Q.1. How were clothes of the 18th century all over the world different from clothes of the 19th century?
Ans. In France, in the 18th century sumptuary laws controlled the clothing style. After the French Revolution, it was the income, the difference between the rich and poor which decided what people were to wear. In England and America and other European countries, women fromb childhood, as young girls were tightly laced and dressed in stays. As women they had to wear tight fitting corsets and flowing gowns sweeping the ground. The nineteenth century simplified dresses, shortened them and banned the corsets. Clothes got lighter, shorter and simpler. The two world wars brought in trousers and blouses for women giving them greater freedom of movement. Skirts became shorter, frills disappeared. Women now went for short hair as it was convenient and easy to maintain. In India, the western style clothing came in the 19th century. The wealthy Parsis were the first to adopt it. It was also attractive to Dalits. The dress code in India was much under the influence of strict codes of caste system. The Swadeshi movement and national feelings also set the dress code of Indians.
Q.2. What were sumptuary laws? How did these laws affect society in France?
Ans. Sumptuary laws were those laws which imposed upon members of different layers of society through specified details the codes of behaviour. These laws tried to control behaviour of those considered social inferiors, preventing them from wearing certain clothes, consuming certain foods and beverages (usually alcohol) and hunting game in certain areas. In France, during the medieval period the item of clothing a person could purchase per year was regulated not only by income but also by social rank. The material to be purchased for clothing was also legally prescribed. Only royalty could wear expensive materials like ermine, fur, silk, velvet and brocade. Other classes were debarred from clothing themselves with materials that were associated with the aristocracy.
Q.3. “Ideals of womanhood prevalent during the Victorian Age affected women’s dress.” What were these ideals and how did these ideals affect the dresses of women during the Victorian Age?
Ans. Women in Victorian England were groomed from childhood to be docile and dutiful, submissive, and obedient. The ideal woman was one who could bear pain and suffering. Women were seen as frivolous, delicate, passive and docile. Norms of clothing reflected these ideals. From childhood, girls were tightly laced up and dressed in stays. The effort was to restrict the growth of their bodies, contain them within small moulds. When slightly older, girls had to wear tight fitting corsets. Tightly laced, small waisted women were admired as attractive, elegant and graceful, clothing thus played a part in creating the image of frail, submissive Victorian women.
Q.4. What was the Suffrage Movement? How did it bring about a reform in dress?
Ans. Women’s Suffrage Movement was a woman’s movement agitating for the right to vote in political elections and democratic rights. As suffrage movement developed, people began campaigning for dress reform. Women’s magazines described how light dress and corsets caused deformities and illness among young girls. Such clothing restricted body growth and hampered blood circulation. Muscles remained underdeveloped and the spines got bent. Doctors reported that many women were regularly complaining of acute weakness, felt languid and fainted regularly. By the end of the nineteenth century, change was clearly in the air – the argument was simplify dress, shorten skirts, abandon corsets.
Q.5. Discuss how society and clothes are linked.
Ans. The history of clothing is linked to the larger history of society. Clothing is defined by dominant cultural attitude and ideal of beauty. These notions change with time. Change in clothing has come due to changes within technology and economy and pressures of changing times. Changes in women’s clothing came as a result of the two world wars. Women stopped wearing jewellery and luxurious clothes. Now women of all sections of society began to look similar. Because of practical necessity clothes became shorter and without frills. Women began to bem employed in ammunition factories. This forced them to wear a uniform of blouse and trousers with scarves. Thus, uniform of blouse and trousers was replaced by Khaki overalls and caps. Sober colours were preferred as the war was on. Clothes became simpler and more practical. Trousers became a common garment worn by women. Garments became austere and professional. Games and sports became an important part of curriculum in girl’s schools.
Hence dresses were so designed that they did not hamper any movement. Another important development was that women began to cut their hair as it was easy and convenient to maintain. Thus we see how the pressures of society make way for changes in clothing, confirming the fact that clothing is linked to society.
Q.6. With an example, discuss how clothing can convey different meanings in different cultures and how these interpretations can lead to misunderstanding.
