This article was donated together with a few more under garments; a similar (sarwal) (ZI2021.500977.2 UAE): two slips (shalhah) (ZI2021.500977.1 UAE) & (ZI2021.500977.1a UAE), and prayer foot wrap (kis_salah) (ZI2021.500977.1b UAE).
Fakhria Lutfi, born in Dubai in 1962, holds a bachelor’s in graphic design from The American University DC. She was married at the age of 25 and borne 3 children – 2 boys and 1 girl. She declared that this piece of clothing was bequeathed to her (mkhalaf_’alayiha) by her mother, who stitched it herself in the 1940s, and was known to do so for her friends as well. Fakhria’s mother Fatmah Mohammad Amin Abdul Ghafar was married at the age of 13 or 14, and almost every 2 years she had a child where Fakhria is the youngest of 12 siblings.
Due to the prevailing notions of modesty in Arab cultures, this is one of the rarest undergarments in the UAE. objects like this rarely come to market because of their age, their high value due to the type of adornment, and last but not least, because they are undergarments (sarwal).
Generally, women felt reserved (hishim) over letting go of such an intimate article of dress for they hardly comprehended the documentary value of placing their items within a historical collection, they were encouraged to sell their items to The Zay collection following the suggestion that they use the proceeds as (sadaqah), to help build a mosque or school. Their reserve was multi-layered; it being an undergarment an intimate article of dress. In addition, the act of selling can infer financial need, and even after they were convinced to do so for the sake of charity, they followed the tradition that dictates one does not publicly declare good deeds.
In this case, we have the reverse – Fakhria is an educated woman who fully understood the value of the work carried by The Zay Initiative, thus her donation of intimate clothing adds great value to the collection by shedding light on articles of dress that are not generally handed down from generation to the other.
These underpants (sarwal) are made from three different types of fabric, which was the norm before oil wealth transformed the Gulf region. The visible lower part of the pants is made from the more expensive material. The hidden top part was generally made from cotton or either lower grade or leftover silk remnants. Cotton was normally the preferred choice as it was more functional. It breathes better and is more durable than silk; especially important for a garment that is in constant contact with the body.
In this example, gold & silver brocaded red silk (mzarai) in an arabesque floral pattern was used for the more visible portions of the underpants, with the flowers delicately delineated in dark blue or green outlines. The top sections were stitched of two red coloured cotton fabrics; a lighter red is used on the gusset (bat) found on the crutch area, while darker denser red cotton was used on the remainder of the top portion.
The decorative cuff (badlah) is of a basic traditional form typical of this period. The talli adornment is completed in silver colour metallic tinsel straw (khus).
The badlah basically consists of the large central part (bayt) and the edges (traf) also known as (bruwi). The bayt can be between one and 40 braids of (ftul talli) with different decorations, then the braids are sewn manually with each other so that the bayt is surrounded by the traf to form its borders.
The traditional basic style of badlah includes several stripes called (talli_shakl) or (bruwi), which are located between the bayt and the traf. Usually, a (talli_qitan) is placed on the lower edge, while the upper edge is decorated with a (talli_ghuli) or (talli_minsharah). Each braid is made separately and then the braids are manually sewn together.
The large and wide badlah as this example illustrates is usually reserved for social occasions, and the smaller, narrower one is applied on everyday sarwal or those worn by an elderly woman.
In this example, the central portion (bayt) of the visible cuff is composed of five cords or braids (ftul); the three top braids are in black cotton (hdub) thread and silver tinsel straw (khus); the first is in a saw-tooth motif called (talli_minsharah); the second, in 5 running stitch motif called (talli_fatlah) or (talli_ftul) or (talli_khusah); the third in repetitive diagonal (half chevron) lines similar to melon slices (talli_finkh_al_batikhah); the fourth, is in red cotton thread and silver tinsel straw khus in 5 running stitch motif called (talli_fatlah) or (talli_ftul) or (talli_khusah); and the final 2cm wide band is in black cotton (hdub) thread and silver tinsel straw (khus) in alternating triangles (talli_muthalathat).
The cuff edges (traf) are created in two cords, each composed of 5 running stitch motif called (talli_fatlah) or (talli_ftul) or (talli_khusah); the first using red cotton and the second black cotton, twined with silver tinsel straw (Khus), and is finished with a cord of black cotton with silver tinsel in undulating snake pattern (talli_ghuli).
The baggy waistline is gathered and fixed in place with a hidden elasticated cord rather than the traditional cotton (nsai’ah). The more tapered legs with embellished ankle-cuffs could have had metal snap studs (siq_w_biq) to open and close, possibly replacing earlier traditional cotton thread ball buttons (igam).