This piece of garment was purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli from an independent dealer in Paris in 2021 to add to and enhance The Zay Initiative Collection.
This is braided metal wire (Sirma)/(Tel_Sirma) – silver – embroidered Cutwork waist length sleeveless vest (Yelek) with round neck and braided silver buttons.
The field of the Yelek is constructed of a thick Sirma embellished Cutwork panel featuring floral and (Paisley) motifs as well as braided panels around the hems and the seams. 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.
Beads of (Turquoise) blue colour, possibly of plastic are sporadically placed in the inbuilt collets to highlight the piece. The beads also highlight the centres of the braided faux buttons. Two tassels featuring braided and knotted silver threads hang from the two front panels.
The Sirma is embroidered on the base using (Couching) style embroidery and the panel is attached to a peach pink silk fabric of (Satin) weave while the lining is made of a jade green silk Satin fabric of Satin.
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 sizable Balkan population within the Empire was another. Therefore, it is not surprising to find several articles of clothing and their terms similar between the two cultures.
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.
Although, Entari became more and more ceremonial over a period of time (üçetek_Entari), particularly for travelling served some practical purposes. Wearers would often fold and tuck the front parts into their waistband, thus creating a layering that would not just look good and assist them in moving around but also create two pouches where the wearer could store food and sometimes small stones to use with slingshots against potential attacks on the road.
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), extra Entari, as well as coats of various sizes and lengths.
Belts adorned with elaborate embroidery and ornate buckles, or just embroidered sashes (Cummerbund) were utilised 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 shalvār 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 19thand early 20th centuries in the north-western provinces such as the Marmara region in present-day Türkiye, as it had a significant Balkan population.
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