Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brides of the Arab World: Jordan

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- Jordan

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.


Irbid Dress

With its loose fitting design and cool cotton fabric, this traditional dress from the town of Irbid shows a clear Bedouin influence (Jordan is 80% desert). The thin black veil wrapped around the head is held in place by a large headband called an asbeh. This one, in silver brocaded silk, was imported from Syria, which for centuries was famous for its silk-weaving industry. The headdress underneath the asbeh is made of silver coins, glass beads and silver chains that extend over the shoulders.
The embroidery on the dress is mainly purl stitch. The technique is common to the nomadic Bedouins of the area that is now southern Syria and northern Palestine- a reminder of their common origins.
Throughout much of the 20th century, it was fashionable to decorate the brides' face with tattoos, but that custom has largely dies out. Intricate designs in henna are still often applied to the face, hands and feet, a tradition that persists in many other Arab countries as well.

Ma'an Costume

Handmade of silk dyed with natural pigments, this dress dates from about 1930 and comes from Ma'an, an ancient city in southern Jordan. An important stop on the Hejaz railroad, Ma'an was a meeting place for pilgrims on their way to Makkah and Madinah. The Ma'an costume was influenced by these travelers, who would bring valuable items- silk from Syria, linen from Turkey, cotton from Palestine- to sell at the Ma'an market.
The style that incorporated these colorful fabrics became known as thoub harir (silk dress). Very wide and long, it had sleeves that almost touched the ground. The fabrics were all hand-woven Syrian silk and Ikats, whose threads are tie-dyed prior to weaving.
The thoub harir was gathered at the waist by a handwoven fringed belt; women could pull the long dress over the belt so that it formed an upper layer, then knot the belt in the fron tof the dress so the fringe would show. The thoub was often worn with a coat made of Ikat silk; it could be pulled over the head like a hood or draped over the shoulders.
Both the thoub and the coat were typically yellow, orange and red; red or green triangular panels were inserted into the sides of the thoub to give it more width. the costume was crowned with an elaborate headdress consisting of a small skullcap embroidered with cross-stitching and an irjeh was covered with a black and red silk shawl that was wrapped around the bride's head, the end trailing down her back. Jewelry included a bead necklace with Ottoman coins that was worn sideways under one arm. Today Jordanians war such costumes only rarely.

Brides of the Arab World: Algeria

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- Algeria

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.


Constantine Dress

Also called a jebba, this style of long, collarless velvet gown has been worn throughout eastern Algeria sine the 19th century. Much of its charm derives from the medjbood embroidery, which uses delicate gold thread to create arabesques and patterns inspired by local flora and fauna. Also popular is fetia embroidery, executed with a heavier gold thread. Dresses are usually in blue, green or deep red, and accessorized with fine gold jewelry and a belt made of gold coins.
Originally called a gandourat ksantina, this garment later became known as a after the Fergani family, the precursors of haute couture in Constantine. Women in all regions of eastern Algeria still wear a jebba fergani on their wedding day; often, these expensive dresses become heirlooms passed down from mother to daughter.

Kabyle Dress

Worn by Berber women, this dress is made of silk printed with designs that are the same color as the fabric. It is decorated with multicolored rickrack, whose patterns vary from on Kabyle region to another. Tied around the dress is an apron, or fotta, considered the symbol of the Kabyle woman. The belt is made of colorful braided strands of wool, with pompons at each end. Dating back to the 19th century, this style was originally fashioned in wool; in the second half of the 20th century, silk, satin and brightly hued rickrack were introduced. Contemporary brides, especially those who can afford multiple outfits, often include such regional costumes among their wedding dresses (celebrations usually last for several days), accessorizing them with traditional Berber jewelry. Guests also sometimes wear this traditional style to weddings.

Brides of the Arab World: Morocco and North Africa

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- Morocco and North Africa

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.


Fez or Tetouan Wedding Caftan

Featuring hand-woven raw silk in two shades of gold, this opulent caftan was made in either Fez or Tetouan around 1920. The silk embroidery, notable for its unusually fine execution, is typical of Tetouan, the only area in Morocco where caftans were crafted by women. For weddings, these garments were worn with a simple white under dress, a belt, a headdress and lavish jewelry. Ornate caftans such as this one were donned by both Jews and Muslims on special occasions, but only Muslims wore them for weddings; the Jews of Tetouan wore an outfit called a keswah kbirah (the big outfit), which consisted of a skirt, west and jacket.

ntae Caftan

In the 19th century, caftans were embroidered only on the tip and were buttoned to the waist; early 20th century models such as this one have richer embellishments and buttons that extend to the hem. The embroidery on this red-velvet garment is emblematic of Fez, where artisans often used 22-carat gold thread (antae is a type of gold thread embroidery). The motifs augured well for the newlyweds: birds were thought to bring good luck, and flowers symbolized joy and happiness. Such elaborate caftans took a very long time to make and were accessible only to wealthy brides, who would wear them for other special occasions after the wedding.

