Along with Europe and America, colonial India also showed significant changes in men’s and women’s clothing. When western style clothing was introduced in the 19th century, different reactions were seen in people.
While some Indians, influenced by the west and missionary activities, adopted western clothing others ridiculed this new change as a ‘loss of traditional and cultural identity’. Some combined the western and Indian forms of dressing to avoid dilemmas. Some men wore western clothing at work and traditional clothes at home.
The rich Indian Parsis were the first to adopt western style clothing. Western clothing also appealed to many Dalit groups, who converted to Christianity.
Though sumptuary laws did not exist in India, the caste system defined what the lower and the higher castes could wear or eat. In 1822, in Travancore, in the lower caste Shanars, men and women did not cover the upper half of their bodies. Some Shanar women who converted to Christianity began wearing blouses.
This annoyed the high-class Nair landlords and led to major riots in the state.
The government declared that Shanar women, whether Christian or Hindu, could wear blouses as long as these did not resemble the blouses worn by the women of the higher castes.
During the British rule, the cultures of the Indians and the British were different, which often created misunderstanding and conflict. The turban and the hat often created misunderstanding between the British officials and Indians.