A part of an ensemble set along with a jacket (ZI2015.500242 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 pleated skirt made of black colour silk fabric. Primarily hand stitched featuring thin crushed pleats this wrap-around skirt 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 wide linen waistband with thin linen ribbons for securing it around the waist. The skirt is extensively pleated with a kind of binding technique. The fabric for this kind of pleated skirt is usually first soaked in starch and then pleated by hand, especially into a fine accordion pattern, then it is sprayed again with a sticky substance before sewing the pleats in place. Next, they are hung like cocoons for drying.
The hem of this skirt is intricately hand-stitched, a mark of fine craftsmanship and skill. A simple geometric (satin_stitch) embroidery in the shape of a curved diamond in purple and burgundy floss placed alternately adorns the hem of the skirt along with tiny pieces of metal – tin/silver – foils which are beaten into the fabric.
Interestingly, this type of metal foil-embedded embroidery can be seen in abundance across the Middle East and is called (talli), thus emphasising the connection along the old Silk Road.