This piece of garment was purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli as a set of ensembles from an independent dealer, in Istanbul in 2021 to add to and enhance The Zay Initiative Collection.
This is a belt or waistband (Kusak) constructed of a black felt fabric with (Paisley) shaped bronze buckles with hook and eye fastening and iron loops.
The felt field is embroidered in with possibly woollen Floss threads in orange, lavender, pastel Coral, and beige. It has a central wavy vine executed in (Satin_stitch) style embroidery and has small star-shaped flowers along the troughs.
The underside is lined with a thin Gauze-like cotton fabric which was originally possibly of a pale pink shade. Part of the lining is completely frayed. The buckles are made of solid bronze, possibly die cast in the shape of a horizontal Paisley motif mirroring one another with iron loops on the underside through which the fabric of the belt could be passed and adjusted.
The base of the buckle has a hook and eye feature also in bronze for fastening. The inside of the Paisley features intricate foliage design. The buckles have parts that have been tarnished with patina and the iron loops on the underside are completely rusted. In Turkish, the Paisley design is also known as the Indian knot or “hindi bukağı” as it was often used in Indian textiles and was thought to resemble a knot.
The previous collector pointed at its possible Balkan origin dating back to the 19th century when the region was under Ottoman rule and influence which is quite possible given the sizeable Balkan population in the northwestern provinces and regions such as Marmara as well as urban centres such as Eskeshehir and Kütahya in the interiors.
An examination of historical artworks from Iran reveals a progressive evolution in the style of waist girdles which eventually evolved into an Ottoman Kusak.
During the early 16th century, it was customary for individuals in Iran to wear a leather strap adorned with metal plaques. Subsequently, this design gave way to a narrower textile band fastened with gold clasps.
Thomas Herbert, a member of an English embassy to Iran in the late 1620s, made noteworthy observations regarding the length of these sashes and the significant variations in their materials.
According to him individuals of different social statuses distinguished themselves through the quality of their band and the accompanying plain, but opulent fabric towels used underneath them.
These fabrics were often made of silk and gold for nobilities, while the merchants wore them woven with silver, and lower-ranking individuals wore them in silk and wool.
Similar sashes were also prevalent in the realms, adjacent to the Safavid cultural sphere – Ottoman and Mughal. By the late 17th century, this fashion trend had not just been widely accepted in the Ottoman Empire but transcended beyond it. It had reached parts of eastern Europe, such as Poland and Russia.
Thus, the courtiers in these regions embraced the use of textiles and fashion trends imported from Ottoman Turkey as status symbols. While the style of dress amongst the aristocracy in this region as well as the Ottoman Empire gradually started drawing inspiration from the West, the popularity of the sash endured as an indelible mark of Ottoman influence.
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