Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


Rajasthan in Western India has a history of turbulent political conditions. This is an outcome of Rajasthan being a frontier region of India’s borders. Therefore, its people have had a continued interaction with outsiders entering India in successive waves of migration (from the time of Aryans – 1000 BC). Costume of the region is an assimilation of many historical and foreign influences and has evolved to present a unique tradition.

This paper aims to study dress in this region by taking examples of different ethnic groups like Marwaris, Rabari and Rajputs and examine influences that have led to change. The three major changes, which have taken place in the last 500 years – the coming of the Mughuls, colonization by the British, and independence of India – will be discussed here.

The coming of Mughuls in the 16th century added new dimensions to Indian costume. The widespread usage of stitched clothing is ascribed to them. The British brought some Westernization of dress, particularly at the princely courts and among the middle classes at work. The Independence movement came to be identified with the reversion to traditional clothing and Indian identity and costume. This brought a new national identity and political structure. One of the biggest changes took place in Rajasthan where Independence in 1947 led to the merging of twenty-two princely states in the region and abolition of royalty in India.

The traditional costume of the region is in a stage of transition. Over the last few decades growth and change in economic structure and professions and change in social fashion have spurred this transition.