Oriental Costumes
Their Designs and Colors

by Max Tilke

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The djellabia or djellaba.

This hooded garment serves as an outer dress and replaces the burnoose or sulham. It is usually made of rough wool, has brown-gray, or grey and black stripes, and is mostly edged yellow or red with green and red tassels. The Riff Kabyles wear unicoloured dark brown djellabias with yellow braid and coloured tassels. Townsfolk favour blue cloth djellabias The braid is then often crimson. The "mokhasznia" (native gendarmes) and travellers wear the djellabia over the haik.

Tilke Collection.

The farasia.

This garment is a shirt-dress with wide sleeves, it is buttoned over the chest. It is often belted, and made of light transparent stuff. Similarly cut garments are often worn by the wealthy in Morocco, are of cloth, and can be buttoned all the way up in the same manner as the vests (sedria). The favourite colours for this cloth garment also called kaftan, are wine red, olive-green, light blue, or brown.
In Morocco weapons are suspended by particularly woven woollen cords called "medshul". They are slung over the shoulder. The curved dagger is known as kumia.

Djebba and kamis, or gamis.

The square djebba with horizontal opening at collar which can be fastened by strings at side of neck is a characteristic garment of the Moghreb. Like the gamis, it is only worn by men. The djebba in our illustration is made of rough finely striped wool. But is also made of white or blue cotton. The gamis is a djebba to which sleeves have been added. It serves as shirt.

Original in Berlin Ethnographical Museum, and Tilke Coll.

Spahi officer's burnoose.

Red European cloth, trimmed with gold cord, braid and tassels. Corners lined with coloured silk, front seams underlayed with the tricolore colours. The usual N. African burnoose (also called "sulham" in Morocco) consists of white wool or cotton. But black, brown, and blue ones are also worn. Wealthy townsfolk wear cloth burnooses matching the colour of their clothes. Vertically striped burnooses, usually in the natural white, grey, or black wool are often seen in S. Algeria or Tunis.

Tilke Coll.

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Jewess' brocade dress, buttoned on shoulders, stomacher embroidered.

Muslin shirt of Algerian women. Often trimmed with coloured satin stripes 5 cm. wide running over shoulders to the lower seam. Favourite colours for these ribbons are: red, green, violet, or orange.

In the collection of W. Gentz (Painter of oriental scenes).

Tunic: habayah or djebba. Vest: ssedria or firmia. Trousers: sserual.

The characteristic underclothing of the Algerian rural population. They are usually made of light white cotton material. The haik or burnoose is worn over same when required.

Tilke Coll.

Jacket: ghlila. Trousers: sserua1. Vest: ssedria or firmia. Shoes: begha. Cap: shishia.

The Tunisian jacket and trousers are of cloth, but those worn in summer are also made of white linen or cotton. The vest is usually of same material as the rest of the suit. N. African men's shoes are yellow, those of women mostly red, seldom green. The shishia is rounder in Tunis, and in Morocco more pointed.

Tilke Coll.

Kasabia, gasabia and hood-jacket.

The gasabia is a garment worn by the working-class, small shopkeepers, camel-drivers, etc. It is made of rough brown, grey, or white haik material, and decorated with white woollen borders. The hood-jacket takes the place of the burnoose with the busy itinerant dealers and such like folk for whom the former is too wide and inconvenient. The hood-jacket is worn over the gasabia or the ordinary suit. The coachmen in Tunis wear blue ones with red lining.

From drawings made in Tunis.

Kandura or gandura.

The kandura is usually made of haik material. Urban population, in contradistinction to rural, favour a kandura of haik material dyed wine-red and decorated with green or yellow borders.

Wealthy Tunisians wear a kandura made of European cloth over their cloth suits matching the colour of the suit. Grey-blue, pink, and lilac-gray are the popular colours. The silk braid is usually a shade or so darker than the rest of the garment.

Tilke Coll.

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Sleeveless tobe.

