Historicizing Fashion: Clothing, Culture, and Chores


  • Anjani Shankar Pandey a:1:{s:5:"en_US";s:44:"CHS, SSS, Jawaharalal Nehru University (JNU)";}




ancient India, history, fashion, queer, clothing, culture


The present paper is a study on the history of clothing in ancient India to historicize fashion in the Ancient Indian context. Relying primarily on textual sources of the period The Kāmasūtra of Vatsyayana ( 4-5th CE) and The Nātyaśāstra of Bharata (200 BCE-200CE), the paper seeks to examine the implications on patterns of dressing: clothing and accessorizing on different social categories based on gender, class, and caste being governed by the power relations operating within the social milieu of the texts. By looking at varied range of social and gendered categories the essence of clothing and dressing has been observed and commented upon. It has been primarily argued that dressing patterns reveal homogeneity in a particular group, who were part of a heterogeneous whole.




[i] Skinner, Quentin, (1969), “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas”,

History and Theory, Vol. 8, No. 1 pp. 3-53.

[ii] For ‘cultural homogeneities’ and fashion see, Ross, Robert, (2008), Clothing: A Global History, Cambridge.

[iii] Roy, Kumkum, (1998), “Unraveling the Kamasutra” in A Question of Silence? The Sexual Economies of Modern India, (ed.) Mary E. John and Janaki Nair, New Delhi: Kali for Women, pp.52-76.

[iv] Bhattacharya, N.N, (1975), History of Indian Erotic Literature, Delhi, pp. 81-82. Bhattacharya contends this deviation and argues for similarity.

[v] Barthes, Roland, (1975), The Pleasure of the Text, New York. See Introduction.

[vi] For a survey of such writings: Foucault, Michel, (1999), The History of Sexuality. Vol.1 New York. Also, Said, Edward, (1978), Orientalism, New York.

[vii] Taken from, Woolf, Virginia, (2008), A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, Oxford.

[viii] Borrowed from, Tarlo, Emma, (19960, Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, New Delhi.

[ix] The translation that we are using for the Kamasutra is one by Doniger, Wendy and Kakkar, Sudhir, (2002), The Kāmasutra of Vatsyayana( with a commentary of Yaśodhara), a New Translation, Introduction and Commentary under the Oxford World Classics series, New York, and henceforth KS [1.3.15].

[x] Roy, Kumkum, (1998), pp. 52-76.

[xi] KS 2.9.1-10.

[xii] KS 5.6.3-9.

[xiii] KS 3.1.15-2.

[xiv] KS 4.1.11-12.

[xv] KS 4.1.42-48.

[xvi] KS 6.2.59-72.

[xvii] KS 6.3.40-43.

[xviii] KS 6.1.10.

[xix] KS 1.4.16.

[xx] The translations that have been primarily used are: Rangacharya, Adya, (1999), The Nāṭyaśāstra: English Translations with Critical Notes, New Delhi, supplemented with Tarlekar, G.H., (1991), Studies in the Nāṭyaśāstra: With Special Reference to Sanskrit Drama in Performance, New Delhi. Henceforth NS.

[xxi] NS XX VI, 10-11.

[xxii] NS I, 46.

[xxiii] Miller, Barbara Stoller, (1984), “Kālidāsa’sWorld and his Plays” in Miller, Barbara Stoller (ed.), Theater of Memory: The Plays of Kālidāsa, (transl.) by Edwin Gerow, David Gitomer and Barabara Stoller Miller, Delhi, pp.3-40.

[xxiv] NS XXIII, 175-184.




How to Cite

Pandey, A. S. (2021). Historicizing Fashion: Clothing, Culture, and Chores. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 8(10), 168–174. https://doi.org/10.14738/assrj.810.11029