History of Fashion And Textiles in the Indian Subcontinent

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The history of textiles and fashion in the Indian subcontinent dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization or earlier

#History of Fashion And Textiles in the Indian Subcontinent -

The history of textiles in the Indian subcontinent goes back to the Indus Valley Civilization or earlier. Indians mostly wear locally grown cotton. India was one of the first countries to cultivate and use cotton during the Harappan period in 2500 BC. Remnants of ancient Indian textiles can be seen as human art found in sculptures, rock formations, cave paintings, temples, and monuments excavated from sites near the Indus Valley Civilization. These texts depict human figures dressed in clothes that can be wrapped around the body. 

Indus Valley Civilization Period:-

Clothing in the Indus Valley Civilization is evidenced not by preserved clothing, but by impressions made in soil and preserved camouflage. The only evidence of clothing comes from iconography and some excavated Harappan figurines, often nude. , Turbans also spread to some communities as shown in some male statues. Evidence also suggests that in upper-class society it was customary to wear a long robe over the left shoulder to show one's glory. The normal dress for women at that time consisted of a very short knee-length skirt and an open waist. The woman also wore a hat on her head. Women also wear long skirts, tight tunics, and pants that fit their upper body. An evaluation of the statue of Mother Goddess from the National Museum in Delhi shows that the woman wore a short skirt and trousers with a short tunic. There is also evidence that men wore conical dresses/coats with trousers and waist sashes. The image of the Mother Goddess also shows female figures wearing heavy earrings which is very common even in historical times in India, heavy necklaces with medallions pierced with precious stones, terracotta art, and figurines like Dancing Girl which may She has long hair. He is shown wrapped in a braid.

The common threads used in clothing were cotton, linen, silk, wool, linen, and leather. Among the available evidence are pieces of colored cloth dyed red, the color of the dye suggests that the Harappan civilization dyed their cotton cloth wildly.

One thing both genders had in common was a passion for jewelry in both men and women. Jewelry included necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets, rings, bangles, and caskets. which is usually composed of gold, silver, copper, lapis lazuli, turquoise, amazonite, quartz, and other stones. Several male figurines also reveal that men of the time liked to arrange their hair in different styles such as hair tied in a bun, hair tied in a ring on the head, and the beard was usually trimmed. Men of the Indus Valley Civilization are often shown wearing headbands. , hair is generally tied back. People are shown wearing elaborate headgear such as turbans, conical hats, and Pakol hats. 

The clothing of the people of the Indus Valley Civilization reveals the presence of many ethnic people from different backgrounds, for example, people are shown wearing Pashtun-style Pakol hats with square ornaments around their necks, as well as Punjabi-style turbans shown in the table. around the Indian subcontinent.

Some scholars, such as Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, have argued that the headbands found in the royal tombs of Ur were imported from the Indus Valley civilization because many of their mother goddess statues have similar headbands and these are from such places as the table shows. Kunal leaves, golden flowers, and images of species native to the Indian subcontinent such as Dalbergia sissu or poplar, and since Mesopotamia – such ornaments do not appear in art.

Ancient time:-

Vedic period:-

The garment worn in the Vedic period was mainly a single piece of cloth that was wrapped around the body and draped over the shoulders. People wore parivar, a lower garment tied in a belt folded in the front like a belt, and northern (a scarf-like covering) an upper garment, And wear on the shoulders only in the style of Upvita." Another garment called Pravara is worn in cold weather. Except for the size of the clothes and the manner of wearing them, this was the general dress of both genders. Sometimes the poor wore it only as underwear, while the rich wore it extending up to their legs as a sign of prestige.

Mainly three terms were used in the Rigveda to describe – adhivastra, curler, and andaprati – the outer covering (pardanam), the head ornament or headdress (pagdi), and the garments that covered part of a woman's dress.  Much evidence was found of niska and rukma ornaments worn around the ears and neck; Many gold beads were used in the necklace, indicating that gold was primarily used in jewellery. Chandi-sona ('white gold') is also called chandi and was not much used as there is no evidence of silver in the Rigveda.

