This overgarment (thawb bu_ghwani) or (thawb bu_bchat) is part of a two-piece ensemble, worn with a matching tunic dress (kandurah_arabiyah talli_fatlah), also part of The Zay’s Collection (ZI1997.500656a UAE).
The two items (thawb_wa_kandurah) were designed to be worn together as an ensemble and were gifted to The Zay Collection by Sheikha Moza bint Mubarak Al Nahyan, sister of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and wife of Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. Sheikha Moza holds a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and is a childhood friend of Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli.
Before the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of UAE traditional dress. Women used to wear an overgarment (thawb) that was distinct and in contrast to the tunic dress (kandurah) underneath. Soon this evolved into matching sets known as (thawb_wa_kandurah), where the two garments were made of the same or matching fabrics and colours. By the late 1990s, this evolved further, as the two separate articles were merged into one and became attached at the neckline, utilising the inner tunic as lining and creating a combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah).
This is an example of the thawb_wa_kandurah ensemble. The overgarment thawb is made from French silk chiffon and is attached to the tunic dress kandurah by two large safety pins on each side at the shoulder line.
The main motif on fabric is large abstract starburst patterns in various colours. The smaller examples are known as bu_bchat, due to their resemblance to spilled water, while the larger ones are called bu_ghwani, referencing the large size of old 12-inch phonographic records.
The overall simple shape of an overgarment (thawb) is derived by plainly folding a length of fabric and cutting an opening (halj) at the center of the fold to allow the head to pass through, creating the neckline (halj) and central axis (bidhah). The two outer edges of the folded fabric are then stitched from the hip line down to the lower hemline, on both sides, creating two large openings for the hands to pass through forming the quintessential wide sleeves (jinan). However, in this example the fabric is simply folded to create the square shape inclusive of the right sleeve, while the left sleeve is added by attaching a panel composed of a number of smaller panels from the surplus of the same fabric to ensure the use of the whole fabric bolt (tagah), resulting in unbalanced crude stitching lines on the left side of the garment.
Adorned along the wide neckline (halj) and central axis (bidhah) with metallic silver hand-embellished (talli_fatlah) with white thread (brisam), creating an imposing geometric design with curled and undulating lines.
The bidhah has a wide oval neckline allowing the kandurah’s embroidered neckline underneath to show through. It is embellished with seven consecutive lines of talli_fatlah that surround the opening on the front and stop at the top of the shoulder line. This is followed by a chain of semi-circular scalloped shapes of the same type of talli. The outer shape of the bidhah is delineated in a square form created by a double line of talli_fatlah followed by one continuous line of talli in a looped form. The central axis of the bidhah is composed of a number of talli lines that decrease in number as the design extends to the mid-body line, ending with a geometric medallion below the navel.