An Analysis of 19 th century female clothing in Sri Lanka : depicted from Kathaluwa and Karagampitiya temple paintings


Art and craft reveal the history of civilization and the culture belonging to said artifacts. Sri Lanka has many temples with magnificent frescos and tempera paintings. These paintings are the major resources to study the people who lived in the contemporary. The purpose of this research is to identify 19th century female attire in Sri Lanka. The clothes signify the cultural development of the era in the history. Examining 19th Century female clothing would be beneficial to understand cultural progress of a country. The temple frescoes were one of the visual facts that can depict earlier clothing precisely since photographical evidences were not potential to access at that time. Every painting represents its current status of the era that the painting was done. The temple paintings of Kathaluwa and Karagampitiya are very important visual evidences to understand the subject and they have significant frescos and tempera paintings belong to 19th Century. Thus, these two temple paintings would be the significant facts that can depict 19th Century female clothing exactly. Karagampitiya temple is a historical temple known as ‘subodharama’ which is located in Dehiwala, Colombo district, Western province. Kathaluwa temple is situated at Talpe pattuwa, Galle district which is in the Southern province. Both temples have very uniqueness ‘bithusithuvam’ that an articulate woman’s clothing comprehensively. The qualitative method was used to analyze the study such as observation, visiting the temples, as the primary data, and books, electronic journals and visuals used as secondary data. The results depict the ladies who lived in the 19th Century used very limited dress designs but their main interest was in the jewelries than the clothes however, colonial influence made 19th century women’s attire changing from traditionally simple to sophisticated designs adapted from European fashio

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This paper was published in Digital Repository, University of Moratuwa.

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