This garment was acquired through an anonymous contact on Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli’s 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 an ankle-length, tapered, pair of white silk trousers (shalvar) of (satin) weave, loose with a gathered waistline that has an elastic fastening.
Traditionally worn by women of Bandar Abbas and Hormozgan areas in south Iran. These are usually worn with a loose shift (jama) of coloured cotton with collar (gariban) and a rectangular black scarf (makna) made of thin silk or other sheer material by older women of the region.
The cuffs of the shalvar are embellished with thick metal foil (badlah), metal thread (zari), and silk floss thread embroidered borders and strips of woven woollen ribbons. The outermost edging is embellished with golden zari alternately embroidered with crimson red cotton thread forming diagonal panels, followed by a plain green woollen strip which in turn is followed by a strip of golden and silver badlah over a crimson base and finally another plain woollen strip in burgundy.
The innermost strip is the widest with silver badlah work in a zig-zag geometric pattern over a burgundy base. The cuff ends with a wide patch of floral design in three tiers.
The outermost tier is a row of scallop repeats made of golden zari and yellow sequins almost transparent, outlined with burgundy silk floss thread. The next tier is a floral bouquet arrangement with an inverted droplet shape at the centre in golden zari. This is also highlighted with burgundy silk floss thread.
The final tier is a repeat of two types of floral motifs in golden zari and silk floss threads in a variety of colours – green, burgundy, orange, pink, brown, jade, ivory and yellow.
The cuffs have zip fastenings to loosen or tighten the trousers at the ankles according to the wearer’s convenience. 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 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.