NCERT Textbook - Clothing: A Social History Class 9 Notes | EduRev

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Class 9 : NCERT Textbook - Clothing: A Social History Class 9 Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


Clothing: A Social History
159
Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing:
A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History
It is easy to forget that there is a history to the clothes we wear. All
societies observe certain rules, some of them quite strict, about the
way in which men, women and children should dress, or how
different social classes and groups should present themselves. These
norms come to define the identity of people, the way they see
themselves, the way they want others to see them. They shape our
notions of grace and beauty, ideas of modesty and shame. As times
change and societies are transformed, these notions also alter.
Modifications in clothing come to reflect these changes.
The emergence of the modern world is marked by dramatic changes
in clothing. In this chapter, we will look at some of the histories of
clothing in the modern period, that is in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries.
Why are these two centuries important?
Before the age of democratic revolutions and the development of
capitalist markets in eighteenth-century Europe, most people dressed
according to their regional codes, and were limited by the types of
clothes and the cost of materials that were available in their region.
Clothing styles were also strictly regulated by class, gender or status
in the social hierarchy.
After the eighteenth century, the colonisation of most of the world
by Europe, the spread of democratic ideals and the growth of an
industrial society, completely changed the ways in which people
thought about dress and its meanings. People could use styles and
materials that were drawn from other cultures and locations, and
western dress styles for men were adopted worldwide.
In Chapter I you have seen how the French Revolution transformed
many aspects of social and political life. The revolution also swept
away existing dress codes, known as the sumptuary laws. Let us
look briefly at what these laws were.
Clothing: A Social History Chapter VIII
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


Clothing: A Social History
159
Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing:
A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History
It is easy to forget that there is a history to the clothes we wear. All
societies observe certain rules, some of them quite strict, about the
way in which men, women and children should dress, or how
different social classes and groups should present themselves. These
norms come to define the identity of people, the way they see
themselves, the way they want others to see them. They shape our
notions of grace and beauty, ideas of modesty and shame. As times
change and societies are transformed, these notions also alter.
Modifications in clothing come to reflect these changes.
The emergence of the modern world is marked by dramatic changes
in clothing. In this chapter, we will look at some of the histories of
clothing in the modern period, that is in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries.
Why are these two centuries important?
Before the age of democratic revolutions and the development of
capitalist markets in eighteenth-century Europe, most people dressed
according to their regional codes, and were limited by the types of
clothes and the cost of materials that were available in their region.
Clothing styles were also strictly regulated by class, gender or status
in the social hierarchy.
After the eighteenth century, the colonisation of most of the world
by Europe, the spread of democratic ideals and the growth of an
industrial society, completely changed the ways in which people
thought about dress and its meanings. People could use styles and
materials that were drawn from other cultures and locations, and
western dress styles for men were adopted worldwide.
In Chapter I you have seen how the French Revolution transformed
many aspects of social and political life. The revolution also swept
away existing dress codes, known as the sumptuary laws. Let us
look briefly at what these laws were.
Clothing: A Social History Chapter VIII
© NCERT
not to be republished
India and the Contemporary World
160
In medieval Europe, dress codes were sometimes imposed upon
members of different layers of society through actual laws which
were spelt out in some detail. 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, consuming certain
foods and beverages (usually this referred to alcohol) and hunting
game in certain areas. In medieval France, the items of clothing a
person could purchase per year was regulated, not only by income
but also by social rank. The material to be used for clothing was also
legally prescribed. Only royalty could wear expensive materials like
ermine and fur, or silk, velvet and brocade. Other
classes were debarred from clothing themselves with
materials that were associated with the aristocracy.
The French Revolution ended these distinctions. As
you know from Chapter I, members of the Jacobin
clubs even called themselves the ‘sans culottes’ to
distinguish themselves from the aristocracy who
wore the fashionable ‘knee breeches’. Sans culottes
literally meant those ‘without knee breeches’. From
now on, both men and women began wearing
clothing that was loose and comfortable. The colours
of France – blue, white and red – became popular as
they were a sign of the patriotic citizen. Other
political symbols too became a part of dress: the red
cap of liberty, long trousers and the revolutionary
cockade pinned on to a hat. The simplicity of clothing
was meant to express the idea of equality.
1 1 1 1 1     Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy
New words
Cockade – Cap, usually worn on one side.
Ermine – Type of fur.
Fig.1 – An upper-class couple in eighteenth-century England.
Painting by the English artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-
1788)
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