Ans. In different cultures, specific items of clothing often convey central meaning. This frequently leads to misunderstandings and conflicts. The case of the Turban and Hat is one. Turban and hat are two headgears that not only look different. They also signify different things. The turban in India was not just for protection from the heat but was also a sign of respectability and could not be removed at will. In the western tradition, the hat had to be removed before social superiors as a sign of respect. This cultural difference created misunderstanding. The British were often offended if Indians did not take off their turban when they met colonial officials. Many Indians, on the other hand, wore the turban to consciously assert their regional or national identity.
Q.7. How was the Swadeshi Movement linked to the politics of clothing? Explain.
Establish the relationship between Khadi and National Movement. [2011 (T-2)]
Ans. The Swadeshi movement was centrally linked to the politics of clothing. In 1905, Lord Curzon decided to partition Bengal to control the growing opposition to British rule. The Swadeshi movement developed in reaction to this measure. People were urged to boycott the British goods of all kinds and start their own industries for the manufacture of goods such as match boxes and cigarettes. Mass protests followed with people viewing to cleanse themselves of colonial rule.
The use of khadi was made a patriotic duty. Women were urged to throw away their silks and glass bangles and wear simple shell bangles. Rough homespun was glorified in songs and poems to popularise it.
Though many people rallied to the cause of nationalism at this time, it was almost impossible to compete with cheap British goods that had flooded the market.
Despite its limitations, the experiment with Swadeshi gave Mahatma Gandhi important ideas about using cloth as a symbolic weapon against British rule.
Q.8. How did Mahatma Gandhi's dream of clothing the nation in Khadi appeal only to some sections of the Indian?
“Not everyone wore khadi.” Discuss with relevant examples from Mahatma Gandhi’s life. (CBSE 2010)
Ans. Mahatma Gandhi’s dream was to clothe the whole nation in khadi. He felt khadi would be a means of erasing differences between religions and classes; etc. But it wasn’t easy for others to follow in his footsteps. Just as the people could not take to the single peasant loin cloth as Gandhiji had done. The people, in fact, did not want to do so. Nationalists such as Motilal Nehru, a successful barrister from Allahabad, gave up his expensive western style suits and adopted the Indian dhoti and kurta. But these were not made of coarse cloth – khadi.
Those who had been deprived by caste norms for centuries were attracted to western dress styles. Therefore unlike Mahatma Gandhi, other nationalists such as Baba Saheb Ambedkar never gave up the western style suit. Many Dalits began in the early 1910s to wear three-piece suits, shoes and socks on all public occasions, as a political statement of self-respect. A woman wrote to Gandhiji, ‘‘I heard you speaking on the extreme necessity of wearing khadi, but khadi is very costly and we are poor people.’’ Other women, like Sarojini Naidu and Kamla Nehru, wore coloured saris with designs, instead of coarse, white homespun khadi.
Q.9. What were the reactions of the Indians of the 19th century to western style clothing?
How did the Indians react to western style of clothing during 19th century? [2011 (T-2)]
Ans. There were three different kinds of reactions of Indians to western style clothing.
Q.10. In India caste system played the role similar to Sumptuary Laws of Europe? Justify it.
Explain with the help of an example, how certain changes in clothing styles that threatened specified norms in India often created violent social reactions.
Ans. India has no formal sumptuary laws but it has a very strict social code of food and dress. It is the caste system which defines what each caste should wear, eat, give, take, etc. These codes are very rigid and are almost as forceful as laws. If there were any changes in these specified codes then reactions were often violent and disturbing. The case of the Shanar caste is an example. The Shanars are a community from Travancore.
They migrated to this area to work under the landlords who were the Nairs. The Shanars tapped toddy. They belonged to a ‘subordinate caste’ and as per the traditions had to follow certain specified norms. They were not allowed to wear slippers, use umbrellas and cover the upper portion of their body with clothing.