North Africa

Silver-embroidered Wedding Costume

This early 20th century bridal costume was likely worn in the coastal areas of what are now Algeria and Tunisia. It consists of several layers and pieces: a diaphanous white shirt and voluminous Ottoman-style pantaloons under a silver embroidered and sequined top, with a large silk belt tied at the waist. The headdress is a small sequined cap covered by a large silver silk scarf that envelopes the entire outfit. The bride would wear this ensemble while seated on large cushions on a platform; relatives and guests would approach to embrace her and offer gifts of jewelry or money. It was one of a number of outfits designed for celebrations that continued for several days.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Brides of the Arab World: United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.

United Arab Emirates

Jillabeeya, Sirwal, Shalia and Burqua

Brides throughout the area now known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) traditionally wore silk or cotton outfits similar to this one. It consists of a floor-length dress (jillabeeya), trousers that are fitted at the ankles (sirwal), a headscarf (shalia) and a black mask that covers the eyebrows, nose and mouth (burqa). As was often the case in the Arab world, there was not 'wedding dress' as such; instead, a bride would wear the finest dress in the local style. What distinguished her were the henna designs on her hands and feet, her special makeup and hairstyle, and the considerable amount of gold jewelry she wore. Today's UAE brides wear Western-style white gowns, but henna rituals remain a popular custom.


Thoub al-Nashl and Darra'ah

Throughout the Arabian Peninsula, people have adopted loose, layered clothing as a means of conserving body moisture and protecting themselves from the sun. The thoub al-nashl, considered a staple of the Bahraini woman's wardrobe, is a semi-transparent overdress, made from fabrics such as chiffon or silk and lavishly decorated with gold or silver thread (reflecting an Indian influence), or silk embroidery and sequins. It is worn over the darra'ah. A distinctive feature is the huge sleeves, which can be draped over the head like a veil. Embroidery motifs are inspired by the Bahraini environment- desert, sun and palm trees.
Women have traditionally worn these costumes to celebrations such as weddings, Eid and birthday parties, and to festivities held when boats returned from a long pearl-diving expeditions. Brides also wear thoubs, choosing the highest quality silks and vivid colors such as red, green or violet, which beautifully complement the metallic threads. They are the most elaborately embroidered garments a woman will ever own, and many families today hang the bride's thoub al-nashl from the ceiling, where it can be admired by all and herald happiness and prosperity.
This emerald green wedding costume dates from 1982, but Bahrainis have worn a similar style for more than a century. It is made of Indian chiffon; the gold and silver embroidery represent the epitome of that craft.

Brides of the Arab World: Kuwait and Qatar

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- Kuwait and Qatar

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.

Kuwaiti Darra’ah and Thoub
This traditional Kuwaiti wedding outfit is made of silk embroidered with gold thread. It is similar to those worn throughout the Gulf region, where wedding ensembles typically consist of a darr’ah (dress) , thoub (overdress) and abayah (cloak). These outfits are accessorized with gold jewelry such as a hama (head accessory) a kaff (bracelet connected to five rigs), necklaces, a belt, bangles, bracelets and ankle bracelets.
Unlike those found in other Gulf States, the Kuwaiti thoub has an oval, not round, opening for the head. Brides originally wore black thoubs with embroidery around the neckline; in later years, influences from neighboring cultures led to the appearance of vibrant greens and reds embellished with rich patterns of needlework. The wealthiest families used gold thread and sometimes even attached gold coins to the dress.
Since Kuwaiti independence in 1961, brides have increasingly opted for white wedding gowns common in the West. Recently, however, they have begun reintegrating traditional costumes into their festivities, wearing the thoub and darra’ah for one part of the ceremony and the white dress for another.Qatar

Thoub al-Nashl, Darra’ah and Serwal

Both of these outfits- one off white, the other in red- consist of an Indian-silk trouser (serwal) and dress (darra’ah) worn under a baggy chiffon party dress (thoub al-nashl). All pieces are embroidered with gold thread, and the jewelry includes gold headpieces, necklaces and belts. Made in the second half of the 20th century, these are urban dresses from Doha, the capital of Qatar. The style dates from the early 20th century.
Such rich fabrics and valuable jewelry were accessible to only the wealthiest of women; those with more modest means wore similar styles made of less precious materials. After the wedding, the bride would don the dress for special occasions. This costume is still worn, although by relatives or close friends of the bride and not the bride herself. Women today tend to update the outfit, accessorizing it with contemporary jewelry.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Brides of the Arab World: Yemen

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- Yemen

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.

