This type of tunic dress (kandurah_arabiyah) is part of an ensemble called (thawb_wa_kandurah) and was worn underneath the matching overgarment (thawb mkhawas talli rainbow) (ZI1980.50047 UAE).
This ensemble was commissioned by Sheikhah Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan from the late Fatima bint Saad, a renowned palace dressmaker. Sheikhah Salama is the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. She is a childhood friend of Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli.
The dress was designed for the elite as occasion wear and indeed Dr. Reem watched her friend wear it on many different social occasions before it was gifted to her. She, in turn, wore it through the 1990s before it became an early, core part of the Zay Collection.
The garment’s base fabric is French silk chiffon which features gold brocading (mkhawas) or (mzarai) in a series of randomly placed circular shapes of different sizes, called (bu_tilah) or (bu_rbu’).
To create the adornment on the neckline (halj) and sleeve cuffs (swarah) or (hyul), two distinct methods of applying talli work were employed: talli (bu_fatlah), a braid is created by continuously looping one gold metallic thread (khus) with red silk thread (brisam) in a running stitch. The braid is then applied by hand in geometric forms and swirls to create the overall design. The heart shape designs created by the braid are filled in using raised work or stumpwork with metallic straw in rainbow lustre talli (rainbow).
This type of tunic dress (kandurah_arabiyah) is specific to the UAE. It has a vertical slit (shaj) on the left side of the neckline halj and extends down to the chest, and it is believed that its origins go back to the Punjabi (kurta).
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).
Once this garment was seen in public it led to the popularisation of multi-coloured metallic threads and the style was much copied by other dressmakers because of the prominence and trend setting influence of Sheikhah Salama.