Rugs - Ethnic Garments & Accessories
Indian Regional Costumes In northwestern India, the women of Gujarat and Rajasthan wear a wrapped skirt, jimmi, or a wide skirt, ghagro, with a fitting backless blouse, and a veil. The blouse has many variations, as described in the ancient literature. In Saurashtra and Kutch, men of the Kathiawari ethnic group, descendants of the Huns, wear a pleated blouse (kedia), tight pajamas, a large shawl around their waist, and a turban, a costume similar to some peasant costumes in the Balkans. People in the Tharparkar and Sindh areas of Pakistan dress in a similar manner. Hindu women wear a skirt, a backless blouse, and veil, while Muslim tribal women wear a thigh-length backless blouse, an embroidered salwar, and a veil. In the urban areas of Gujarat, men wear a dhoti with a shirt, while women wear a fourteen-and-a-half-foot sari with a cross border worn in the front.
In central India and the western coastal area, Hindu and tribal men and women wear unstitched garments. Urban men wear stitched upper garments during winter or for special occasions. Women of different groups wear saris of 137 inches to 312 inches in length (31/2 meters to 8 meters in length). Tribal women wear shorter saris, while urban and more affluent women wear longer ones. They are wrapped so as to create unstitched pantaloons by taking the front pleats, passing them between the legs, and tucking them into the back. This style of sari wrapping is associated with women's chastity. Women in south India (including Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) wear the sari in a variety of styles, depending on geo-climatic conditions and cultural traditions.
Women in Kerala, in southwesternmost India, wear sarongs instead of saris, while men wear a white double-layered sarong, with an upper-body cloth along with a shirt.
Muslim men and women throughout India wear stitched garments. The common dress for men is a kurta (long tunic) and pajama. The affluent wear an embroidered coat, angarkha, and embroidered cap. For official occasions they wear a fitting long coat, sherwani, and tight pajama. The turban varies according to their vocation, the occasion, and their age. Women wear a tight pajama, a fitted shirt (often with a jacket), and an embroidered veil. For outdoors many women wear the burqa. Among the affluent, farshi payjama, a trailing, wide divided skirt, is worn for special occasions. Among non-Muslims, such as Hindus and Jains, stitched garments have to be removed by men and women for religious ceremonies or for entering a temple.
Sri Lanka, a large island lying at the southernmost tip of India, was an important maritime center from ancient times, linking the East with the West. The Greeks called it Taprobane, and the Arabs Serendib. Sri Lanka's recorded history dates from the mid-first millennium B.C.E. Around 400 B.C.E. King Pandukabhaya began developing the arts and established close contacts with Buddhist India. Theravada Buddhism remains the dominant religion of Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese people today. Early sculptures show close linkages with Indian tradition and the figures are seen wearing flowing draped garments.
Sri Lanka has absorbed a great deal of external influence during its history. Arab traders drawn to the spice and textile trade visited the island from late Roman times onward. Colombo and Galle had colonies of Arab traders, who introduced Islam to Sri Lanka. Portuguese traders settled in coastal areas in the early sixteenth century. The Portuguese settlements were taken over by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century; the British, who established a colonial regime in 1833, in turn, expelled the Dutch. European influence on Sri Lankan culture can be seen in dress, especially among the so-called Burghers, who are of mixed Dutch and Sinhalese ancestry. Early drawings show Burghers mingling traditional dress with European elements. Men wore over the sarong a long coat with puffed sleeves and a sash, as well as a hat. Women dressed in a sarong and upper cloth combined with European jackets. However, many people continued to wear clothing not affected by European influence.
The Sri Lankan population includes two major elements, the Sinhalese and, especially in the northeastern part of the island, the Tamils. The latter were migrants from southeastern India, many brought in by the British as plantation workers in the nineteenth century. The two communities have distinctive clothing traditions.