Clothing: A Social History
159
Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing:
A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History
It is easy to forget that there is a history to the clothes we wear. All
societies observe certain rules, some of them quite strict, about the
way in which men, women and children should dress, or how
different social classes and groups should present themselves. These
norms come to define the identity of people, the way they see
themselves, the way they want others to see them. They shape our
notions of grace and beauty, ideas of modesty and shame. As times
change and societies are transformed, these notions also alter.
Modifications in clothing come to reflect these changes.
The emergence of the modern world is marked by dramatic changes
in clothing. In this chapter, we will look at some of the histories of
clothing in the modern period, that is in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries.
Why are these two centuries important?
Before the age of democratic revolutions and the development of
capitalist markets in eighteenth-century Europe, most people dressed
according to their regional codes, and were limited by the types of
clothes and the cost of materials that were available in their region.
Clothing styles were also strictly regulated by class, gender or status
in the social hierarchy.
After the eighteenth century, the colonisation of most of the world
by Europe, the spread of democratic ideals and the growth of an
industrial society, completely changed the ways in which people
thought about dress and its meanings. People could use styles and
materials that were drawn from other cultures and locations, and
western dress styles for men were adopted worldwide.
In Chapter I you have seen how the French Revolution transformed
many aspects of social and political life. The revolution also swept
away existing dress codes, known as the sumptuary laws. Let us
look briefly at what these laws were.
Clothing: A Social History Chapter VIII
© NCERT
not to be republished
India and the Contemporary World
160
In medieval Europe, dress codes were sometimes imposed upon
members of different layers of society through actual laws which
were spelt out in some detail. 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, consuming certain
foods and beverages (usually this referred to alcohol) and hunting
game in certain areas. In medieval France, the items of clothing a
person could purchase per year was regulated, not only by income
but also by social rank. The material to be used for clothing was also
legally prescribed. Only royalty could wear expensive materials like
ermine and fur, or silk, velvet and brocade. Other
classes were debarred from clothing themselves with
materials that were associated with the aristocracy.
The French Revolution ended these distinctions. As
you know from Chapter I, members of the Jacobin
clubs even called themselves the ‘sans culottes’ to
distinguish themselves from the aristocracy who
wore the fashionable ‘knee breeches’. Sans culottes
literally meant those ‘without knee breeches’. From
now on, both men and women began wearing
clothing that was loose and comfortable. The colours
of France – blue, white and red – became popular as
they were a sign of the patriotic citizen. Other
political symbols too became a part of dress: the red
cap of liberty, long trousers and the revolutionary
cockade pinned on to a hat. The simplicity of clothing
was meant to express the idea of equality.
1 1 1 1 1     Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy
New words
Cockade – Cap, usually worn on one side.
Ermine – Type of fur.
Fig.1 – An upper-class couple in eighteenth-century England.
Painting by the English artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-
1788)
© NCERT
not to be republished
Clothing: A Social History
161
Activity
Fig.3 – Woman of the middle classes, 1791.
Fig.4 – Volunteers during the French Revolution.
Fig.5 – A sans-culottes family, 1793.
Not all sumptuary laws were meant to emphasise social hierarchy.
Some sumptuary laws were passed to protect home production
against imports. For instance, in sixteenth-century England, velvet
caps made with material imported from France and Italy were popular
amongst men. England passed a law which compelled all persons
over six years of age, except those of high position, to wear woollen
caps made in England, on Sundays and all holy days. This law
remained in effect for twenty-six years and was very useful in building
up the English woollen industry.
Look at Figures 2 - 5. Write 150 words on
what the differences in the pictures tell us
about the society and culture in France at the
time of the Revolution.
Box 1
Fig.2 – An aristocratic couple on the eve of the French Revolution.
Notice the sumptuous clothing, the elaborate headgear, and the lace
edgings on the dress the lady is wearing. She also has a corset inside
the dress. This was meant to confine and shape her waist so that she
appeared narrow waisted. The nobleman, as was the custom of the
time, is wearing a long soldier’s coat, knee breeches, silk stockings and
high heeled shoes. Both of them have elaborate wigs and both have
their faces painted a delicate shade of pink, for the display of natural
skin was considered uncultured.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 4


