with changes within the economy and society and with issues of social and political conflict. at the beginning of the nineteenth century , it was customary for British officials to follow indian etiquette and remove their footwear in the courts of ruling kings or chiefs.
in 1830, Europeans were forbidden from wearing indian clothes at official functions, so that the cultural identity of the white masters was not undermined. At the same time indians were expected to wear indian clothes to office and follow indian dress codes.
in 1824 governor-general Amherst insisted that indians take their shoe off as a sign of respect when they appeared before him.
when Lord Dalhousie was Governor-General, 'shoe respect' was made stricter.
indians were made to take off their shoes when entering any government institution. famous case of defiance of the 'shoe respect' In 1862, Manockjee Cowasjee Entee, an assessor in the Surat Fouzadaree Adawlut, refused to take off his shoes in the court of the sessions judge.
He was barred entry into the courtroom and he sent a letter to the governor of Bombay.
The indians said that taking of shoes in sacred places and home was linked to two different questions
There was the problem of dirt and filth, which the shoes collected from the road and leather shoes and filth that stuck to it were seen as polluting .
but public buildings were different from home. By the late nineteenth century, nationalist feelings swept across India. Indians began devising cultural symbols that would express unity of the nation. Artists looked for a national style of art. Poets wrote national songs. then the debate began over the design of the national flag. The search for a national dress was a part of this move to define the cultural identity of the nation in symbolic ways. Self consious
experiments with dress engaged
men and women of India . The Tagore
family experimented , beginning in the
1870,with designs of a national dress for
both men and women. Thus the chapkan
was considered the most suitable dress for
However these attempts at devising a
pan-Indian style did not fully succeed He made
spinning on the chakra and
and the daily use of khadi, very
powerful symbols. These were not only
symbols of self-reliance but also of resistence
to the use of the British mill-made cloth. Mahatma
Gandhi's experiments with clothing sum up the
changing attitude to dress in the Indian subcontinent
As a boy from a gujarati bania family, he usually wore a shirt with a dhoti or pyjama and sometimes a coat.
On his return, he continued to wear Western suits
topped with a turban. In 1915, he decide to dress
like a Kathiawadi peasant . Only in 1921 did he
adopt the short dhoti, the form of dress he
wore until his death. Mahatma Gandhi’s dream was
to clothe the whole nation in khadi.
He felt khadi would be a means of erasing
difference between religion, classes, etc. But was it
easy for others to follow in his footsteps? Was such a
unity possible? Not many could take the single peasant
loincloth as he had. Nor did all want to. Here are some e
examples of other responses to Mahatma Gandhi’s call: Nationalists such as Motilal Nehru ,a successful barrister from Allahabad, gave up his expensive western-style suits & adopted the Indian Dhoti & kurta. But these were not made of coarse cloth.
Those who had been deprived by caste norms for centuries were attracted to western dress style. Therefore, unlike Mahatma Gandhi, other nationalists such as Babasaheb Ambedkar never gave up d western-style suit .many Dalits began in d early 1910s to wear three-piece suits, & shoes & socks on all public occasions, as a political statement of self respect.
A woman who wrote to Mahatma Gandhi from Maharashtra in 1928 said,’ A year ago, I heard you speaking on the necessity of every one of us wearing khadi & thereupon decided to adopt it. But we are poor people, My husband says khadi is costly. Belonging as I do to Maharashtra, I wear a sari 9 yards long and the elders will not hear of a reduction to 6 yards.’
Other woman, like Sarojini Naidu & Kamala Nehru, wore colored saris with designs, Instead of coarse, white homespun Yet by the middle of the twentieth century, large numbers of people began boycotting British or mill-made cloth and adopting khadi, even though it was coarser, more expensive and difficult to obtain.
How did this change come about?
In 1905, Lord Curzon decided to partition Bengal to control the growing opposition to British rule. The Swadeshi movement developed in reaction to this measure. People were urged to boycott British goods of all kinds and start their own industries for the manufacture of goods such as matchboxes and cigarettes. Mass protests followed, with people vowing to cleanse themselves of colonial rule. The use of khadi was made a patriotic duty.
Women were urged to throw away their silks and glass bangles and wear simple shell bangles.
Rough homespunwas glorified in songs and poems to popularize it.