India’s Influence on Britain’s Fashion

Before coming to London, I did research about the “world’s capital city” to learn more about my home for the next four months. Through this research, I learned that London is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with over 300 languages spoken. Digging deeper into my research, it became evident that one of the most numerous minority groups in London were Indians. Therefore, I will be spending this semester traveling throughout London to see how Asians have influenced the city through food, art, and religion.

During one of my first weeks in London, I went to the Fashioned from Nature exhibit in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibit showed the history of fashion and the relationship between nature and fashion in London. One aspect of the collection discussed cotton and Indian’s influence of the material in England.

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This dress was one of the first items of clothing which was influenced by India’s culture. The English were transfixed by the bright colors and unfamiliar patterns of Indian cottons. They soon modified these designs and merged Indian, Chinese, and British themes together. In this dress, the pattern is Indian but its delicate floral sprays were adapted for the British market.

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This piece is an Indian Muslin, which is a cotton fabric of plain weave. The Muslin was introduced in the 1780s as a softer, less restricting style of dress perfect for both formal and informal occasions. The British East India Company continued to import Indian Muslins such as this one into the 19th century.

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In the 19th century, Europeans first encountered the use of jewel beetles to embellish clothing in Asia and South America. In this dress, over 5000 beetle wings and parts of wings were used in the making of this dress. Since then, India has exported beetle wings cases, stoles, dress panels and flounces embroidered with beetle wings.  

Each of these dresses had some Indian influence woven into the designs of these pieces. These dresses show how much of an influence Indian cotton and design had on the fashion world in England. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this history and the fashion culture of England. I’m excited for the rest of the semester and learning more about India’s influence on London.

 

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