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.
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.
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.