Ghalib al Inizi is an antique dealer, based in Kuwait. In 2018, he reached out to Dr. Reem Tariq el Mutwalli through The Zay Initiative’s Instagram account and expressed great interest in supporting The Zay Initiative’s activities. To date, he has helped The Zay Initiative source numerous articles of dress, not just from Kuwait, but from many other areas across the Arab world.
This rare but typical Kuwaiti overgarment (thawb msarah) or (thawb mkhawas zari) is made out of black reticulate silk in point d’Esprit style tulle (tur) and is woven in a scattered five-petal flower pattern.
Sewn-in Kuwait between the 1950s and 1960s, it has vertical and horizontal panels that create an overall traditional T-shape, with large side gussets (ibt), of the same fabric, which separate the wide upper sleeve panels (kmum) from its lower panels (bnqiyah).
The large oval neck opening, is cut further down the fold of the central panel, and so, when the thawb is worn, it sits off the shoulder and the back end hangs longer than the front end, creating an elegant train (thayil).
It is heavily hand embroidered with gilded metallic thread (zari). Hence, the name (thawb mkhawas zari) or (thawb mgasab / mqasab). The embroidery is overlapped in shiny gold colour disks or sequins (tirtir), forming a running chain of large medallions pattern, in two distinct vertical lines, covering the stitching lines that define the central dress panel (bdan) both front and back. Thus, the name (thawb msarah).
The same pattern defines the upper line of the large side gusset (ibt), while the whole diamond-shaped gusset (tkhrasah / tnfayah) is further accentuated with intersecting lines of hand embellished sequins (tirtir).
In addition, the characteristic oval neckline is densely embellished, creating a glittery yoke using hand-applied sequins (tirtir). The embroidered sections are fortified with a double layer of the same net (tur) fabric.
This overgarment (thawb) is customarily worn over underpants (sirwal) and a tunic dress (dara’ah) or a waist-cinched dress (nafnuf) at special social occasions, weddings, and feasts.
Large oval-shaped necklines, be it plain or embellished, are characteristic of the early 1920s -1960s overgarments (athwab) worn in Iraq, Kuwait, and by the Bedouins of the levant as well as Egyptian peasants. Bahraini overgarments (athwab) are recognised by their fitted round neckline with a central slit that soon became widely imported by most of the Arab Gulf region from as early as the 1980s. While in the UAE, overgarments (athwab) are distinguished by their square-shaped neckline.
The embroidery is carried out before the neckline opening is cut open, for added support during the embroidery process and to show the garment is new. This is significant to note as embroidery is commonly reused.
Traditional women’s dress in Kuwait, Salwa al Maghribi, 2006