When the Christian missionaries came, they converted the Shanars to Christians. Under their influence the Shanar folk started covering the upper portion of their body. This angered the Nairs who attacked them. The government of Travancore issued a proclamation which ordered the Shanars not to cover the upper parts of their body. But this did not deter the Shanar women who wore the blouse. These women were attacked and stripped of their upper clothes. The Shanars were beaten and tortured. The government then issued a proclamation which laid down that Shanar women could cover the upper part of their body “but not like the women of upper caste.”
Q.11. Why did a large number of people begin boycotting British or mill-made cloth and adopt khadi?
Ans. Even though khadi was coarser and more expensive many people began to boycott British cloth and adopted khadi. This was a result of the policy of partition of Bengal by the British. In 1905, Lord Curzon decided that Bengal needs to be partitioned to curb the growing spirit of nationalism and opposition to British rule. Bengal was so partitioned that it separated the Hindus and Muslims and tried to destroy their unity. The Swadeshi Movement developed as a reaction to this measure. People were persuaded to use goods manufactured in India and boycott goods made in Britain. Many Indians started their own factories to manufacture things such as matches, etc. People were forced to use khadi. Silks, glass bangles, etc., were thrown away and simple coarse khadi sarees were worn. Wearing khadi became a partriotic duty. Women substituted shell bangles for glass ones. Songs and poems were composed to popularise Indian goods especially the coarse khadi.
Q.12. 'It looked good, but I felt ticklish wearing it....... brimming with enthusiasm, I showed it to my mother. She gave me a stern look and said, "where are you going to gallivant in this?"
At night, I wore the blouse and showed it to my husband. He said it looked good.... (The next morning) I came out wearing the blouse.... I didn't notice my mother coming. When I turned round, she was behind me, fierce and furious... she said, "take it off.. You want to walk around in shirts like Muslim women?"
Read the above passage and answer the following questions :
(a) Which item of clothing is being referred to?
(b) How did the lady feel wearing the item of clothing?
(c) What was the husband's attitude towards the clothing?
(d) Why was the mother against this item of clothing? (CBSE 2010)
(a) The item of clothing referred to here is a blouse gifted to C. Kesavan's mother-in-law by her sister-in-law (Jeevita Samaram – an autobiography)
(b) The lady felt ticklish though she like it very much and was enthusiastic about wearing it.
(c) Her husband said "It looks good". He liked it too.
(d) The mother reacted violently to it and she ordered her daughter to take it off at once. She accused her of walking around in "Shirts like Muslim women."
Q.13. 'Although perfectly straight and well made, I was encased in stiff stays, with a steel busk in front, while above my frock bands drew my shoulder back until the shoulder blades met. Then a steel rod, with.. semi-circle which went under my chin, was clasped to the steel busk in my stays. In this constrained state, I and most of the younger girls had to prepare the lessons'.
Personal Recollections from Early Life to Old Age of Mary Somerville.
(a) Why were girls made to wear stiff stays?
(b) What was the impact of such clothing on girls' bodies?
(a) The Victorian women were forced to wear stiff stays. It was done to restrict their bodies, contain them within small moulds.
(b) The tight dresses and corsets caused deformities and illness among young girls. It restricted body growth and hampered blood circulation. Muscles remained underdeveloped and spines got bent. Women, according to doctors, complained of acute weakness, felt languid and fainted frequently.
Q.14. "From about 1294 to the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the people of France were expected to strictly follow what were known as 'sumptuary laws'. The laws tried to control the behaviour of those considered social inferiors, preventing them from wearing certain clothes..."
(a) Name any two materials that classes other than royalty were not permitted to wear.
(b) What changes in clothing are symbolic of the French Revolution?
(c) How was the idea of equality expressed through clothing after the Revolution?
(a) Expensive materials like ermine and fur (or silk, velvet or brocade) could be worn only by royalty.
(b) The fashionable "knee breeches", worn by "Sans-Culottes" (members of the Jacobin clubs) were loose and comfortable clothing, and had the colours of patriotic France – blue-red and white. They became popular as symbols of patriotic citizens. The red cap of liberty, long trousers, and the revolutionary cockade pinned to a hat were also symbolic changes.
(c) The simplicity of clothing reflected the idea of equality.