One of the most significant influencers of the way we dress in India was the freedom movement, in particular Gandhi’s thoughts on the moral dimension of clothing, the quest for an authentic Indianness and clothing as a unifier of India’s diverse castes and religious groups. Central to this was use of khadi, even though or perhaps because khadi was gradually getting displaced even in India’s villages. Women in the movement discarded their jewels, the hitherto fine clothing* (for which Indians had always had a preference) for home spun khadi. If you spun it yourself on a simple spinning wheel, the charkha, all the better). In Saraladevi’s words one decided to be “simple and common only”. Purely as a clothing choice it feels like elegant slumming, the borrowing of the clothes of India’s poor by an urban elite – were it not situated in a particular decade, that leading to India’s independence.
Most of the quotes on tumblr are taken from Emma Tarlo’s essays which covers a number of issues and the evolution of a clothing philosophy which stressed simplicity and restraint and was the visual symbol of a soon to be independent India free of its colonial past. It also covers the efforts prior to this, especially in Bengal, in the late 19th century towards an authentic, national attire.
*Some women didn’t and cartoons of the period have men in the swadeshi movement defeated by the wife’s insistence on not following suit and retaining their fineries and jewels.