These underpants (Sarwal) were purchased on the understanding that the seller would remain anonymous. This is to be expected with such an intimate garment, due to the prevailing notions of modesty in Arab cultures. The owner’s reserve (Hishim) means that we cannot provide the personal history for this object.
White calico cotton underpants sarwal, were designed for daily use and were generally worn under a tunic dress (Kandurah). Traditionally, they were decorated with a few simple lines cord/braiding (Talli) that made of metallic ribbon (Khus) or a few lines of machine embroidery (Khwar) on the ankle cuffs or as an alternative to the silver ribbon (Badlah). By the 1990s, the adornment evolved from the heavier machine embroidered cuffs (Zari) to new synthetic, stretchy forms of lace (Dantail) border. This, along with the replacement of the old-fashioned cotton waist draw strings (Nsai’ah) with elastic, eliminated the need for fasteners and paved the way for the use of stretched synthetic fabric leggings with the onset of the millennium. As a result, the shape of the underpants sarwal evolved into a more tapered, less baggy format that fits better under tighter fitting western style dresses.
This particular example has synthetic elastic cuffs adorned in iron-on, clear diamante crystals (Mfasas), used prior to the introduction of their more expensive Swarovski counterparts. It is fastened at the waistline using an elasticated cored, while the stretchy nature of these cuffs illuminates the need for any of the earlier zippers or fasteners.
In due course, the adoption of modern leggings means that this type of underpants Sarwal is mostly a thing of the past. They are now commonly worn in rural areas, by the older generation, or as part of traditional costume.