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NCERT 9th Class (CBSE) Social Science: Clothing: A Social History

Question: Explain the ‘shoe respect’ controversy.


  1. In different cultures, specific items of clothing often convey contrary meanings. This frequently leads to misunderstanding and conflict.
  2. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was customary for British officials to follow Indian customs and traditions and to remove their footwear in the courts of ruling kings or chiefs.
  3. In 1824-1828, Governor General Amherst insisted that Indians take their shoes off as a sign of respect when they appeared before him, but this was not strictly followed.
  4. By the mid-nineteenth century, when Lord Dalhousie was Governor-General, ‘shoe respect’ was made stricter, and Indians were made to take off their shoes when entering any government institution; only those who wore European clothes were exempted from this rule.
  5. Many Indian government servants were increasingly uncomfortable with these rules.

Question: Explain how clothes were used by Gandhiji as a powerful weapon to protest against the British rule.
How did Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of Khadi become a symbolic weapon against British rule?
“Despite its limitations the experiment with Swadeshi gave Mahatma Gandhi important ideas about using cloth as a symbolic weapon against British rule”. Explain.


  1. Mahatma Gandhi’s dream was to clothe the whole nation in khadi. He felt khadi would be a means of erasing difference between religions, classes, etc.
  2. He made spinning on the charkha and daily use of Khadi, or coarse doth made from homespun yarn, very powerful symbols. These were not only symbols of self-reliance but also of resistance to the use of British mill- made cloth.
  3. In Durban in 1913, Gandhiji first appeared in a lungi and kurta with his head shaved as a sign of mourning to protest against the shooting of Indian coal miners.
  4. On his return to India in 1915, he decided to dress like a Kathiawadi peasant.
  5. He adopted the short dhoti in 1921 and wore it until his death because according to him it was the dress of a poor Indian.
  6. Khadi, white and coarse was to him a sign of purity, of simplicity and of poverty. Wearing it became also a symbol of nationalism, a rejection of western mill-made cloth.

Question: Who were Jacobians? What changes did the Jacobians bring in the clothing of France after 1789?

Answer: Jacobians were the people of middle class who actively participated in the French Revolution.

  1. They decided to start wearing striped trousers similar to those worn by dock workers.
  2. They also started the trend of loose clothes.
  3. They also started using other political symbols like red cap of liberty and the revolutionary cockade.

Question: When Western-style clothing came into India in the 19th century Indians reacted in three different ways. Explain these three ways.
How did Indian react to the Western- style of clothing which came into India in the 19th Century? Explain.
“The introduction of Western-style clothing in the 19th century met with severe reactions in different ways”. Give suitable arguments in favor of the statement.
How did Indian’s react to Western- style clothing?

  1. Incorporation of western style: Many, especially men, began incorporating some elements of Western-style clothing in their dress. The wealthy Parsis of Western India were among the first to adapt Western- style clothing. The Baggy trousers and the phenta (or hat) were added to long collarless coats, with boots and a walking slick to complete the look of the gentleman. To some, Western clothes were a sign of modernity and progress.
  2. Dalits and western clothes: Western-style clothing was also especially attractive to groups of dalit converts to Christianity who now found it liberating. Here too, it was men – rather than women who affected the new dress styles.
  3. Reaction of conservatives: There were many Indians who were against westernization of clothes. The traditional Indians were convinced that western culture would lead to a loss of traditional cultural identity. According to orthodox people western- styles clothes were taken as a sign of the world turning upside down.
  4. Dress according to time: There were some Indians who resolved the dilemma by wearing both types of clothes. They started wearing western clothes without giving up their Indian dress. For example, many Bengali bureaucrats began stocking western- style clothes for work outside the home and changed into more comfortable Indian clothes at home. There were some who started combining western and Indian forms of dressing.
  5. British rule and dress code: In different cultures, specific items of clothing often convey contrary meanings. The turban in India was not just for protection from the heat but was a sign of respectability, and could not be removed at will. Whereas the hat had to be removed before social superiors as a sign of respect.

Question: How were women of 17th century different from that of 21st century with respect to cloth and political rights?


  1. From the childhood the women of 19th century grew up to believe that having a small waist was womanly duty.
    Suffering pain was essential to being a Woman. To be seen as attractive, to be womanly, they had to wear the corset. The torture and pain this inflicted on the body was to be accepted as normal whereas the women of 21st century are free to wear whatever they like.
  2. The women of 19th century was without any political rights. They were passive citizens. In the 21st century in most of the nations women have political rights equal to men.

Question: Distinguish between the clothing styles of European women before and after the 17th century.

Answer: European women before 17th century:

  1. From childhood, girls were tightly laced up and dressed in stays. The effort was to restrict the growth of their bodies, contain them within small moulds.
  2. When slightly older, girls had to wear tight fitting corsets. Tightly laced, small-wasted women were admired as attractive, elegant and graceful.
  3. Most of the women used to wear bright colored clothes.

European women after the 17th century:

  1. They started wearing a working uniform of blouse and trouser. Clothes become plained and simpler. Skirts became shorter.
  2. Most of the working women stopped wearing jewellery and luxurious clothes.
  3. Even schools started emphasizing the importance of plain dressing and discouraged ornamentation.

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One comment

  1. Very good – Improved a lot.

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