Clothing: A Social History
Q & A
Q1(NCERT): What were the sumptuary laws in France?
Answer: 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.’ These laws try to control:
- the behaviour of those considered social inferiors
- prevent them from wearing certain clothes.
- prevent them consuming certain foods and beverages
- prevent them from hunting.
Q2(CBSE 2010): Give any one example of the way in which Europeans dress code was different from the Indian dress code?
Q(NCERT): Give an example of any two examples of the ways in which European dress codes were different from Indian dress codes.
Answer: Important differences were:
- Indians usually wore turbans while Europeans wore hats.
- Turbans are worn to protect from heat and it was not removed before social superiors. While Europeans had to remove their hats in front of their superiors as a sign of respect.
- The rich and Indian royalty often wore ornate, decorated turbans made of silk, while an old, poor wore simple white Turbans. The elite and royalty among Europeans used to wear powdered wigs.
- The shoe is another example. The Indians took off their shoes when they entered a sacred
place. The British did not do so.
Q3(CBSE 2010): What did a patriotic French citizen wear in France after the French Revolution?
Answer: French revolution put an end to sumptuary laws imposed by the royalty and elite class. The revolution overthrew of the French aristocracy which ended extravagant fashion. Patriotic French did the following changes in his dress:
- Members of Jacobin clubs started calling themselves 'San Culottes'
- After the revolution, it was the income not the social rank which decided a person's clothing.
- Men and women began to wear loose and comfortable clothing.
- The colours of France became popular and were used in dress codes.
- The red cap of liberty, long trousers and the revolutionary cockade pinned on a hat became fashion — these were political symbols.
- Simplicity of clothing was meant to express the idea of equality.
Q4(CBSE 2011): Distinguish between man and women on the basis of style of clothing in Victorian England.
- Women in England during Victorian Era were groomed from childhood to be docile, dutiful, submissive and obedient. While men were supposed to be strong, serious, aggressive and independent.
- These ideals were displayed the way men and women dressed themselves.
- Girls were dressed in stays and were tightly laced up. They wore tight fitting bone corsets or stays. These clothes restricted their growth and kept their mould small and frail. Slim and small waist women were admired.
- For boys and men, as there were no restrictions. The the slender shape remained fashionable and they wore from flamboyant brocades, breeches to trousers.
Q5(NCERT): Explain the reasons for the changes in clothing patterns and materials in the eighteenth century.
Answer: The reasons for the changes in clothing patterns and materials in the eighteenth century are:
- French revolution marked the ending of French Aristocracy and it ended extravagant fashion. Simplicity of clothing was meant to express idea of equality.
- During the eighteenth century, several inventions mechanized cloth production, making it easy to make quality cloth quickly and cheaply. It also led to clothing and fashion among Europeans.
- With the advancement of coloured fabric printing in eighteenth century printed patterns became
popular and widespread.
- The colonial period during the end of 18th century, boomed up cotton trade. It helped the growing popularity of light dresses.
Q6(NCERT): In 1805, a British official, Benjamin Heyne, listed the manufactures of Bangalore which included the following:
- Women’s cloth of different musters and names
- Coarse chintz
- Silk cloths.
Answer: By 1800 in Europe, Spinning technology had improved with the spinning jenny (1764) and
then the spinning mule (1779), which could spin strong, fine thread good enough for making muslin. Therefore, muslin cloth from India would have definitely fallen out of use in the early 1800s.
Q7(CBSE 2011): What changes came in women clothing as a result of the two world wars?
- Many European women stopped wearing jewellery and luxurious clothes. As upper-class women mixed with other classes, social barriers were eroded and women began to look similar.
- Clothes got shorter during the First World War (1914-1918) out of practical necessity.
- By 1917, over 700,000 women in Britain were employed in ammunition factories. They wore a working uniform of blouse and trousers with accessories such as scarves, which was later replaced by khaki overalls and caps.
- Bright colours faded from sight and only sober colours were worn as the war dragged on.
- Clothes became plainer and simpler. Skirts became shorter. Soon trousers became a vital part of Western women’s clothing, giving them greater freedom of movement.
- By the twentieth century, a plain and austere style came to reflect seriousness and professionalism.
- Introduction of new games like Gymnastics for women, they had to wear clothes that did not
- Similarly at work work they needed clothes that were comfortable and convenient.
Watch out time lines on Women Fashion from 1800-1949.The site has nice details about clothing and fashion history from Medieval to 1950s.
|Fashion Trend from 1930-1939|
image credits: www.marquise.de