The Effect of British Raj on Indian Costume

Written by: Toolika Gupta

The British entered India as traders, but they stayed back as rulers and ruled the country for almost 200 years. They came with their own cultural values and identity, very British clothing and fashion statements, leaving the Indians admiring the GORA SAHIBS and the MEMSAHIBS. The average Indian wanted to look special and thus wanted to copy their styles.

This research focuses on how the British Raj brought about a change in the costumes of contemporary India. How were the British costumes Indianised? Were they accepted by the Indians, or was the change of costume thrust upon them? How did the words "Petticoat" and "blouse" become a part of the Indian languages and of the Indian costume, the "Sari"? How did the Dhoti-Kurta clad common man change to a Shirt-Trouser sporting one? Just as the "babus" became a part of Indian culture, so did their dress and dressing sensibility.

"English was not the first foreign tongue to be imposed on India as the language of the government." (Watson 1979). Similarly English Costumes were not the first foreign costumes to be imposed and adopted by Indians. Before the British it was the Persian influence in Fashion and Persian was the official language.

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