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Titled (thawb Dubai), this combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah) was donated by the UAE designer Wadima Al Ameri 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.
Wadima Al Ameri is an Al Ain-based mother of three boys and three girls. She holds a bachelor in advertising and is a self-taught fashion talent. Her interest in dressmaking started at a very young age by designing dresses for family members and friends before launching her tailoring workshop in 2018.
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 contrasted with 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 matching 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 example records the post-2020 evolution of the traditional UAE dress where the contemporary combination overgarment tunic (thawb_kandurah) presents as a light, see-through outerlayer and an innerlayer acting as a lining.
This thawb_kandurah has an outer layer of panelled (myaza’), hand embroidered (shak) French tulle (tur), with an inner tunic (kandurah) or lining in white satin silk.
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).
The sleeves are shorter than traditional, only reaching to hip height rather than knee hight, and are composed of 9 panels of French tulle (tur) in white, green, and pink. It radiates out from the yoke and central panel creating an overall fan shape.
The central panel consists of a broader white tulle with a narrower band of pink tulle on each side.
The lower half of the dress, making up the skirt, also consists of panels of green, pink, and white tulle. There is no gusset (bat) below the sleeve as is customary in traditional dress.
The garment has a round neckline (halj) and a squared yoke. This yoke is hand embroidered onto the central panel and is not a separate panel.
The yoke as well as the seams between the panels are hand embroidered with metallic thread in gold and silver, as well as pink, green, and white cotton threads. The pattern is an arabesque floral design depicting flowers, leaves, and trailing stems. The flowers are embellished with golden glass beads and iron-on Swarovski crystals. The beads and embroidery add weight to the dress which feels contradictory to the sheerness of the fabric.
The embroidered panel with a central line of Moroccan thread buttons continues from the yoke down the central panel in a narrower band to reach the hip line level where it concludes in a triangular shape.
The off-white lining is attached to the rest of the garment at the neckline and yoke. It is sleeveless, narrower and more figure-hugging than the outer layer. The dress is perfumed and carries a luxurious aroma.