The traditional dress of the Sinhalese women is the sarong worn with a stitched blouse and a scarf over the shoulder. In some cases the sarong has a frill at the top. Some wear a blouse with lace inserts at the waist and the sleeves, with a silver belt. Men wear a sarong and a kamiz (tunic). The fact that two women heads of state have always worn the Sinhalese national dress has influenced even the Burghers to adopt the traditional costume. Tamil women wear the saris draped in the traditions of their community, while the men wear the veshti, a white sarong. Muslim men, who trace their roots to Arab settlers, wear a colorful sarong with a tunic and a cap. Muslim women traditionally wore local dress; however, in the early 2000s many have adopted Islamic dress, including wearing the headscarf.
The Royal Kingdom of Nepal, a landlocked area with the highest mountains of the world, extends from the Gangetic plains to the Himalayas. The country's climate ranges from alpine cold, to hot and arid, to hot and humid. The country has many different ethnic groups, but they fall into two main divisions. In the mountains are found peoples of Tibetan origin, while people of Indo-Aryan origin live mostly at lower elevations.
Early references to clothing in ancient texts indicate that the various peoples of Nepal had diverse clothing traditions from ancient times and that some of those traditions persist to the present day. The earliest reference to Nepalese textiles is in Kautalya's Arthashastra (250 B.C.E.). It refers to black blankets stitched together from eight pieces. These continue to be used as a wrap by the people. Historic dress styles can be studied from sculptures, murals, and book illustrations. Draped and wrapped garments dominate, along with stitched jackets. In the early fifteenth century, the ruler classified the dress of sixty-five sub-castes; for instance, some were prohibited from wearing coats, caps, and shoes and others from having sleeves on their jackets.
Newari women of the central valleys and the lower mountain ranges wear a pleated wraparound skirt held together by a heavy shawl at the waist, while the men wear a long shirt, nivasa, pleated up to the waist and reaching to the ankles, which is worn with a waist cloth. A jacket and a topi, conical cap, completes the outfit. Gurkha men wear ordinary trousers with a blouse reaching below the hips and fastened by a heavy cummerbund with the kukri traditional dagger stuck into it.
The Kirant, one of the larger ethnic groups, wear an interesting blouse called choubandi, which means "four knots." The blouse crosses over, tying at the armpit and at the waist. Women wear it waist-length, while the men's comes to the hip. Women also wear a wraparound skirt with a sash. The Tharus of Terrai wore wrapped skirts made from multicolored panels and appliqué blouses.
Ethnic groups of Tibetan heritage, such as the Sherpas and Dolpos, generally wear clothing similar to that of Tibet. These include, for women, a silk blouse and a wrapped skirt, worn with a narrow apron of brightly colored stripes, stitched together from three pieces. Men wore woolen coats and trousers or left their legs bare. The Dolpo's woolen coat, chuba, came with multiple panels and had a distinctive style. Both groups use long sheepskin or goatskin fleece coats to ward off the high mountain cold.
The distinctive characteristic of Nepali dress was the more affluent the wearer the greater the length of cloth. Royal women used 80 to 90 yards of material for their gathered skirts. These thick and heavy skirts were worn with a thick sash to protect against back strain.
The Royal Kingdom of Bhutan is east of Nepal, between northeastern India and Tibet. The country is mostly mountainous. The majority of inhabitants, of Tibetan culture and ethnicity, live in the principal valleys among the high mountains. A hot and humid lowland area on the southern fringe of the country is home to many Nepalese immigrants. Finely woven woolen textiles are produced in the highlands, while cotton and silk is produced and woven in the lowlands.
Traditional dress is mandatory in Bhutan. Men wear Tibetan-style tunics, gho, with a belt; the style is, however, quite distinct. It is raised and tied at the waist with the legs left bare for greater mobility. Rich woven patterns give the tunic a distinctive character. Ceremonial scarves are essential for all rituals and ceremonies and the color denotes the status of the wearer. Even their raincoats woven out of yak wool and dyed with vegetable dyes, char-khab, are beautifully patterned.
