This combination overgarment tunic dress (thawb_kandurah), previously worn by Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan bin Mohammed al Nahyan, was displayed at the exhibition accompanying the launch of the first edition of the book Sultani: Traditions Renewed; Changes in Women’s Traditional Dress in the UAE during the reign of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan 1966-2004, by Dr. Reem El Mutwalli.
Where two launch events took place; a public launch at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2011, under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan; and a private reception at the palace of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayid al Nahyan, son of UAE president, hosted by his wife Sheikha bint Saif al Nahyan. Attended by most female members of Al Nahyan family, when each donated one outfit to said exhibit, to be preserved by the author and added to the Zay collection.
Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, wife of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, is the assistant to the Chairman of the ERC for women’s affairs, and chairperson of the higher committee for Ataya initiative, and a close friend of Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli.
Before the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of the traditional dress. Women used to wear an overgarment (thawb) that contrasted with the tunic dress (kandurah). Soon this evolved into a matching set known as (thawb_wa_kandurah). By the 1990s, it developed further, as the two identical pieces were merged into one, attached at the neckline as they became a unified piece or combination overgarment tunic called (thawb_kandurah) reserved for social events.
This is a unique example by all means, as the three-layered highly stylized overgarment thawb is a clear departure from the traditional style. Three layers of different lengths of French metallic silk tulle (tur) are used. The top, shortest layer is in light purple, followed by pistachio coloured layer sandwiched in between the inner most and longer layer in nude. All three layers are heavily hand embroidered (shak) in an arabesque floral motif using matching silk threads (brisam) in subdued colours, mixed with antique silver threads (zari), encrusted with beads and crystals. The embroidery is carried around the neckline area in a V-shape, as well as a 30cm wide area covering the whole front and back lower hemlines giving it a rich and elegant look.
The sleeve cuffs (hyul) of the inner matching pistachio coloured satin silk tunic (kandurah), now lining, are treated in the same matching embroidery and adornment.
The garment is a testament to the evolution of style, refinement in taste and highly skilled craftsmanship of local Emirati tailoring, compared to items from the last century.