NCERT Solutions for Social Science, Chapter 8 Clothing: A Social History
Activity 1. Look at Figures,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.
Answer The differences tell us about the social and cultural differences among the various sections of French society at that time. The members of the Jacobin clubs wore long trousers and even called themselves the sans culottes’ (meaning “without knee breeches”) to distinguish themselves from the aristocracy who wore the fashionable knee breeches.
The pictures also tell us that the women of the middle classes could be distinguished from the women of aristocratic families, as the latter wore a corset under their dress to look narrow-waisted, which was considered the accepted norm for women.
In the men also there are many differences in the headgear, with the aristocrats wearing elaborate wigs, whereas the middle class men wore the red cap of liberty and the revolutionary cockade pinned on to a hat. The simplicity of clothing in the middle classes was meant to express the idea of equality.
Question 1 Read Sources A and B. What do they tell ideas of clothing in Victorian society? If you were the principal in Mary Somerville’s school how would you have justified the clothing practices?
Mary Somerville, one of the first woman mathematicians, describes in her memoirs the experience of her childhood day.
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 he steel busk in my stays in this constrained state, and most of the younger girls had to prepare out lessons.
From Martha Somerville, ed, Personal Recollections from Early Life to Old Age of Mary Somerville, London 1873.
Many government officials of the time were alarmed at the health implications the prevailing styles of dressing amongst women. Consider the following attack on 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
Answer Sources A and B are exemplifying the fact that dresses of women in Victorian society were very tight. In fact, they were strangulating wearer and in some cases could even cause death. These dresses Supposed to signify the role of women in society as secondary to men were the Principal of Mary Somerville’s school, I would have justified the clothing practices, giving the following reasons
a) A woman has to be docile, dutiful, submissive and obedient. That is her role in society
b) These dresses are meant to inculcate these qualities into a girl by making her adjusted to some suffering in life, and so such dresses are justified.
Activity 2 In what ways do you think these notions of weakness and dependence came to be reflected in women’s clothing?
Answer Because women were considered weak and dependent, they needed to be strengthened in various ways, which included their clothing also. This reflected in the following items worn by women
1) Busk This was a stiff strip of made of wood, whalebone or steel worn in front of the corset to stiffen and support it.
2) Corset This was a close-fitting and stiff inner bodice to give shape and support to the woman’s figure.
3) Stays These supported the whole body so that the women did not bend.
4) Steel Rod with Semicircle This was to support the chin of the woman so that it did not droop.
Activity 1 Imagine yourself to be a Muslim pleader in the Allahabad High Court in the late 19th century. What kind of clothes would you wear? Would they be very different from what you wore at home?
Answer In court, I will wear a professional western dress with black coat under a black gown, white trousers and white tie, which was the normal dress of an advocate in court.
These would be totally different from what I would wear at home, where I will wear my comfortable traditional dress, a cotton pyjama and kurta.
Activity 1 These two quotations (Sources E and F), from about the same period are from two different regions of India, Kerala and Bengal. What do they tell you about the very different notions of shame regarding women’s attire?
Some people supported the attempt to change women’s clothing, others opposed it.Any civilised nation is against the kind of clothing in use in the present time among women of our country. Indeed it is a sign of shamelessness. Educated men have ben greatly agitated about it, almost everyone wishes for another kind of civilised clothing…there is a custom here of women wearing fine and transparent clothing which reveals the whole body. Such shameless attire in no way allows one to frequent civilised company…..such clothes can stand in the way of our moral improvement.
Soudamini Khastagir, Striloker Paricchad (1872)
C Kesavan’s autobiography Jeevita Samaram recalls his mother-in-law’s first encounter looked good, but I felt ticklish wearing it. It took it off, folded it carefully and brimming with a blouse gifted by her sister-in-law in the late 19h century:
It looked good , but i felt ticklish wearing it.It took it off, folded it carefully and brimming with enthusiasm, showed it to my mother. She gave me a stern look and said “Where are you going to gallivant in this? Fold it and keep it in the box.”..I was scared of my mother. She could kill me. At night I wore the blouse and showed it to my husband said it looked good. [the next morning] I came out wearing the blouse…. I didn’t notice my mother coming. Suddenly I heard her break a piece from a coconut branch, When turned round, she was behind me fierce and furious. she said “Take it off… you want to walk around in shirts like Muslim women?”
Answer Source E is giving the views in Bengal whereas Source F is from Kerala. We see that in Bengal, a woman’s exposure of the body by wearing transparent clothing was considered shameful.
It was not acceptable to society. However, in Kerala, the upper parts of women’s bodies were normally not covered with any clothes. If some women covered the upper part of the body, they were considered not traditional, although the current generation accepted it (her husband liked it).
So, these sources tell us that the nations of shame in two different regions of India were totally different.
Activity 1 If you were a poor peasant would you have willingly taken to given up mill-made cloth?
Answer Yes, I would have willingly taken to given up mill-made cloth as would support the Swadeshi Movement, which has the interests of Indians in mind. However, it would have made me suffer some hardship, as khadi was costly and not easily available.
Activity 1 Can you think of other reason why the use of khadi could not spread among some classes, castes and regions of India?
Answer The wearing of khadi could not spread all over India for the reasons given below.
1) Khadi was costly and most people could not spin it at home and then weave it for cloth. Rich people were not interested in khadi cloths: they preferred western outfits.
2) Caste regulation limited people to wearing certain type of dresses only and in some cases, khadi clothes of the kind traditionally worn by them were not available.
3) The remote regions of India were not even aware of what kind was, Why they should wear it and where to get it. So the wearing of khadi did not penetrate all over India.
Activity 1 Imagine you are the 14-year-old child of a trader. Write a paragraph on what you feel about the sumptuary laws in France.