Many men are monks and wear Tibetan Buddhist-style burgundy or orange woolen wrapped robes stitched together from separate pieces of cloth. Women wear a wraparound dress of wool or silk, kiru, with a sash. Silver brooches with a pin, koma, hold the wrapped dress in place. Over this they wear a jacket, toego, which gives the dress a very elegant style. A shoulder shawl, rachu, is essential for entry to the Dzong or in the presence of royalty or high officials. The finest kiru, known as kushutharas, is a highly elaborate weave and is worn mostly by royalty.
The Vanga or Banga Kingdom is mentioned in early Sanskrit literature (1000 B.C.E.) and it was known as one of the earliest Indian kingdoms to embrace Buddhism. Bengal has a strong, local cultural tradition and has long had contact with Southeast Asia and with the West, via Arab traders. Portugal was the first European state to have direct contact with Bengal. The region is ethnically diverse, with a Bengali-speaking majority in the broad river valleys and lowlands, and with hill tribes, especially in the east, that have connections with the peoples of Myanmar (Burma).
In 1576 C.E. the Moguls conquered Bengal, incorporating it into the Mogul Empire. The British East India Company established a trading settlement in 1651. Bengal was assimilated into the British Empire, and Calcutta became the seat of the empire, as well as the hub of the trade. The partition of India in 1947 saw East Bengal, which had a Muslim majority, become East Pakistan, while West Bengal, with a Hindu majority, remained part of India. In December 1971 East Pakistan became the sovereign state of Bangladesh.
Bengal was known from early times for its gossamer Dacca muslin, which was in demand throughout the world. Women spun cotton thread to the fineness of 400 count. The Roman senate bemoaned emptying their coffers to pay for this fine muslin. Caesar complained that his wife appeared naked in public and she responded that she wore seven layers of the Indian cloth.
The women of both West Bengal and Bangladesh wear cotton saris in the typical Bangla style of fold upon fold. Hindu women use the long end of the sari as a kind of veil by draping it over their head; Muslim women wear the sari at home in the same manner but cover it with a burqa outside the house. Muslim peasant men wear a colorful lungi (sarong), with short vest. Hindu men wear a dhoti (unstitched pantaloon), a vest, and a shoulder cloth. Urban Muslim men wear loose pajamas with a tunic known as a Punjabi. For formal occasions the men wear fitting, long coats, sherwani, with tight pajamas, while Hindus wear cotton or silk dhotis with Punjabi and a shawl. Tribal women wear sarongs and breast cloths with intricate patterns, woven on backstrap looms. Among some tribal women, the intricately woven sarong was formerly worn from the breast to the calf. The custom of wearing blouses with the sarong or sari was introduced much later. The younger generation has taken to wearing the salwar kamiz.
South Asia has the distinctive characteristic that women have maintained their traditional way of dress. The elite younger generation does wear Western dress and the universal jeans, but for special occasions and as they settle into domesticity, they wear their local dress. However, the different styles of wearing the sari in different regions dictated by the geo-climatic conditions and local culture is now disappearing. The eighteen-foot sari with the cross border thrown across the left shoulder has come to dominate throughout India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka; upper-class women of Nepal also wear the sari.
The freedom struggle and search for identity had led to the use of khadi, handspun handwoven cotton, and the Gandhi topi (cap), which became associated with the freedom struggle. After independence and the need for creating a national identity led to the introduction of the Jawahar jacket, a sleeveless fitting jacket worn with Indian clothes made fashionable by the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as the Jodhpur coat, a close necked full-sleeved short coat worn with trousers as semi-formal dress and the sherwani or achkan, a long coat worn with tight churidar pajama and formal dress.
Pakistan guards its separate identity and the women wear the salwar kamiz, which has also spread to Bangladesh and southern India. Women's magazines and Bollywood films have had an important influence in making the women innovative in enriching their costume. This began even before the advent of India's National Institute of Fashion Technology in the 1980s and the proliferation of boutique culture in the hands of young fashion designers, who are setting new trends in South Asian styles of dress.
South Asia: History of Dress By Jasleen Dhamija