This special occasion overgarment (thawb) is a copy of a more expensive version, also in the Zay Collection (ZI.1989.5005 UAE). The original was worn by Rodhah al Mansuri, Um Ali, for the first time during her own wedding week, afterwards, she would often lend it to brides for their henna ceremonies (laylat_al_hinnah). This illustrates the fact that until the late 1980s Emirati brides did not follow the current custom of wearing green for their henna night, a practice acquired from neighbouring Bahrain and other Arab gulf states.
Ladies loaned dresses like these to the community as a form of charitable (sadaqah) social and tribal bonding. The original garment was in high demand for henna nights and, fearful of loss or damage, Um Ali commissioned this garment as a simpler, less expensive copy to loan out.
Rodhah al Mansuri, Um Ali, was born in Al Ain in the 1960s, she finished high school after getting married at the age of 14, through the state adult education program. She bore 5 daughters and 4 sons. She comes from an affluent family so she is quite a socialite and she enjoys helping those in need within her community and tribe.
The garment’s fabric is a loose weave, net-like, silk (bu_gafas). The central panel (bdinah) is in purple while the wide sleeves (jinan) are composed of horizontal panels (myaza’), in yellow, purple, and orange.
The neckline (bidhah) is adorned with (talli) work in white cotton thread (hdub) and silver metallic straw (khus). By using a running stitch, and continuously looping metallic straw with cotton thread, a braided strand is created in a style known as (talli_fatlah). This strand (fatlah) is then applied by hand to the garment, creating various looped, straight, and circular lines. The gown also features a train or tail (thayil).
With time, as in this example, the neck opening became wider to allow more of the neckline and upper chest area to be visible. This wider neck also allowed the decorative work on the neckline of the tunic dress (kandurah) underneath to be visible. This in turn pushed the decorative heavy adornment work outwards, spilling over the shoulders and flowing down the upper sleeves. The length and width of the embroidered central axis of the thawb also became more exaggerated and elaborate over time.
The application of such heavy embroidery to a delicate sheer fabric, causes it to stiffen and pull the whole overgarment (thawb) from the front. To fix it in place, safety pins were used in the interior at shoulder points to attach it to tunic dress underneath. In time, this too evolved into metallic silver snaps (siq_w_biq) and eventually to transparent plastic ones, and eventually led to the combination overgarment tunic dress (thawb_kandurah) at the start of the new millennium.
Keywords: myaza’, khus, dharb , talli