In the Atharva Veda, clothing originated in the form of inner covering, outer covering, and breast covering. Apart from the Kurlar and Anda statues (already mentioned in the Rigveda), there are other divisions, such as Nivi, Vavari, Upavasya, Kumbha, Usanalasa and Tiralata, which also appear in the Atharvaveda, referring to undergarments and respectively. outerwear.  show. The cover and the last three represent the shape of the headband. This Vedic text mentions apadana (shoes) and kambal (blanket) and also mentions mani (jewelry) for making jewelry.

Pre-Maurya period:-

Although scholars have debated the archaeological evidence of the pre-Maurya period, several terracotta objects have been dated by various scholars to the pre-Maurya period, indicating the continuity of dress styles in the Maurya period. The pre-Maurian period is characterized by the continuation of Indus art, depicting elaborate headdresses, and conical caps with heavy earrings.

Maurya period:-


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The earliest evidence of women's stitched clothing comes from a statue of a woman (Mathura, 3rd century BCE) during the Maurya Dynasty (322–185 BCE). Women in the Maurya Empire often wore embroidered cloth belts with drum-like knots at the ends. The main garment of the latter people was a long scarf as an outer garment. The only difference was in the way of dressing. Sometimes it is on only one shoulder, sometimes it is draped on both shoulders.

Cotton, silk, linen, wool, and mullein are mainly used as fibers in clothing. Jewelry also had a special place in this era. Some decorations even had their special names. Satlari, Choulari, and Paklari were some necklaces.

The man wears an antacid (a knee-length, crudely styled skirt with bamboo down the center front) and an angrakha (one of the earliest descriptions of the cut-and-sewn garment; it has short sleeves and a round neck). Which... opens completely in the front), and joins at the neck and the waist, elongating the hips). 

Classical period:-


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Early Classical Period -

There is abundant evidence of wearing ancient Indian dress in many sculptures found in the early scriptures period, which is reflected not only in their architecture and lifestyle, the costumes of Amaravati, Gandhara, and Mathura. reflect the period. Of the second century.


Intermediate period -:

From the post-Gupta period, the Alchi Monastery, Bagan Temple, Pala miniatures, Jain miniatures, Ellora cave paintings, and Indian sculptures provide abundant evidence of Indian textiles. Ancient Indians depicted wearing shalwar and kurta-like pants, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France, 8th-10th century ivory chess elephant figurine, Indian clothing from the late medieval period, Asita dhoti and pajama with shalwar Rise in popularity also matters. , Kurta, also known as kurta in Sanskrit, is a half sleeve shirt with slits on both sides, it is featured with other garments like Kurapaska and various jackets like kurta, it is also mentioned that some Indian Prefer dhoti while others wear baggy. trousers. Took more money in the form of shalwar. There is also evidence of modern sari-wearing in Alchi paintings, and Bagan temple paintings often show Indians with long beards wearing large earrings. Paintings from regions of the Indian subcontinent, including Bihar, Bengal, the Indus Valley, and Nepal, depict a variety of costumes from eastern Indian states, including those wearing modern-style headbands.

Early Modern Period:-

The Mughal dynasty had luxurious clothing that suited artistic and poetic tastes. Both men and women loved jewelry. Fabric threads are generally made of three types of muslin: Aab-e-Rawan (flowing water), Baft Hawa (woven wind), and Shabnam (evening dew). Explained below. Mughal women wear different types of jewelry from head to toe. Their clothing generally consisted of pajamas, churidar, shalwar, gharara, and fashion, all with headbands, studs, and necklaces. This was done as a distinctive sign of their prosperity and position in society.

During the Mughal period, the tradition of wearing shoes embroidered with leather and decorated with Aughi art was widespread. Lucknow shoes were generally preferred by the elite and royalty.


