Pre-colonial fashion in India was very different from other countries. Much of what was worn than still applies in today’s world; so much of what was worn at that time is still worn today. Many of the clothes were the basic structure of a complex version that people wear today. There are many beautiful and traditional clothes in the Indian history, even in pre-colonial times!
Although the Indians knew how to sew well most of the ancient clothing did not contain stitching.
During ancient times the “sari” was used for covering the legs and a Stanapatta used to cover the breast, which didn’t have to be stitched. The men traditionally wore the dhoti and the turban as basic clothing. The sari and dhoti generally covered both legs but sometimes you would pass it between the legs and then it would be tucked at the back. These styles, materials, fitting were usually suited for India’s extremely hot climate.
Bindi: The bindi is the red (mostly red but the colours can vary) dot that is worn on the forehead to symbolize marriage (worn by woman).
Jewelry: Jewelry was one accessory which both men and women wore. Gold jewelry was especially popular as it was believed to purify anything that it touches. Both men and women loved to combine gold with semi-precious or precious gems and beads. Jewelry did not differ very much in the different parts of India, the only difference could’ve been in materials and designs used but this would entirely depend on religion and/or geography. Because gold was believed to purify anything it touches, sometimes because of this reason gold was worn on the skin at all times. Jewelry and the use of it dates all the way back to the early civilization of Harrapa and Mohenjodaro. For women jewelry would sometimes have an economic significance to it. The jewelry given during the wedding could symbolize the inheritance from her father. This jewelry could also ensure financial security throughout the women’s life.
Nose pins: These were more commonly worn than nose rings by married women to symbolize marriage and purity.
Necklace: Necklaces were popular all over the country for girls differing from all kinds of ages. Necklaces were made of many materials such as: glass, beads, gold, and diamonds (these are just some examples). The Managalasutra was an extraordinary necklace only worn by married women. Long ago this was the equivalent of the western wedding ring.
Bangles: Bangles (bracelets) were worn on the wrist as they were believed to be protective bands but women also wore them as guards over their husbands meaning that their husband would always be true and faithful. The materials that bangles are made of vary from; silver, gold, wood, glass, plastic, and many more.
Ear Rings: Ear rings are very popular all across India; in fact many girls have their ears pierced before their first birthday. Anklets, toe rings, and finger rings were also very fashionable. A finger ring also used to symbolize marriage. Foot jewelry was always made out silver since gold (a pure metal) was not supposed to be worn on the foot. However, this privilege was only offered to royal women. The most common hair ornaments that were worn were the managtika and the tikla which were usually worn in the parting of the hair with a pendant coming out of it. This was to signify marriage.
Flowers: During a wedding it is traditional to shower the bride with petals as it is a form of blessing. In the South of India an important factor in a women’s fashion is for her hair to contain flowers.
Eye Make-Up: Kohl or eyeliner is the key for all make-up. From the time a child is six years old her mother applies eyeliner and black dot on the forehead to ruin the child’s beauty. This so called “imperfection” was said to protect from evil.
Sindoora: A dot placed on the forehead in order to signify marriage, power, and ultimate protection from her husband (this protection signified that the husband would always stand by his wife and protect her from anything). The Sindoora is applied by the husband as part of a traditional ritual during a wedding ceremony.
Indian fashion (and make-up) was very broad and many things that were popular a long time ago are still trendy now. All jewelry and make-up symbolize something so there is always a reason for wearing. Before colonization India’s fashion was very original and admired. Even in pre-colonial times fashion had a big impact in everyone’s daily lives in India.
This site was last updated 04/04/07