Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli was initially contacted on Instagram by Mariam Khalfan Mohammed Khalifah al Maydi al Badwawi, who offered to volunteer and help source old artifacts from the northern Emirates for the Zay Collection. Mariam has been an invaluable addition to our team, as she connects easily with people and patiently explains our role, convincing others to help the cause.
This rare overgarment (thawb khwar zari thayil) is one of her finds, she located it at an old store in a remote area of Hatta. The Asian owner who made this garment was in his eighties he was closing down and this was part of the leftover dusty inventory stored in the back.
This floral print, sheer cotton overgarment (thawb), has a white base printed in a repetitive floral blue and purple motif.
The overall simple shape is derived by plainly folding a length of fabric and cutting an opening (halj) at the center of the fold to allow the head to pass through, creating the neckline (bidhah) and the central axis. The two outer edges of the folded fabric are then stitched from the hip line down to the lower hemline, on both sides, creating two large openings for the hands to pass through forming the quintessential wide sleeves (jinan).
The neckline and central axis are adorned with gilded machine embroidery (khwar zari). The embroidery is in naïve metallic silver (zari) floral shapes that feature a dense metallic gold base (zari) highlighted in dark green silk thread (brisam), a style very popular in the Emirates from the 1950s to the late 1970s.
Light white voile cotton is typically used as lining to enforce the fabric and enable the compact machine embroidery on the relatively sheer fabric, with raw-cut outlines remaining clearly visible from underneath as the gown is worn.
Despite the naivety of the overall shape of the garment the excess fabric at the back is left to drape un cut to create a very primitive form of train. While the hemlines are left unhemmed.