This tunic (kandurah) is part of a two-piece ensemble, worn with matching overgarment (thawb bu_ghwani) or (thawb bu_bchat), also part of The Zay’s Collection (ZI1997.500656 UAE).
The two items were designed to be worn together as an overgarment and tunic dress (thawb_wa_kandurah) and were gifted to the Zay Collection by Sheikha Moza bint Mubarak Al Nahyan, sister of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and the 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.
This tunic kandurah is known as (kandurah_arabiyah) and is specific to the UAE, though its origin is believed to emanate from the Punjabi kurta. Its defining feature is the vertical slit (shaj) on the left side of the neckline (halj) that extends down the chest. It functioned as a means to enlarge the fitted neckline opening (halj) and allow the head to pass through. In more recent versions the shaj has lost this function and become purely decorative.
We can accurately date this garment to the 1990s because of the presence yet restrained nature of the side slit (shaj) design. Where it seems to only open halfway along the outline. It is still functional but leans towards the decorative. After the millennium, wider necklines rendered the shaj obsolete becoming purely decorative detected only through embroidery renderings.
Made from plain satin silk fabric it is attached to the matching thawb by means of two large safety pins on each side of the shoulder line. 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 kandurah underneath, in later styles the two garments would often match, as in these examples.
The adornment on the neckline shaj and sleeve cuffs (hyul) are decorated with the same type of mono-coloured (talli_fatlah) found on the matching thawb. The neckline on both garments features an almost identical design, 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 side slit shaj continues a short distance below the neckline halj and is created by six lines of talli featuring looped decorative eyelets.
In this example, the slit is closed with metal snaps (siq_w_biq). At the time when this kandurah_arabiyah was sewn, this was a symbol of modernity and social status compared to older versions, in which ball buttons made of cotton thread (’igmah) and thread loops (ghiram) were used.