The Mughal period in the Indian subcontinent is one of the most important parts of its political history. Back then, India wasn’t so connected, and it was filled with religious and political prejudice. The Mughal period was the time in history when Emperor Akbar, a muslim ruler, conquored and then united kingdom after kingdom. It was a time of prosperity, trade and textile decadence. The combination of Sikh, Muslim and Hindustan peoples, led to much diversity in the cities, and many cultural norms. The diversity led to people wearing a combination of the traditional sari, the dhoti, and tailored silk trousers, vests, and jackets.
I’ll be going over, and showing you the contrasts between these three ancient ways of dress.
The traditional saree, is a long piece of fabric which is tied around the body as clothing. You would wear this with a saree blouse, which is basically a crop top which exposes the back and stomach area. Generally speaking, a sari is sold, long enough so there’s enough fabric to make a matching blouse to be worn with it. There are literally dozens of ways to tie a sari around your body, because of the diversity of the Indian cultures. If you were from the North, you’d represent it by the style with which you wore your saree, the same goes for all parts of India. There’s an almost unlimited supply of silk, colors, quality, and prices to choose from. The sari world is a vast and exciting place in India to this day.
This shows only four, out of the dozens of styles you can wear your saree. With this much history of the saree being worn, you’d hope they’d have a few different ways of wearing it.
The Dhoti is a simply designed long jacket like shirt. It goes down just below the knees, and can be worn in plain cotton or linen, or something like viewed below, covered in jewels and made from luxurious silks. Long baggy trousers were worn, similar to what the Turkish Ottoman were wearing close to the same time. Lastly, a popular accessory would be a shawl scarf.
This is a very luxurious modern day Dhoti, most likely for his wedding day.
Mogul Empire Dress
The Mogul way of dressing, was probably the most advanced when it came to fitting, design, and complexity. It was the fashion for both men, and women to wear fitted trousers, and jackets. What really marked your station in society was the silks used to make your clothing, and the jewels you wore.
Women from noble birth would wear fitted pants, with a long decorative skirt, which would fan out around them in a circle. This, they would pair with a blouse, some covering the belly, and others leaving it exposed. On a hot day, the girl would probably wear this and a shawl, which in public would cover her head. In more formal circumstances, she might be wearing a tight fitting jacket as well. This was far from the end of it, the bling was some of the most important part. Bangles have been a part of Indian history for thousands of years. The silk road was booming further East, and in their lands. Merchants, and bankers were the richest people in the world back then. Pearls were found in the strands, precious jewels, silver and gold. The richer you were, the more jewels you had, it was a simple way of life, but an expensive one. Facial piercings were common, but mostly just in the nose. Earrings were popular, as were many different kinds of rings, necklaces, anklets, and silver/gold weave fabric.
Men wore a much more masculine version of what women wore, without the skirts or crop blouses. They wore fitted trousers, or more flowing trousers which resembled what the turkish were wearing at the time. The patterns were relatively simple, but grand. Their shirts could either be tucked into their trousers, and dramatized with a bling belt (as seen below), or they would drop down over their clothing in an oversized look, good for displaying the silk which they used. Jackets were fairly common.
This is an historically accurate textile representation of Emperor Akbar’s clothing from the Mughal period. It’s from the movie Jodha Akbar, a great movie to see if you’re interested in this era of dress. This actor is Hrithik Roshan, and he’s a very dreamy Bollywood actor, who I’d very much recommend.
In Ancient Rome and Greece, fabric was generally speaking, very costly. As a result of this, people’s clothing remained mostly uncut and much of ‘the look’ was about the drapes they created with their cloth. Because of this, broaches and belts were very common. The class you came from determined which materials and dyes were used in the cloth. Grecians and Romans had less reserve about nudity, it wasn’t uncommon for people to exercise around town in the nude. The romans appreciated decadence in such a way that wasn’t seen again until 17th century France came around. This time in ancient history was a tender one, as civilization was still relatively new to humanity. It was a time when people were still very simple.
As for the clothing that the population wore, there were four items you could count on to wear every day…
The Toga is probably the most remembered article of clothing throughout this time in history, it wasn’t what the average man wore. The toga was a mark of wealth and luxury. It was impractical and thus was held in the golden light of indulgences, that the Roman’s and Greeks were so famous for. They were so luxurious, they could afford to lay around with their clothes falling off all day.
There was a strict law of dress, making it so that you wore clothing that fitted your station. The toga had different forms relating to the higher classes and what kind of upper class person they were.
Freeborn Sons: Wore a white toga with a purple border.
Toga Alba/Pura: Adult males wore a simple white toga.
Toga Pulla: A darker toga, worn when in mourning.
Toga Piota: A purple toga with golden embroidery, reserved for the emperor.
A tunic(a) was the first layer, worn next to the skin. There were many variations of the tunic and ways that people wore them. Men wore a version of the tunic called a chiton, and females wore a full length tunic called a peplos.
- Both were made from rectangular pieces of fabric and hung loosely around ones shape, to be manipulated and folded into a pleasing fashion.
- Women’s tunic/peplos was usually quite oversized and then manipulated into shape daily by the wearer.
- Men sometimes shortened their chiton to be knee length. In comparison to women, the mens tunic was tighter.
- There were two types of tunics. First, the Doric Chiton, made from wool usually. Second, the Ionic Chiton, made from linen or silk, and easier to fold in intricate ways.
This is an Ionic chiton.
Slaves tunic: Slaves basically wore a bag made from two rectangular pieces of cloth with arms and legs cut out. Very simple.
Outdoor Cloak: The popular cloak was for the upper classes, as it required the use of one of the hands to keep it in place, and thus was deemed ‘luxurious’. There were other’s made of a simpler, more functioning fashion, but those were reserved mostly for the laboring man, travelers, and soldiers.
The Roman’s and Greeks created intricate hairstyles involving braids, curls and weaving. They would decorate their head with golden rings, pins, wreaths and flowers.
The first clothing came 500,000 - 10,000 BCE. Animal hides were used and wrapped around the body. It was a time in history when dramatic temperature changes were common. One day a smart neanderthal realized the potential that skins had. It wasn’t until 40,000 BCE that man discovered to push holes through things and to tie them together to create livable clothes. Neanderthals were beginning to invent tools, and weapons. Eventually wool entered the scene, which was a nice alternative to furs, and skins. The Cro Magnon Man were some of the geniuses of the stone age. Cro Magnons were supposedly the first to be able to use fire, they created the needle, and created tools to help cut tiny holes into skins. It wasn’t until much later that humans evolved from this, and began to create individual styles and cultures, united with their style sense.
Fashion Moment: The needle is one of the prime inventions that changed the face of fashion forever. They were henceforth able to create fitted clothing.
Evidence suggests that they were able to make fitted trousers! Because of the different pigments beings used back then, scientist now believe that body painting was used. The first dyed textiles appear in Catal Hoyuk, southern Analtonia, present day Turkey. Stamps have been found at their sites suggesting they stamped pigment paint onto their outfits for pattern. The oldest pair of sandals ever found were from 4000 BCE and from Egypt. Around 3600 BCE flax becomes the number one fibre used in Egypt.
Fashion Moment: The Chinese make a huge leap in clothing by using silk worms to make silk. This changes the face of fashion forever.
Evidence suggests that the later cave people’s clothing, wasn’t much less developed than modern day eskimos clothing.