Characteristic garment of a Togo man; lower part of the garment is widened by gores in the manner of the medieval albes. An oblong cloth serves as cloak in W. Sudan; it consists of five or six narrow strips sewn lengthwise. One of the cloths was 140 cm. wide and 210 cm. long. It is worn loosely draped round the body.

Orig. Berlin Ethnogr. Mus.

Plate 11 SUDAN.
White Haussa trousers.

African trousers, like tobes, are made of narrow strips sewn together and embroidered in accordance with their colours.

Orig. Berlin Ethnogr. Mus., Thierry Coll

Plate 12 SUDAN, BORNU.
Embroidered Bornu woman's shirt.

Material of this shirt is either dyed indigo-blue, or of white cotton. The embroidery is very peculiar, and tastefully worked in blue floss-silk. Embroidery pattern depicts an upper garment (decorated along its lower hem with tassels) drawn over the wide-sleeved lower garment, and superabundantly decorated with necklaces. Similar decoration patterns are found on Indian garments. Cf. Pls. 86 and 93

Orig. Berlin Ethnogr. Mus., Nachtigall Coll.

Plate 13 SUDAN, BORNU.
Guinea-fowl tobe.

African tobes are sewn together out of small 4--5 cm. broad woollen strips (gabag) which are woven on the narrow native looms. The Bornu tobes are either white or dyed with indigo. Colour of ornamentations, embroidery, and open-work, which also cover the large breastpocket, is usually white. Material employed is raw silk or fine cotton. Embroidery on those tobes, made of white material and dyed indigo-red strips sewn together, is nearly always green. The wide sleeves of the tobe are draped in folds on the shoulders according to requirements. Nachtigall's book "Sahara und Sudan (Vol. 1, p. 642 et seq.) provides further details about tobes.

Orig. Berlin Ethnogr. Mus., Flegel Coll.

Shama and hood-cloak.

The shama is a large oblong shawl of soft white cotton, and is wrapped about the wearer according to weather requirements. The hood-cloak is a bournoose reduced in size and embroidered with coloured floss-silk in the Abyssinian manner.

Origs. Berlin Ethnogr. Mus.

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Woman's shirt, embroidered.

The Abyssinian women's shirts are made, like the shama, of doubly folded soft cotton material. Opening for neck and sleeve ends are embroidered with silk chain-stitching. Slanting trousers are worn with these shirts, and are buttoned and laced tight beneath the calves down to the ankle. They are embroidered up to the knee.

Orig. Berlin Ethnogr. Mus., Rohlf's Coll.

Warrior's blouse from Omdurman.

These garments are made of cotton and ornamented with coloured decorative material. The amulet pockets behind and in front, as well as the characteristic triangle at the opening for the neck, are cut out of cloth and trimmed with coloured cord. The cut of the blouse is akin to the Egyptian shirt on Pl. 18, the opening for the neck is similar to those of Afghanistan and Northern India (cf. Pls. 84 and 02).

Origs. from Tilke Coll., now in Berlin Ethnogr. Mus.

Plate 17 EGYPT.
Tob or sebleh, wide garment for women.

The material employed for this garment is usually a cotton fabric dyed blue. The only ornamentation is edging around opening for the neck and over breast-slit with coarse floss-silk stitching. Wealthy women wear black cotton garments interwoven with silk stripes, or also taffeta and watered-silk garments. Tob shaped garments are worn between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

W. Gentz Coll.

Plate 18 EGYPT.
Man's shirt (kalabia?)

Characteristic garment of the modern Egyptian population. Owing to the insertion it is tighter under the arms than that of the following Plate. The material is black cotton. Sserual, men's trousers, of blue cotton. In Arabia they are called "libas" (according to Schweinfurt). Cap with blue silk tassel, called "tarbush" in Egypt.

Tilke Coll.

Plate 19 EGYPT.
"Eri"? Man's shirt, blue woollen fabric.

Characteristic garment of the modern Egyptian population. Copied from an original.

