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 overgarment (thawb manthur) as it is known in Kuwait, is made of light, plain black reticulate silk tulle (tur). Sewn-in vertical and horizontal panels that create an overall traditional T-shape, with small side gussets (ibt), of the same fabric, which separate the wide upper sleeve (kum) panel from the lower (bnqiyah / bnayiq) sleeve panels.
The large oval neck opening is characteristic of Kuwaiti and Iraqi dress in the pre-1960s and is precisely what makes this article of dress such a rare find. It is cut further down the fold on the front 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).
Scattered (manthur) across the whole overgarment (thawb) are hand embroidered clusters of four metallic gilded sequins (tirtir) forming small clover flower shapes. Hence, the name (thawb manthur). As these small clover flower shapes resemble polka-dots it is also known as (thawb bu_nunah).
The wide open oval neckline is accentuated with 5 cm wide, scalloped, hand embroidered lines of metallic gilded sequins (tirtir).
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