This article is part of a whole lot of 14 articles listed (ZI2021.500970.1 UAE to ZI2021.500970.14 UAE) obtained in one consignment.
Instagram has been a useful tool to connect the Zay team with audiences all around the globe. Many have connected with us during those few budding years of our existence and have donated articles of dress or adornment to help support our cause and preserve the memory of their loved ones.
While dealers, antique and vintage auction houses have noticed us as well, and many reach out to us to inform us of any great finds when they come across their attention. It was through such a situation that an antique dealer came across this article among a large and more comprehensive lot and offered it to The Zay Initiative.
Though the original owner asked to remain nameless, based on the quality and style, it can be well surmised they belonged to a well-connected person possibly from the direct entourage of al Nahyan family in Al Ain, where these items were possibly obtained by the former as generous gifts from the latter.
Before the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of the traditional dress. Women used to wear a thawb that contrasted with the tunic dress (kandurah). Soon this evolved into a matching set known as (thawb_wa_kandurah). By the 1990s, it developed further, as the two pieces were merged into one, attached at the neckline to become a unified piece or combination overgarment tunic called (thawb_kandurah) reserved for social events.
However, here we have a rare and important example of how for a brief period, in the early eighties, experimenting took place to try to manipulate the traditional overgarment (thawb) and tunic (kandurah) into a more western style silhouette, resulting in a waist-singed dress (gawan), as the term, Arabised from the English – gown – attests.
The typical shape, outline and embroidery treatment accentuating the neckline and central axis (bidhah) on overgarments (athwab) was retained, together with sleeve cuffs (hyul) typical of those applied on tunic dresses (kanadir). Resulting in a western silhouette with a local amalgamation.
The floral motif of gold brocaded (mzarai) on a navy coloured sheer chiffon silk, again, echoes fabrics typically reserved for overgarments (athwab), while the inner denser navy satin silk lining parallels what is customarily applied for tunics (kanadir).
The garment is densely machine embroidered (mkhawar), in gold plated as well as silver thread (khwar_tulah), with arabesque motifs accentuating the neckline (bidhah) and the central axis, as well as the sleeve cuffs (hyul). Thus, it represents a physical example of the traditional Arabic saying (zinah_wa_khazinah), meaning “beauty and wealth in one”. The silver was employed to demonstrate style and reflect social status, but could also be melted down and sold in times of need