Tilke Coll.

[Page 10]

Plate 20 EGYPT.
Wide man's shirt (kamis) of white linen or cotton

Worn in Egypt particularly by the Fellahin as well as the tight sleeved shirts. Is also dyed blue.

W. Gentz Coll.

Plate 21 EGYPT.
Kaftan, kuftan (Egyptian) or entari (Turkish) and under-vest, sedria.

The kaftan is one of the most common articles of dress in the Near East. It is worn by people of rank, and the middle-class. It is always girdled with a cloth belt (hizan).
Only striped cotton or half-silk fabrics are employed in making men's kaftans. The lining is always made of ramie. Formerly kaftans made of satin or brocade were popular. The most favourite colours are crimson or violet-red with white or yellow stripes. (cf. the under-vests on Pl. 38).
The kaftan depicted here is made of coarse half-silk material woven in Sanaa in S. Arabia. Nearly all kaftans have a 5 cm. broad vertical piece of white or yellow stitching about a hand's breadth over the seam.
A vest, shirt and trousers are worn under the kaftan. The djubbeh (Pl. 23) or binish (Pl. 22) serves as overcoat; in Asia Minor and Syria the short salta jacket (cf. Pl. 39). Travellers prefer to wear a dust or weather cloak, the aba, (cf. Pl. 29) over the kaftan.

Tilke Coll.

Plate 22 EGYPT.
Binish. Cloth overcoat with wide sleeves, frequently slit below.

The binish, like the kaftan, is spread all over the Near East. Those countries where it is chiefly worn are Egypt, W. Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor, and Turkey. It is the upper garment of scholars and priests. It is usually of a dark or grey colour, unlined.
Instead of being lined it is faced with quiet coloured silk.

W. Gentz Coll.

Plate 23 EGYPT.
Djubbeh or gibbeh. Cloth overcoat. Front and back view.

The djubbeh, like the binish, is worn as an overcoat over the kaftan. It is nearly always of cloth, but distinguishes itself from the binish by its complicated cut and narrow sleeves. Favourite colours for the djubbeh are wine-red, brown, grey, and blue.
It is mainly worn in Turkish countries by persons of rank. The Kurds of the S. Caucasus like to trim the djubbeh with gold Turkish braidings over the chest.

W. Gentz Coll.

[Page 11]

Yelek. Woman's kaftan of flowered cotton print with ramie lining.

The better sort of women's yeleks are made of valuable silk fabrics. Gold and silver brocade are also employed. The woman's kaftan is open at the neck as far as the breast. It is provided with a number of buttons and laces from the breast to the belt along the front seams in order to fit it close to the waist, and has a high side slit to expose the wide trousers worn by females (cf. Pl. 40). The front part, which is often in the way, is frequently hung over the lower arm. The yelek is girded with a cloth shawl.
The shirt is worn under the yelek; a djubbeh or binish over it. These garments are closer fitting and usually more brilliant in colouring than those of men. The woman's djubbeh is often made of velvet or silk, and ornamented with gold braid and embroidery.

W. Gentz Coll.

Shirt garment from a grave of the New Kingdom (ca. 1400 B. C.).

This garment shows the simple shape of former oriental dress, and is certainly identical with the kalasiris mentioned by Herodotus. It is made of one piece folded in the middle and sewn at sides up to the armpit. The material is fine linen. In the middle of the fold is a slit or round opening for the neck. The kalasiris was always belted in such a manner as to gather the folds in front.

Orig. Berlin Ethnogr. Mus. (Egypt. Dept.).

Coptic tunic, found in a grave dating about 400 B. C.

Sleeve tunic of safron yellow wool with woven pattern resembling tapestry work. The opening for the neck is placed horizontally like that of the Roman tunic. The side seams, as well as those of the sleeves, are trimmed with twisted woollen cord. Purple tunics were much favoured, as well as those of natural colour wool. The latter had patterns of a brown violet tint. Coptic tunics often have vertical stripes next to the neck-opening reaching to the nether hem in the ancient Roman fashion.

