Draped Apparel: In our first blog in this series, we talked about the Indian tradition of wearing unstitched clothing from pre-Vedic times, possibly because applying a needle to cloth was believed to be polluting.
A kid in a langot, still worn in India by traditional wrestlers. Image Source: https://www.danielmalikyar.com/kushti-india/
Because of this belief, and probably because of the climate, India has always had a tradition of draped apparel, starting from the langot, a rectangular cloth worn as underwear. Interestingly. I remember my grandfather still wore a langot until the 1960s, as I remember long strips of cloth drying on the washing line.
Achkan, Shervani and Choga: In our last blog, we spoke of the history of the Angrakha and the Jama. Today, we will continue with three other classic silhouettes worn by men in India, two of which are still worn on formal occasions. The Achkan is so popular that an Indian wedding is unthinkable without the groom and several guests wearing it. I remember when my sister was married, I cut up one of my Benares brocade sarees to make a miniature version of Achkan for my then seven-year-old son, something I now regret considering he wore it just once.
The Achkan :Achkan, Shervani and Choga- The Indian Silhouettes
Portrait of Pratap Singh Maharaja Nabha, by Alfred Thomson
Block Printed Ghaggra : Due to the increased flow of trade and immigrants to the Indian subcontinent, the first stitched garment in Indian women’s sartorial elegance started appearing as early as the eleventh century, and it was the Ghaggra(a gathered skirt) & Choli( a blouse). This practical and straightforward garment was appropriate for the standards of modesty prevalent at the time. Additionally, it allowed for easy movement during any day job. Before this, the unstitched saree was ubiquitous on the Indian subcontinent. (more…)
Statue of Saraswati at the National Museum Delhi. Note her apparel.
Silhouettes of Indian Apparel : India is perhaps unique in its history of wearing unstitched clothing from pre-Vedic times, draped on the body in stylized ways. Interestingly, in Vedic India, the body was considered an integral part of a human personality. Therefore there was no stigma attached to body parts being on display. As a culture, too, India has traditionally believed in the fluidity of form, matching well with draped garments.
Gara Embroidery A study of textile or craft form becomes doubly rewarding when it amalgamates history and culture, not just from one geography but across nations and histories. Nothing exemplifies this maxim more than the Parsi Gara. Its intricately embroidered yards of the fabric brings together Persia, Europe, India, and China.