This object was purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli from an independent dealer in London in 2021 to enhance the collection of The Zay Initiative.
This is a women’s ceremonial possibly bridal dress or robe (Entari) in purple silk velvet featuring metal thread embroidery with straight full sleeves, a full skirt, and a round neckline.
The field of the Entari is embellished with traditional Turkish (Dival) style embroidery done with a combination of metal threads possibly gold and silver (Sirma)/(Tel_Sirma) and sequins. A combination of different embroidery techniques has been used here primarily (Couching) and (Satin_stitch). The full skirt and closed front with the embroidered floral and foliage designs on velvet make this piece undoubtedly a (Bindalli_Entari).
This kind of design pattern was clearly inspired by European Rococo style foliage, branches, and vines, and gradually has been adopted within the Ottoman society during the last phase of the Ottoman Empire.
A wavy central vine with floral motifs and foliage embellishes the fall all around, while the front and back display two large floral arrangements on each side – one near the waistline and the other near the calf.
These bouquets feature a central flower flanked by foliage and stylised wavy vine in a basket. It has a small neckline in the front that is trimmed with an ivory net lace. Similar lace is used to trim the hemline as well as the cuffs of the sleeves. The front Yoke around the neckline and the shoulders are also embroidered heavily featuring floral arrangements and geometric shapes along with auspicious Islamic symbols like the crescent moon and the star.
The piece is completely hand-stitched and is lined with a thin ivory cotton Gauze fabric only around the hem and the cuffs. The colour in the front of the piece has faded more compared to the rest of the piece possibly due to long exposures to light.
The Dival technique is a complex and intricate form of embroidery involving multiple processes, from pattern preparation to final execution. It requires carving the pattern from artificial leather with a special knife, neatly cutting it, and supporting it with thick cardboard on a special loom.
The top is then embroidered with metal thread or Sirma in 3 or 6 layers, while the bottom is bonded with fabric-coloured thread that is waxed. This labour-intensive process resembles Turkish wrapping on the front and crocheting in reverse.
A unique feature of this embroidery is that the upper thread is invisible from the bottom. The technique is often referred to as “Maraş work” due to its extensive application in Kahramanmaraş.
Initially crafted by hand, modern advancements have led to machine-produced Dival embroidery, which is more cost-effective. The fabric materials used for Dival embroidery include velvet, Satin, leather, silk, and taffeta and vary in cost based on their pattern size and processing technique.
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.
As such The Zay Initiative has in its possession pieces that were constructed in a similar style that were sourced from the Levant region of the Arab world, especially Palestine and Syria. Velvet pieces such as this embellished with Dival style embroidery were often used for ceremonial purposes especially weddings by the women of the Arab world and were often colloquially known as the velvet robe or (Thawb_mekhmal).
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