Orig. in Neues Museum, Berlin.

Persian cloak made of shiny fine hair woollen material. (Found in an Egyptian grave of the 6th cent. B.C.)

This garment shows oriental origin in the super-long sleeves worn in accordance with the Asiatic custom. The open parts at the arm-pits are also found in Persian-Caucasian as well as Indian garments. The breast-flap, which can be tied, reminds one of the forms of the Indian angarkha (cf. Pl. 95). The back of this cloak, which is made of one piece, is cut in the same manner as the modern Turkish djubbehs or binishes. The braid on the cloak resembles in its technique the tent-carpets of the Turkomans. The ornamental motif also points to north-western Persia.

Orig. in the Neues Museum, Berlin. Now published by the kind permission of the directors for the first time.

[Page 12]

Persian kirtle from an Egyptian grave (ca. 6th cent. A. D.)

The garment is made of fine linen. The nucleus has already had side parts added. The sleeves slant towards the wrist in the modern Persian fashion. In colour, motif, and the manner of making, the woollen braid resembles that of modern Turkoman tent spreads and carpets. The shape of the neck-opening is very similar to that of the Afghan shirts (Pl. 84), the women's kirtles in Benares (Pl. 92), and the warriors' tunics in Omdurman. The leg coverings are of reddish or brown felt ornamented below; they were fastened to a hip-cord. High soft leather top-boots, some of which are still preserved completed the ancient costume of the Persians.

Origs. in Neues Museum, Berlin. Published by kind permission of the directors.

Aba (abayeh), kofia and ogal.

The aba on our plate is made of black hard woollen material and consists of two pieces sewn together. The shoulder-seam, neck slit, and front seam are ornamented with silk cords and embroidery (cf. details). In this shape it is used as a mantle by the upper class of Arabs.

The kofia or kefijeh is a square piece of cotton cloth interwoven with vertical silk stripes. Thin cords with small tassels are fixed on both sides. The kofia is worn diagonally, so that the cords hang down over the shoulders and back.

The ogal is used to fasten the kofia on to the head. It is usually made of natural colour camel's wool around which silk, gold, or silver threads are wound at intervals. In Palestine and Syria the ogal consists of a ring-like roll wrapped with black wool and folded twice round the head. The aba, kopia, and ogal are worn in Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt.

Origs. in Berlin Ethnogr. Mus.

[Page 13]

Woman's shirt, kanis, from the mountain districts of Yemen.

The shirt is dyed with indigo-blue and made of shiny cotton. The sleeves, like those of the Bornu woman's shirt (Pl. 12) are wide. The embroidery consists of white cotton threads, and is enlivened by red and yellow stitches. The embroidery ends on the back in a triangular pattern between two stripes in the style of the painted shirts worn by Afghan women (cf. Pl. 86). The opening for the neck and breast are ornamented with gold threads and copper coloured edging.

As these shirts are very badly dyed, the white embroidery threads soon get dirty and stained light blue. Besides the wide-sleeved garments, there are others with sleeves narrowing at the wrist. Under their shirts the women wear long drawers which are tight at the end, and of the same colour. Sub is the name of a white pleated skirt with very long sleeves.

Orig. in the Berlin Ethnogr. Mus., Schweinfurth Coll.

Plate 31


Plate 32


Front and back view of an aba from Damascus.

This aba is a type of those beautiful, gold-embroidered garments which the aristocratic Syrians and Arabs wear as gala dress. In this specimen, not only golden, but colored threads are also woven into the natural colour fine woollen material.

A favourite colour combination on the gala-abas is that of black, gold and crimson; brown-gold, crimson and green; light-blue and gold; light-blue and silver; red with gold; wine-red, silver and gold; white and silver, and other colours. Abas made of ribbed silk and moiré are also worn.

The most magnificent gala-abas are made in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Western Persia.

W. Gentz Coll.

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