Bayt al-Fakih and Bajil Dress

Typical of a style popular in the towns of Bayt al-Fakih and Bajil, this garment is an excellent example of dresses worn since the early 1900s for weddings and other special occasions. It boasts a striking combination of brightly colored needlework and embroidery set against a dark cotton background; the fabric and embellishments are hand-dyed with natural pigments, including indigo.
The symmetry of the design required considerable skill. The bodice, shoulders, cuffs and upper sides of the dress are decorated with impressive hammered and braided silver work. Such pieces are often made separately then applied to a dress before it is sewn together. When the fabric of the rest of the dress wears out, these heavily embroidered sections are removed and sewn onto a new dress. The fitted silhouette is typical of Yemeni dresses past and present.

Jebal Heraz Indigo Dress

This wedding dress, made of pounded indigo-dyed cotton embroidered with gilded silver, was worn by a bride in Jebal Heraz, a mountainous area west of Sana'a. In its heyday, indigo was an enormous cash-crop for Yemen, even more than coffee at its peak. The Yemenis employed a special technique that involved pounding the cloth with heavy wooden paddles to give it a high gloss. The red triangles used throughout this dress symbolize fertility (the triangle) and protection from bleeding (the color red). The red-striped fabric that lines the front slit of the dress was imported from India. The pantaloons feature couched silver-thread embroidery and are from the same area as the dress. The silver couching on this 100 year old dress was badly frayed but was painstakingly mended prior to this exhibition by Grazia Zalfa, a talented seamstress with the Bead Society of Greater Washington.
Wadi Duan Dress

Made approximately 80 years ago, this bridal dress is from Wadi Duan, in the heart of the Hadramaut province in southeastern Yemen. The black and red cotton/silk fabric wsa woven in Syria and the green and red silk panels are of Indian origin. The gilded silver couched embroidery is Hadami and portrays vegetation and symbols important to its Bedouin wearers. The three pound silver wedding headpiece is also typical of the area; the cylinders were believed to offer amuletic protection, and the clanging bells were intended to both attract attention and frighten away evil spirits.

Sana'a Dress

Dating back to the early 1900s, this wedding dress reflects styles worn by affluent women in the capital city of Sana'a and nearby provinces. Simple caftans made of silver or gold brocade, they had sleeves that extended some 10 inches beyond the fingertips, creating a regal and graceful effect. The impressive headpiece consisted of matching brocade draped over a supporting structure and festooned with silver and coral jewelry. The bride also wore a garland of flowers, kathy and rayhan (scented herbs).
The elaborate jewelry was the most important part of the ensemble. Indeed it was often the dowry given to the bride by the groom and his family before the wedding ceremony. Silver was long the most prized metal and was often combined with coral, amber and gemstones. Yemen's silver mines made such jewelry widely affordable, and it was worn on all festive occasions. In the early 1900s, gold became the preferred choice for wedding jewelry, but in recent years, silver has regained its popularity.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brides of the Arab World: Iraq and Saudi Arabia

Arabesque Festival: Brides of the Arab World- Iraq & Saudi Arabia

All of these images and the text were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from February 23-March 15, 2009.
I took the pictures and typed out the text in the exhibit.


Mosul Dress
(dress on the left in foreground)
In 1904, a Catholic Iraqi from the city of Mosul created this dress for her own wedding. She chose a style typical of Ottoman-era fashion, one that has since disappeared. The gown is made predominantly of a handmade, gossamer-like silk called jeld al-malayka (angel skin), now produced only very rarely. It is pleated in several areas with decorative lace known as dantel (from the French dentelle) and is so delicate that the bride spent almost a full day ironing it. Sh wore the dress with gold accessories, as Christians in Mosul traditionally preferred gold to gemstones for personal adornment.

Saudi Arabia

Hijazi Dress

The Hijaz region along the Red Seais home to the oldest cosmopolitan centers of Saudi Arabia. Traders and pilgrims passed through this area (which includeMakkah and Madinah) for centuries, and contact with so many cultures resulted in remarkably beautiful local costumes that are more delicate than those found elsewhere in the Kingdom. The spectacular zibun worn by Hijazi brides is unlike any other Arabian garment. A high-necked, fitted gown, it has elbow-length sleeves and buttons down the front. A large square of fine muslin, sprinkled with small gold flowers, covers the head and flows over the gown down to the floor. The outfit is completed by matching serwal (pantaloons) and a diaphanous thoub (over dress). The particular dress, made of chiffon, silk and voile, dates from the late 1970s. It replicates a style worn for more than 150 years in this region.