Part of an ensemble with seven other pieces that are also part of the collection (ZI2018.500640a ASIA, ZI2018.500640b ASIA, ZI2018.500640c ASIA, ZI2018.500640d ASIA, ZI2018.500640e ASIA, ZI2018.500640d ASIA, ZI2018.500640e ASIA).
This piece of garment was purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli as a set of ensembles from Jade Bréval, an independent collector from France in 2018 to add to and enhance The Zay Initiative collection.
Ms Jade Bréval who had travelled for over 15 years in and around Türkiye had collected items such as this from shops and individuals in small villages and towns that she visited.
This is a multicoloured wool embroidered apron (önlük) on a woven burgundy woollen base with beads, pompoms, and ribbon embellishments.
The field of the önlük is embroidered with orange, pink, blue, (Turquoise) blue /(Pheroza)/(Firuze), purple, black, and ivory wool featuring triangular, and rhombus geometric shapes executed with (Cross_stitch) style embroidery.
A black embroidered panel divides the apron or önlük vertically in two halves with added pompoms and blue possibly wooden beads. Each side of the panel features a series of triangles encasing a floral pattern.
Similar elements are reflected in the two borders on the sides with pompoms of different coloured wool – pink, blue, Turquoise, orange, white, and purple – with beads forming a decorative embellishment.
The bottom hemline is decorated in three tiers of geometric shapes and patterns as well as similar beads and pompoms hanging from the edge. The top corners have black and pink braided woollen ribbons attached for tying it around the waist of the wearer.
Although attributed to a special Tapestry weave practiced by the Alevi Turkmen of the region by the previous collector, it was established upon closer perusal that the embellishments on the önlük were not woven but embroidered.
Irrespective of its region of origin or acquisition it is similar to the Balkan examples from the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially Romanian (Fota). Aprons such as these perhaps became common throughout the Ottoman Empire and particularly widespread in the north-western provinces, such as the Marmara region in present-day Türkiye, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because of its sizeable Balkan population.
Interestingly, this kind of embroidered önlük also closely resembles the traditional Iraqi shoulder mantels (Charuga) (ZI2022.500999.7 IRAQ and ZI2022.500999.15 IRAQ) in its embellishment and design elements. Additionally, while the word Fota which is derived from the classical Persian word for bath towel (Futa) means an apron, a similar sounding word in Arabic (Futah) also derived from the same classical Persian word denotes any cloth that covers the head and the upper body.
At its peak, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents and served as the crossroads between the East and the West – the Fertile Crescent, the Levant, Eastern Europe including the Balkans till the southern edge of the Great Hungarian Plain, Northern Africa, and Eastern Mediterranean.
After the conquest of the Arab world in c. 1516-1517 CE its control over the Middle East lasted for four centuries until the early 20th century with the onset of WW I and the Arab Revolt. These four hundred years witnessed many instances of mutual Arab and Ottoman cultural influences and exchanges. Through areas such as social life and art – decorative and performing –we come across several instances of Arab and Turkish culture blending together through the centuries.
Just as European fashion was often inspired by the French court this socio-cultural blending between Ottoman Turkey and the Middle East was clearly reflected in its fashion and material culture.
Thus, while emulating Ottoman fashion as the mark of class in the Arab world was one side of the puzzle adapting Eastern European fashion particularly Balkan as part of mainstream couture culture because of the sizeable Balkan population within the Empire was another. Therefore, it is not surprising to find several articles of clothing and their terms similar between the two cultures.
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