The Rajputs emerged as an ancient Kshatriya community in the 7th and 8th centuries. Rajputs follow a traditional lifestyle that reflects their warrior spirit, ethnicity, and horse riding.

Man -


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The main dress of the Rajputs was the Udattposhak (court dress) which consisted of angarak, turban, churidar pajama, and kardhani (belt). Angrahi (short jacket) is a long outer garment worn over a tight-fitting garment with sleeves. Ahir chieftains usually wear Jama, sherwani as outerwear, salwar as underwear, and churidar pajama (dress pants). At that time dhoti was also in tradition, but the way of wearing it was different. The Tevata style of dhoti was prevalent in the desert area and the Tilangi style in other areas. The snake-style dhoti gives a royal look.

Female –


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The main dress of Rajput women was the sari (a skirt wrapped around the body, thrown over the right shoulder) or lehenga, which accompanied the traditional dress of Rajasthan. Women used to give preference to blouses on wedding occasions. After Kanchal's marriage, kurtas and blouses were the main attire of women. Young women wore puthiya as an outer garment of pure cotton cloth and sulhanki as an undergarment (loose pajama). Widows and unmarried women wear polka (half sleeves till the waist) and ghagra, a thick white skirt made of satin, organza, or silk. Another important part of the costume is the woman's veil, which is made of silk.

Women's favorite jewelry was exquisite in style or design. Some of the biggest ornaments are called Rakhi (head ornament), Machi-Sulia (earrings), and Tevata, Pattaya, and Adah (all necklaces). Rakhri, Nath, and Chuda represent the status of a married woman. These shoes are called leather shoes for men and women.


Sikhism was established in the 15th century. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa, the last Guru of Sikhism, ordered Sikh men to keep their hair cut throughout their lives, which they wore with a turban or turban. Since then Dastar has become an integral part of Sikh culture.

British colonial period:-

Indian textiles changed drastically during the British colonial period and European influence became evident. The British had a strict dress code because they considered themselves culturally superior. This new standard of dress came with new rules regarding government, education, and class structure.

Upper and middle-class Indian men wore Western clothes in public, often doing so because it brought them closer to European men. Initially, it involved a combination of elements of Indian and Western clothing, as some men wore 'dhoti' (light clothing) with shirts and coats. Other people suddenly started wearing English clothes and the sounds of lions started coming with achkan. Eventually, some men began wearing pantsuits in the strict European style. However, there remained one major difference between Indian and European men's fashion and that was the style and etiquette of head covering. Some Indian men wore it as a turban and pheta for religious purposes. Indian men always had to wear it in public, while European men often had to take it off. Thus we see that the fusion of cultures changed the fashion of Indian men.

Women's dress and fashion were also influenced by the British. They did not wear fully Western clothing like men, but many began to wear certain styles of underwear and blouses. Both these clothes were brought to India by Europeans. This new costume also caused some tension during the race. A great example of this happened in Kerala, where only upper-caste women were allowed to wear blouses. However, the Channar Rebellion from 1813 to 1859 was supported by Christian missionaries who wanted Indian women to wear blouses.

They started using imported satin and synthetic silk flour as fabrics. One reason for trying this new material was that it was cheaper and more versatile in construction than the cloth used in India. Perhaps this new style was more useful for Indian women. The adoption of this new style of clothing was seen as a sign of increasing mobility in British and Indian society.

The British also influenced the textile industry in India due to industrialization and the use of their mills instead of artisans in India. This increased the unemployment of many Indians. Gandhiji later called on the Indian people to make and wear their hand-woven clothes, Khadi, as a sign of resistance against the British. This was part of the Swadeshi movement. We can see that small artisans and textile manufacturers did not disappear from India in the 20th century, as they continued to play an important role in industrial production.

After independence:-

The popularity of Western clothing is increasing, especially in metropolitan areas. Bollywood has also had a huge influence on the subcontinent, especially when it comes to Indian fashion.


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The history of textiles and fashion in the Indian subcontinent dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization or earlier. Indians wear mostly locally grown cotton clothes.