On a field trip, in 1987, to remote areas in the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah, Dr. Reem Tariq el Mutwalli, met with a number of ladies to exchange information and collect data.
Amnah Abdullah, then age 16, became very engaged with the overall discussions and showed the group a number of her own articles of dress saved from her wedding dowery (zihbah) earlier that year.
She had great ambitions to carry on with her education, counting on the encouragement and support of her loving paternal cousin and husband. A few months later she contacted Dr. Reem and expressed interest in selling two of her dresses; this ensemble, together with a red metallic embellished (talli) tunic (kandurah) (ZI.1987.500501 UAE). In time, both were added to The Zay Initiative Collection.
Prior to the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of traditional dress. Women used to wear an overgarment (thawb) that contrasted with their tunic dress (kandurah). This later evolved into a matching set known as thawb_wa_kandurah as is the case in this example.
By the late 1990s, the thawb_wa_kandurah evolved further, as these two separate articles of dress were merged into one, becoming attached at the neckline, using the inner tunic as lining and creating a combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah),
reserved for social events.
However, this article of dress is a rare example of a combination overgarment (thawb) and a waist-cinched dress (gawan). Illustrating an early 1980s experiment to manipulate the traditional tunic (kandurah) into a more western style silhouette. Thus, the arabisation of the word gawan from the English ‘gown’.
The typical shape and outline of the overgarment (thawb) is retained, but the undergarment, customarily, a tunic (kandurah) style is substituted with a western style waist-cinched dress (gawan) as a sign of modernity. The two garments are stitched together at the neckline creating one outfit.
The overgarment (thawb) is composed of sheer black synthetic net fabric adorned with small print, 1 cm wide, silvery gold diamond-shaped motifs. It is devoid of any embellishment, thus known as (saqِati), attributing it to daily home use.
The dress (gawan) underneath is made out of striped (bu_glaym), satin cotton material known locally as (bu_nsai’ah). The term (bu_nsai’ah) is a reference to the chevron-like lines that resemble the cotton weave of drawstring cord (nsai’ah) found on undergarments (sarawil).