Clothing: A Social History
159
Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing:
A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History
It is easy to forget that there is a history to the clothes we wear. All
societies observe certain rules, some of them quite strict, about the
way in which men, women and children should dress, or how
different social classes and groups should present themselves. These
norms come to define the identity of people, the way they see
themselves, the way they want others to see them. They shape our
notions of grace and beauty, ideas of modesty and shame. As times
change and societies are transformed, these notions also alter.
Modifications in clothing come to reflect these changes.
The emergence of the modern world is marked by dramatic changes
in clothing. In this chapter, we will look at some of the histories of
clothing in the modern period, that is in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries.
Why are these two centuries important?
Before the age of democratic revolutions and the development of
capitalist markets in eighteenth-century Europe, most people dressed
according to their regional codes, and were limited by the types of
clothes and the cost of materials that were available in their region.
Clothing styles were also strictly regulated by class, gender or status
in the social hierarchy.
After the eighteenth century, the colonisation of most of the world
by Europe, the spread of democratic ideals and the growth of an
industrial society, completely changed the ways in which people
thought about dress and its meanings. People could use styles and
materials that were drawn from other cultures and locations, and
western dress styles for men were adopted worldwide.
In Chapter I you have seen how the French Revolution transformed
many aspects of social and political life. The revolution also swept
away existing dress codes, known as the sumptuary laws. Let us
look briefly at what these laws were.
Clothing: A Social History Chapter VIII
© NCERT
not to be republished
India and the Contemporary World
160
In medieval Europe, dress codes were sometimes imposed upon
members of different layers of society through actual laws which
were spelt out in some detail. 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, consuming certain
foods and beverages (usually this referred to alcohol) and hunting
game in certain areas. In medieval France, the items of clothing a
person could purchase per year was regulated, not only by income
but also by social rank. The material to be used for clothing was also
legally prescribed. Only royalty could wear expensive materials like
ermine and fur, or silk, velvet and brocade. Other
classes were debarred from clothing themselves with
materials that were associated with the aristocracy.
The French Revolution ended these distinctions. As
you know from Chapter I, members of the Jacobin
clubs even called themselves the ‘sans culottes’ to
distinguish themselves from the aristocracy who
wore the fashionable ‘knee breeches’. Sans culottes
literally meant those ‘without knee breeches’. From
now on, both men and women began wearing
clothing that was loose and comfortable. The colours
of France – blue, white and red – became popular as
they were a sign of the patriotic citizen. Other
political symbols too became a part of dress: the red
cap of liberty, long trousers and the revolutionary
cockade pinned on to a hat. The simplicity of clothing
was meant to express the idea of equality.
1 1 1 1 1     Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy
New words
Cockade – Cap, usually worn on one side.
Ermine – Type of fur.
Fig.1 – An upper-class couple in eighteenth-century England.
Painting by the English artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-
1788)
© NCERT
not to be republished
Clothing: A Social History
161
Activity
Fig.3 – Woman of the middle classes, 1791.
Fig.4 – Volunteers during the French Revolution.
Fig.5 – A sans-culottes family, 1793.
Not all sumptuary laws were meant to emphasise social hierarchy.
Some sumptuary laws were passed to protect home production
against imports. For instance, in sixteenth-century England, velvet
caps made with material imported from France and Italy were popular
amongst men. England passed a law which compelled all persons
over six years of age, except those of high position, to wear woollen
caps made in England, on Sundays and all holy days. This law
remained in effect for twenty-six years and was very useful in building
up the English woollen industry.
Look at Figures 2 - 5. Write 150 words on
what the differences in the pictures tell us
about the society and culture in France at the
time of the Revolution.
Box 1
Fig.2 – An aristocratic couple on the eve of the French Revolution.
Notice the sumptuous clothing, the elaborate headgear, and the lace
edgings on the dress the lady is wearing. She also has a corset inside
the dress. This was meant to confine and shape her waist so that she
appeared narrow waisted. The nobleman, as was the custom of the
time, is wearing a long soldier’s coat, knee breeches, silk stockings and
high heeled shoes. Both of them have elaborate wigs and both have
their faces painted a delicate shade of pink, for the display of natural
skin was considered uncultured.
© NCERT
not to be republished
India and the Contemporary World
162
2 2 2 2 2 Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty
The end of sumptuary laws did not mean that everyone in European
societies could now dress in the same way. The French Revolution
had raised the question of equality and  ended aristocratic privileges,
as well as the laws that maintained those privileges. However,
differences between social strata remained. Clearly, the poor could
not dress like the rich, nor eat the same food. But laws no longer
barred people’s right to dress in the way they wished. Differences in
earning, rather than sumptuary laws, now defined what the rich and
poor could wear. And different classes developed their own culture
of dress. The notion of what was beautiful or ugly, proper or
improper, decent or vulgar, differed.
Styles of clothing also emphasised differences between men and
women. 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. While men were expected
to be serious, strong, independent and aggressive, 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.
2.1 How Did Women React to These Norms?
Many women believed in the ideals of womanhood. The ideals were
in the air they breathed, the literature they read, the education they
had received at school and at home. From childhood they grew up
to believe that having a small waist was a womanly duty. Suffering
pain was essential to being a woman. To be seen as attractive, to be
womanly, they had to wear the corset. The torture and pain this
inflicted on the body was to be accepted as normal.
But not everyone accepted these values. Over the nineteenth century,
ideas changed. By the 1830s, women in England began agitating for
democratic rights. As the suffrage movement developed, many began
campaigning for dress reform. Women’s magazines described how
tight dresses and corsets caused deformities and illness among young
New words
Stays – Support as part of a woman’s dress
to hold the body straight
Corset – A closely fitting and stiff inner
bodice, worn by women to give shape and
support to the figure.
Suffrage – The right to vote. The suffragettes
wanted the right for women to vote.
Fig.6 – Scene at an upper-class wedding by the
English painter William Hogarth (1697-1764)
Fig.7 – A child in an aristocratic household by
the English painter William Hogarth (1697-
1764). Notice the tiny waist even at this age,
probably held in by a corset, and the sweeping
gown which would restrict her movement.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 5


