India being a land of varied cultures and tastes where food habits to festivities change from state to state, clothing cannot remain untouched by this diversity. The history of Indian dressing dates back to many centuries and it is definitely effected by the geography, the climate and the traditions of a particular place. Generally Climate in India is mostly suitable for cotton clothes but silk is also used in abundance keeping in mind the cold weather as well as the festivities.
There is also varied diversity in terms of weaves, fibres, material used to make different outfits along with the variation in colours and hues. Although the history of clothing is pretty vast but it can be highlighted as follows-
1. The earliest memory of clothing is the langotas or the loin clothes.
2. The indus valley civilization was the hub of weaving and dyeing cotton. This was done by using needles made by bones and spindles made with wood.
3. The main reason to use cotton was its adaptability to the climatic conditions prevalent in India at that time wherein the summers were usually hot and dry.
4. Ellora scriptures are shown wearing dhoti wrap which reinstates the fact that dhoti covering the groin and the upper torso area was the type of clothing of that era.
5. Since many customs and traditions in India are guided by the caste system, clothing cannot remain untouched by it. This can be proven by the fact that the upper caste people used fine muslin cloth more than the cotton variety.
6. The other two common materials were the silk which was made by the process of reeling using the silkworms and linen which was made from flax obtained from trees.
7. In the first century AD, clothing took its inspiration from the Greek culture as India that time was frequently visited by travellers from that part of the world.
8. The Maurya and Gupta period saw a three piece unstitched clothing pattern.
9. Gradually trade with Central Asia and Europe began which bought a lot of innovations with them.
10. Romans brought colour indigo which was primarily used for dyeing of the fabric mainly cotton.
11. Contacts with China brought the usage of more silken materials in vogue.
12 . Along with the material like cotton, silk, muslin and linen, various patterns of weaving clothes were used to enhance the quality of the cloth. Many a times silk and cotton were woven together to produce different motifs and designs. But these were also dominated by states they were being produced in and hence had variations. Different varieties of styles include Jamdani, Kasika Vasta, Butidar and Ilkal on saris. Brocade was extremely popular as silk was woven with gold and silver threads giving it a rich and royal look. Kalamkari and resist dyeing were the other two popular forms.
13. The Mughal dynasty used Latifa Buti extensively. Arabs took Indian textiles to Europe. So Indian Calicos, chintz, Muslins and different patterned Silks became very famous.
14. The colours most frequently used comprised of primary colours and five tones of white namely- Ivory, Jasmine, August moon, August clouds and conch shells. The dyes predominantly used were Indigo- blue, madder red and safflower.
15. History of Indian clothing cannot be complete without mentioning Kashmiri shawls. This comprised of Shahtoosh or the ring shawl and the Pashmina wool shawl. Jamavar is also a famous variety which was made using weaving spools with coloured spools with coloured thread called kani.
16. The Freedom movement of India, characterized by Swadeshi movement made Khadi very popular as the cloth to be made by self and worn.
Clothing is the essential for the mankind and its usage and styles vary from place to place. The rich heritage of India is truly seen in the types of clothes Indians wear. In any part of the world, Indians have their unique style and sense of dressing which is both different and colourful. Indians are immensely proud of this magnanimous variety and culture!