Part of an ensemble set along with a skirt (ZI2015.500242a ASIA) and a waist ornament or apron (ZI2015.500242b ASIA) was acquired by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli in 2015 from Rare Earth Tribal Art Gallery. Chiang Mai, Thailand.
It is an original ethnic wear for women of the Black Miao tribe of Jianhe County in Guizhou, China from the c. 1950s. It was constructed completely by hand by a woman of the tribe in c.1958.
This is an ethnic Miao/Hmong women’s jacket made of black colour silk fabric. Primarily hand stitched with separately woven fabric this piece embodies the cultural history of the Miao people – an ethnic group concentrated in the Guizhou province of south-west China.
It is quite easy to distinguish people of one Hmong tribe and their geographical location from the others simply by the wide variety of styles in their clothes. As such, this all-black ensemble clearly belongs to what is locally popular as the “Black Miao” tribe – called so because they predominantly wear black clothes – from Jianhe County, Guizhou.
Starched silk dyed in (indigo) and completely hand stitched this piece has a separately woven strip in silk floss and metal – tin/silver – foil hand-stitched to the collar. The weave on this strip is a geometric meandering pattern resembling a Greek key – a geometric meandering pattern resembling a maze – designed in dark purple and burgundy. The two ends of the collar have metal threads tied in (macrame) style knots hanging in fringes. A long-running stitch in white thread along the collar stands out. It possibly serves as a decorative element but its function to further secure the heavy metal woven collar cannot be completely ignored.
The back of the jacket has a separately woven and embellished rectangular piece hand-stitched to it. This piece is also woven in a similar geometric meandering pattern in purple and burgundy silk floss threads and has embedded metal foil embellishment – possibly hammered – creating another layer of the same pattern but on a larger scale. This rectangular piece too has twisted silk threads that are knotted in macrame style and hang as long tassels. Parts of these tassels are wrapped in metal–silver/tin – foils adding to their exquisite quality and craftsmanship.
Interestingly, both string knotting in macrame style as well as this type of metal foil embroidery can be seen in abundance across the Middle East and is called (talli), thus emphasizing the connection along the old Silk Road.