Clothing: A Social History
159
Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing: Clothing:
A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History A Social History
It is easy to forget that there is a history to the clothes we wear. All
societies observe certain rules, some of them quite strict, about the
way in which men, women and children should dress, or how
different social classes and groups should present themselves. These
norms come to define the identity of people, the way they see
themselves, the way they want others to see them. They shape our
notions of grace and beauty, ideas of modesty and shame. As times
change and societies are transformed, these notions also alter.
Modifications in clothing come to reflect these changes.
The emergence of the modern world is marked by dramatic changes
in clothing. In this chapter, we will look at some of the histories of
clothing in the modern period, that is in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries.
Why are these two centuries important?
Before the age of democratic revolutions and the development of
capitalist markets in eighteenth-century Europe, most people dressed
according to their regional codes, and were limited by the types of
clothes and the cost of materials that were available in their region.
Clothing styles were also strictly regulated by class, gender or status
in the social hierarchy.
After the eighteenth century, the colonisation of most of the world
by Europe, the spread of democratic ideals and the growth of an
industrial society, completely changed the ways in which people
thought about dress and its meanings. People could use styles and
materials that were drawn from other cultures and locations, and
western dress styles for men were adopted worldwide.
In Chapter I you have seen how the French Revolution transformed
many aspects of social and political life. The revolution also swept
away existing dress codes, known as the sumptuary laws. Let us
look briefly at what these laws were.
Clothing: A Social History Chapter VIII
© NCERT
not to be republished
India and the Contemporary World
160
In medieval Europe, dress codes were sometimes imposed upon
members of different layers of society through actual laws which
were spelt out in some detail. 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, consuming certain
foods and beverages (usually this referred to alcohol) and hunting
game in certain areas. In medieval France, the items of clothing a
person could purchase per year was regulated, not only by income
but also by social rank. The material to be used for clothing was also
legally prescribed. Only royalty could wear expensive materials like
ermine and fur, or silk, velvet and brocade. Other
classes were debarred from clothing themselves with
materials that were associated with the aristocracy.
The French Revolution ended these distinctions. As
you know from Chapter I, members of the Jacobin
clubs even called themselves the ‘sans culottes’ to
distinguish themselves from the aristocracy who
wore the fashionable ‘knee breeches’. Sans culottes
literally meant those ‘without knee breeches’. From
now on, both men and women began wearing
clothing that was loose and comfortable. The colours
of France – blue, white and red – became popular as
they were a sign of the patriotic citizen. Other
political symbols too became a part of dress: the red
cap of liberty, long trousers and the revolutionary
cockade pinned on to a hat. The simplicity of clothing
was meant to express the idea of equality.
1 1 1 1 1     Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy Sumptuary Laws and Social Hierarchy
New words
Cockade – Cap, usually worn on one side.
Ermine – Type of fur.
Fig.1 – An upper-class couple in eighteenth-century England.
Painting by the English artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-
1788)
© NCERT
not to be republished
Clothing: A Social History
161
Activity
Fig.3 – Woman of the middle classes, 1791.
Fig.4 – Volunteers during the French Revolution.
Fig.5 – A sans-culottes family, 1793.
Not all sumptuary laws were meant to emphasise social hierarchy.
Some sumptuary laws were passed to protect home production
against imports. For instance, in sixteenth-century England, velvet
caps made with material imported from France and Italy were popular
amongst men. England passed a law which compelled all persons
over six years of age, except those of high position, to wear woollen
caps made in England, on Sundays and all holy days. This law
remained in effect for twenty-six years and was very useful in building
up the English woollen industry.
Look at Figures 2 - 5. Write 150 words on
what the differences in the pictures tell us
about the society and culture in France at the
time of the Revolution.
Box 1
Fig.2 – An aristocratic couple on the eve of the French Revolution.
Notice the sumptuous clothing, the elaborate headgear, and the lace
edgings on the dress the lady is wearing. She also has a corset inside
the dress. This was meant to confine and shape her waist so that she
appeared narrow waisted. The nobleman, as was the custom of the
time, is wearing a long soldier’s coat, knee breeches, silk stockings and
high heeled shoes. Both of them have elaborate wigs and both have
their faces painted a delicate shade of pink, for the display of natural
skin was considered uncultured.
© NCERT
not to be republished
India and the Contemporary World
162
2 2 2 2 2 Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty Clothing and Notions of Beauty
