This garment was acquired through an anonymous contact on Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli social media – Instagram – platform. He was interested in Dr. Reem’s and The Zay Initiative’s endeavour in the field and offered to help. Not much is known about the person as he never revealed his name or met with Dr. Reem except he often travels between Dubai, UAE, and the south of Iran. He purchased six samples of these trousers and had them delivered to Dr. Reem via her driver.
Dr. Reem and The Zay Initiative would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to the said stranger for his kind and charitable gesture.
This is a scarlet red silk trousers (shalvar) of thick (satin) weave traditionally worn by women of Bandar Abbas and Hormozgan areas in south Iran. They are an ankle-length pair of tapered trousers loose with a gathered waistline that has an elastic fastening.
These are usually worn with a loose shift (jama) of coloured cotton with a collar (gariban) and a rectangular black scarf (makna) made of thin silk or other sheer material by older women of the region.
The cuffs are embellished with thick metallic foil embroidered (badlah) borders. The outermost edging has a (satin_stitch) embroidered black and white cotton and golden metallic thread or zari panel followed by a green wool woven strip.
This is followed by two strips of badlah over two different bases – a thin red base and a thick black. The badlah features zigzag geometric formations in a variety of styles. A broad golden band created with metallic golden zari using (blanket_stitch) style embroidery follows the two badlah strips.
A series of floral motifs are created with (chain_stitch) embroidery using ivory silk floss threads and golden zari. Two tiers of floral repeats are created using zari and different coloured – orange, pink, lavender, ivory blue, and black – silk floss threads using chain_stitch and satin_stitch style embroidery.
A zip is attached to the side of the ankles vertically to loosen or tighten the cuffs according to the wearer’s preference. The shalvar is otherwise unlined except for the cuffs which are lined with plain white cotton gauze fabric.
It is worth noting that the name badlah for this type of embroidery is although the same across Iran and South Asia it is also sometimes commonly referred to as (khus_dozi) in south Iran.
It is believed that the term badlah is derived from the phrase ‘badal kinari’ – cloud lining – popular during the Mughal period in India as net or fine gauze silk were often embroidered with metal pieces giving them the look of clouds with bright lines around them.
However, upon crossing the Gulf and reaching the Arabian Peninsula the nomenclature of the embroidery changes to (talli / tulle_bi_talli), while the cuffs of women’s trousers and shirts which are detachable and could be changed are called badlah.
These embellished broad-cuffed shalvar are not just unique to south Iran but are equally famous across the Gulf in the countries across the Arabian Peninsula such as Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, and Oman. The quality of craftsmanship on this shalvar is so refined that it looks almost commercially produced in a factory, while in reality they are made at home by women of the region.
With cross-cultural lineages running deep between the communities living on either side of the Gulf, it is thus no wonder, that material culture such as this has found firm grounds on both sides.