This piece of garment was purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli as a set of ensembles from a dealer, in Istanbul in 2020 to add to and enhance The Zay Initiative Collection.
This is a purple and ivory vertical striped silk waistcoat with metal – possibly gold – thread (Sirma)/(Tel_Sirma) embroidered embellishment.
The field of the jacket is constructed of silk and cotton stripe patterned woven (çitari) fabric. A front open waistcoat, the front panels of the Yoke are embroidered using possibly gold Sirma in (Couching) style featuring loops and waves to form floral and geometric patterns.
There are two metal tab buttons along the placket for fastening it in the front. A similar design reflects on the cuffs and around the front neckline of the piece too. The sleeves are tapered and gathered at the cuffs with pleats.
The design around the neckline is placed along the collar bones of the wearer which extends diagonally inwards like embroidered lapels. The piece is lined with a fine ivory cotton fabric.
Although a fairly recent piece dating back to the 1970s, it has been constructed like the traditional garments prevalent during the Ottoman rule, especially during the 19th century.
Prior to the widespread acceptance of European clothing in the Ottoman Empire, individuals – men and women – residing in urban areas, regardless of their faith or social standing, typically adorned themselves with three primary articles of clothing.
These included a calf-length cotton undershirt or (Gömlek), featuring long sleeves, which was worn over a pair of loose trousers known as (Shalvar). Additionally, they would wear a long-sleeved robe called an Entari, reaching the ankles or floor.
Additional layers were added as necessary, based on weather conditions, social occasions, and social status. These layers encompassed items such as waistcoats (Cepken), short jackets (Yelek) or (Jilek), extra Entari, as well as coats of various sizes and lengths. Belts adorned with elaborate embroidery and ornate buckles, or just embroidered sashes as (Cummerbund) were utilized to accentuate the bust, waist, and hips, creating a defined silhouette.
Although, the Entari was common throughout the Ottoman Empire, layering with a Cepken and a Yelek over a Gömlek and a pair of loose Shalvar was most common in the Balkan regions, an influence that widely spread through the rest of the Ottoman Empire and was especially popular in c. late 19th and early 20th centuries in the north-western provinces such as the Marmara region in present-day Türkiye, as it had a significant Balkan population.
The intriguing history of çitari fabric unfolds within the Turkish diaspora during the 18th-century Ottoman era when other various novel fabrics gained prominence.
Distinguished by its unique attributes, this fabric features slender, parallel vertical stripes in contrasting colours, reminiscent of the strings of a musical instrument called the çitar.
Composed of tightly woven silk (Warp) and cotton (Weft) yarns, the çitari fabric stands apart from other striped textiles due to its specific weaving technique, coloured Warp patterns, choice of raw materials, and superior craftsmanship.
Notably, regions such as Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Tunceli, Diyarbakir, Tokat, Antalya, Harput, Yalvaç, Izmir, and Denizli were renowned for their exquisite çitari weaves during this period. Such was the fabric’s popularity that it even led to the importation of çitari from India and Damascus.
As such The Zay Initiative has in its possession pieces that were constructed of similar fabric that were sourced from the Levant region of the Arab world, especially Palestine and Syria. One such piece worth mentioning is a tunic dress from Palestine – ZI1998.500922 PALESTINE.
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 these cultures.
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