The end of sumptuary laws did not mean that everyone in European
societies could now dress in the same way. The French Revolution
had raised the question of equality and  ended aristocratic privileges,
as well as the laws that maintained those privileges. However,
differences between social strata remained. Clearly, the poor could
not dress like the rich, nor eat the same food. But laws no longer
barred people’s right to dress in the way they wished. Differences in
earning, rather than sumptuary laws, now defined what the rich and
poor could wear. And different classes developed their own culture
of dress. The notion of what was beautiful or ugly, proper or
improper, decent or vulgar, differed.
Styles of clothing also emphasised differences between men and
women. 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. While men were expected
to be serious, strong, independent and aggressive, 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.
2.1 How Did Women React to These Norms?
Many women believed in the ideals of womanhood. The ideals were
in the air they breathed, the literature they read, the education they
had received at school and at home. From childhood they grew up
to believe that having a small waist was a womanly duty. Suffering
pain was essential to being a woman. To be seen as attractive, to be
womanly, they had to wear the corset. The torture and pain this
inflicted on the body was to be accepted as normal.
But not everyone accepted these values. Over the nineteenth century,
ideas changed. By the 1830s, women in England began agitating for
democratic rights. As the suffrage movement developed, many began
campaigning for dress reform. Women’s magazines described how
tight dresses and corsets caused deformities and illness among young
New words
Stays – Support as part of a woman’s dress
to hold the body straight
Corset – A closely fitting and stiff inner
bodice, worn by women to give shape and
support to the figure.
Suffrage – The right to vote. The suffragettes
wanted the right for women to vote.
Fig.6 – Scene at an upper-class wedding by the
English painter William Hogarth (1697-1764)
Fig.7 – A child in an aristocratic household by
the English painter William Hogarth (1697-
1764). Notice the tiny waist even at this age,
probably held in by a corset, and the sweeping
gown which would restrict her movement.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Clothing: A Social History
163
Activity
Source C
Activity
Mary Somerville, one of the first woman mathematicians,
describes in her memoirs the experience of her childhood days:
‘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 a 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 our
lessons.’
From Martha Somerville, ed., Personal Recollections from Early
Life to Old Age of Mary Somerville, London 1873.
Source A
New words
Busk –  A strip of wood, whalebone or steel in front of the corset to stiffen and support it
Pabulum – Anything essential to maintain life and growth.
Read Sources A and B. What do they tell you
about the ideas of clothing in Victorian
society? If you were the principal in Mary
Somerville’s school how would you have
justified the clothing practices?
Do you know how the famous English poet John Keats (1795 –
1821) described his ideal woman? He said she was ‘like a
milk-white lamb that bleats for man’s protection’.
In his novel Vanity Fair (1848), Thackeray described the charm
of a woman character, Amelia, in these words:
‘I think it was her weakness which was her principal charm, a
kind of sweet submission and softness, which seemed to
appeal to each man she met, for his sympathy and protection.’
Source B
Many government officials of the time were alarmed at the
health implications of the prevailing styles of dressing amongst
women. Consider the following attack on the corset:
‘It is evident physiologically that air is the pabulum of life, and
that the effect of a tight cord round the neck and of tight lacing
differ only in degrees … for the strangulations are both fatal.
To wear tight stays in many cases is to wither, to waste, to
die.’
The Registrar General in the Ninth Annual Report of 1857.
In what ways do you think these notions of
weakness and dependence came to be
reflected in women’s clothing?
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 frequently. Corsets then
became necessary to hold up the weakened spine.
© NCERT
not to be republished
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Extra Questions

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video lectures

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NCERT Textbook - Clothing: A Social History Class 9 Notes | EduRev

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pdf

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Previous Year Questions with Solutions

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past year papers

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Important questions

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study material

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Objective type Questions

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Free

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MCQs

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shortcuts and tricks

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Semester Notes

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ppt

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