What did Indian women wear in the 7th to 8th century?

Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:

Thank you for the A2A.

As there are little or no written documentation on this, the best reference would be to look at the sculptures and paintings made during this period. India in the 7th and 8th centuries were ruled by several mighty regional dynasties, most of whom were pioneers in adding to the rich sculptural and artistic wealth of India.

Each period had distinct sculptural styles and most of the statues and statuettes were of women. Broadly speaking, this is the basic style of dressing seen across most of the statues of South India of this period…

This is a statue of a celestial nymph from the Pallava period (7th century). As you would see, the bosom is not covered but she is seen as wearing a lot of jewelry. the lower part of her body is draped in a loin cloth that reaches up to her ankles and has elaborate pleats. There is also a magnificent waist band of sorts that was also bejeweled.

The women are depicted as wearing a lot of jewelry – arm bands, bracelets, anklets, multiple necklaces, shoulder pieces, nose pins, etc. Although these are statues of divine entities, it is highly likely that was the norm even in normal society. I would hazard that there might have been some sort of covering for the bust, though. But I am not sure of this. Covering bosoms were not a popular thing in Kerala (the state where I am from) during that era. So I cannot say that there would have been a bosom cover for sure in that region.

Up north, the Rajputs were ruling much of western India. Their womenfolk are shown in the paintings of that era wearing ankle length skirts, a small blouse and a thin shawl draped over the body and the head…

They also wore plenty of jewelry and their clothes were in very bright and happy colors. This trend of dressing remained thus for a very long period.

The tribals had totally different styles of dressing too…

The covering of bosoms probably came to the southern regions as a ‘fashion trend’ from the north.

The saree is a garment that has metamorphosed into its current form from an ancient history of very different looking garments. Over the centuries, it has undergone several improvisations to suit changing lifestyles and environments. There are multiple ways in which the saree is draped, and it changes from region to region. Take a look…

India has a very old history…and so it’s only natural that women would have used cloth to cover themselves up in varying styles since time immemorial. The saree of today is the result of centuries of improvisations.

I’d written an answer some time back about how dressing styles have evolved in India over the ages. If interested, here’s the link → Raakhee V. Menon’s answer to What do men think about the morality of women wearing revealing clothing?

What did Indian women wear in the 7th to 8th century?


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