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This overgarment (thawb) is part of an ensemble together with tunic dress (kandurah) (ZI2021.500971.3 UAE), veil (shaylah) (ZI2021.500971.3b UAE), and a group of imitation jewellery in traditional UAE style: necklace (mriyah um shnaf) (ZI2021.500971.3c UAE), hair accessory (hyar) (ZI2021.500971.3d UAE), & earrings (kwashi) (ZI2021.500971.3e UAE).
This garment named (thawb Ftayim) is part of a five-piece ensemble that was awarded first prize at the Zay Art of UAE Dress Design Competition held by The Zay Initiative in conjunction with Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown in 2021 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UAE.
The outfit was donated by the designer Shaikha AL Gaithi to The Zay Initiative and will be included in the Fanan: The Art of Dress Exhibition, curated by The Zay Initiative at Zeman Awwal, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, from 28 January to 28 March 2022.
The exhibition will showcase the intersecting relationship between Art and Fashion while continuing to document the evolution of UAE traditional dress through the works of five UAE designers and five UAE artists. Together we will explore what fashion and heritage mean to contemporary Emirati women.
Shaikha AL Gaithi, a Sharjah-based, mother to two boys, holds a bachelor’s degree in Islamic history and is a self-taught UAE designer. She established her workshop in 2008 and was awarded the prestigious role of designing the traditional outfits for the young hostesses during the opening ceremony at Dubai Expo 2020 in October 2021, where she created three particular styles. She donated an example of each style to The Zay Initiative’s collection.
Before the 1980s, it was common to employ contrasting colours and techniques within the components of UAE traditional dress. Women used to wear an overgarment (thawb) that was distinct and in contrast to the tunic dress (kandurah) underneath. Soon this evolved into matching sets known as (thawb_wa_kandurah), where the two garments were made of the same or coordinating fabrics and colours. By the late 1990s, this evolved further, as the two separate articles were merged into one and became attached at the neckline, using the inner tunic as lining and creating a combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah).
This is an example of the thawb_wa_kandurah ensemble, designed to represent the 50th UAE national day anniversary and the Expo 2020 dubai. Its draws from the past, connecting the then and the now, linking the present to the future.
The designer chose to incorporate panelling in reference to the traditional myaza’ and included a short train in reference to the traditional thawb thayil.
Traditionally, the (myaza’) evolved out of frugality, when garments were made from several pieces of expensive fabric remnants. Over time it came to be recognized as a style in itself called (myaza’), (mfahah) or (myarah).
She was adamant to employ traditional elements going as far as hand-dying the silk chiffon with (wars), turmeric, rosemary, mahlab, saffron, nutmeg to obtain the vibrant orange colour, and carmine, a natural pigment derived from the cochineal scale insect for the purplish fuchsia (busi) colour.
Pearl beads are used to reference the pearl trade associated with the area, while metallic gold and coloured cotton (talli_fatlah) represents traditional craftwork. The costume gilded metal coins reference traditional gold coin embellishments (hruf) or (mshakhis).
The designer incorporated ribbed donut-shaped golden-coloured metal beads she found by chance while rummaging the marketplace in India a few years ago. They lend themselves perfectly to two important elements;
They resemble the logo of Expo 2020, that was inspired by a 4000-year-old gold ring, unearthed at the Saruq Al Hadid site in Al Marmoom back in 2002 when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai discovered the archaeological site while he was flying over the area and noticed the irregular ripples on the sand dunes. He unveiled this logo based on the ancient gold ring at a grand ceremony at the Armani Hotel, at Burj Khalifa in March 2016 and the actual ring is on display at the Saruq Al-Hadid Museum.
The round shape depicts the Indo-Arab number 5 character symbolising the 50th anniversary of the UAE celebrated in 2021.
Unlike the traditional (thawb) where the sleeves would reach all the way down to knee height, in this garment, the sleeves only reach to hip level, creating a less volumous, more cinched garment. The sleeves culminate in a triangular gusset (bat) changing the direction of the paneling for the lower part of the garment. Unlike with traditional overgarments, here the sleeves are finished with an embellished narrow vertical band resembling a cuff.
The sleeves are made up of nine horizontal panels of different widths alternating between orange chiffon brocaded with a gold-coloured woven dotted pattern, fuchsia chiffon, and orange netting. The gusset (bat) is in a lilac chiffon, and the cuff is of the same orange and gold chiffon as the panelling. Below the gusset are six panels in the front and six at the back, in the same fabrics as the rest of the sleeve.
The front neckline and central axis (bidhah) of the garment reaches from the neckline (halj) to the bottom hem and consists of a wider fuchsia chiffon panel flanked by narrow orange netting panel on each side. The neckline is round and highly embellished with squared yoke-shaped embellishment on the outside.
The central panel at the back of the garment is the same width and materials as at the front but are longer and reach past the bottom hem to create a tail of 41 cm (16 inches). Except for around the neckline (halj) there is no embellishment.
The neckline (halj) is embellished with four lines of talli_fatlah accentuated by two rows of ribbed donut-shaped golden-coloured metal beads and finished off with a band of alternating costume gilded metal coins and pearls, followed by another row of coins spaced further apart each surrounded with a single row of donut-shaped golden-coloured metal beads forming a semi-circle. A single pearl is placed in the space between the circles.
This is followed by another band of two rows of talli_fatlah, a row of small pearls, and another two rows of talli_fatlah. The last row is made with fushia-coloured thread. This band continues down the central axis and culminates just above waist level where the band changes direction, a row of donut-shaped beads is added between the row of pearls and the row of talli_fatlah.
On the neckline, this band is followed by another row of bead-encircled coins, this time without the pearls. The same pattern is repeated between the two vertical bands on the centre panel.
Below the yoke, between the sleeves and the central axis are a row of alternating coins and pearls, and a second row of coins placed further apart. This is repeated on both sides of the central axis.
At the bottom end of the central embellishments, at waist level, is another row of coins and pearls finished off with scallops of donut-shaped beads, circles of donut-shaped beads, and coins surrounded by donut-shaped beads, to repeat the symbols and patterns used elsewhere.
The cuffs are embellished with two rows of metallic silver straw intertwined with yellow or orange cotton (talli_fatlah), and one row of of ribbed donut-shaped golden-coloured metal beads. These bands are followed by randomly placed single donut-shaped beads, pearls, and costume gilded metal coins.