Answer The sumptuary laws in France are aimed at controlling the behaviour of those considered socially inferior by the aristocracy. These laws prevented individuals from the lower strata of society, like my trading family, from wearing certain clothes, consuming certain foods and beverages, and hunting game in certain areas.
These laws have been in existence in France for 500 years. They do not want us enjoy our lives, even if we have the money to do so. This has also reduced our customers, as we are able to sell the good things to only a limited number of people. So, now my father is trying to sell the expensive goods in other European countries by exporting them.
Activity 2 Can you think of any expectations of proper and improper dress which exist today? Give examples of two forms of clothing which would be considered disrespectful in certain places but acceptable in others.
Answer The quality and applicability of dresses on various occasions and at various locations make them acceptable or disrespectful. Our expectations of a dress would be that it should be comfortable and not hampering movement, cover the body adequately so it does not appear indecent and that it should cover us against any adverse weather conditions like intense heat, freezing cold and so on.
Forms of clothing which may be considered acceptable or disrespectful in different situations can be as follows
(i) A pyjama -kurta will be acceptable if worn at home, but will not suit a dress for a modern office job, where western style dress will be more suitable.
(ii) If a lawyer is arguing a case in Court and attends it wearing Jeans and T-shirt, it will be considered disrespectful to the Court. However, if the lawyer is attending a picnic with his family and friends with the same Jeans and T-shirt, it will be considered appropriate
Page 178 Questions
Question 1 Explain the reasons for the changes in clothing patterns and materials in the 18th century.
Answer Changes in clothing patterns and materials in the 18th century took place due to events like the French Revolution, which ended the restrictions imposed by the sumptuary laws.
Due to colonialism, different cultures came into contact with each other and were in turn influenced by each other’s cultures dress styles. Thus, changes took place in the clothing patterns.
Trade with India brought the beautiful and easy to maintain Indian chintzes within the reach of Europeans.
Question 2 What were the sumptuary laws in France?
Answer In medieval Europe, dress codes were sometimes imposed upon members of different layers of the 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 sumptuary laws tried to control the behaviour of those considered social inferior, preventing them from wearing certain clothes, consuming certain food and beverages and hunting game in certain areas.
In France, the items of clothing a person could purchase per yea be regulated not only by income but also by social rank. The material to used for clothing was also legally prescribed.
Only royalty ( the ruling class) could wear expensive material like ermine and fur or silk and brocade.
The lower classes could not clothe themselves with materials that were associated with the aristocracy.
Question 3. Give any two examples of the ways in which European dress codes were different from Indian dress codes.
|European Dress Code||Indian Dress code|
|Europeans used to wear hats which were removed before social superiors as a sign of respect.||Indians used to wear turbans to protect them from the heat. It was a symbol of respect and could not be removed at will.|
|The dress code in Europe was influenced by a persons economic and social status.||The dress code in India was influenced and followed by the caste system.|
Question 4 In 1805, a British official Benjamin Heyne, listed the manufactures of Bangalore which included the following
Women’s cloth of different musters and names
Of this list, which kind of cloth would have definitely fallen out of use in the early 1800’s and why?
Answer 4 In the early 1800s, the East India Company was exporting a large quantity of silk clothes, coarse chintz and muslin to England, as such clothes were not available in England or even in Europe. Due to this, such cloth material became expensive in India and so they fell out of use. Also, western clothes were influencing the men in Indian society and they were adopting to the mill-made clothes quickly. This further led to reduction in use of silk, coarse chintz and muslin.
Question 5 Suggest reasons why women in 19th century India were obliged to continue wearing traditional Indian dress even when men switched over to more convenient Western clothing. What does this show about the position of women in society?
Answer In the 19th century, Indian men switched over to more convenient Western clothing but women were obliged to continue wearing traditional Indian dress because they were bound by the traditions, customs and social values of India. Indian society was a patriarchal society or a male dominated society and women were supposed to uphold the family honour and wear traditional clothes. This implies that the women were considered inferior to men in Indian society.
Question 6 Winston Churchill described Mahatma Gandhi as a “Seditious Middle Temple Lawyer’ now ‘posing as a half naked fakir’.What provoked such a comment and what does it tell you about the symbolic strength of Mahatma Gandhi’s dress?
Answer Winston Churchill described Mahatma Gandhi as a ‘Seditious Middle Temple Lawyer’ now posing as a half naked fakir because Mahatma Gandhi adopted the dress of the poorest Indian. He started wear a short dhoti without a shirt, which he even wore when he went to England for the Round Table Conference in 1931.
He wanted to identify himself with the poor common man of India support Swadeshi Movement and encourage boycott of British goods show resistance to the British. Discarding of Western clothing and adoption of the simple dhoti and sometimes a chadder served as a symbolic weapon against British rule.
Question 7 Why did Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of clothing the nation in khadi appeal only to some sections of Indians?
Answer Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of clothing the nation in khadi appealed only to some sections of Indian because
(i) Those who had been deprived of proper dress by caste norms for centuries were attracted to Western dress styles and other nationalists such Babashaheb Ambedkar never gave up his western style suit.
(il) Earlier, many dalits and other so called subordinate classes were prevented from dressing like upper castes: Woman of the Shanar caste were not allowed to cover their upper body parts or use umbrellas, wear shoes or golden ornaments. They now started experimenting and wearing Western clothes and did not favour khadi.
(iii) Khadi was expensive and the poor could not afford it.
(iv) Khadi was usually white and in India white clothes are worn when there is a death. Widows wear white saris and the dead body covered with a white cloth. So khadi was not worn by many people.
(v) Khadi was very costly to buy and most people could not mane home. So, the poor people could not wear khadi.
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