1950s Palestinian Embroidered Thobe - Kaftan
This wonderful piece came to me via a textile collector who was a Pan Am stewardess in the 1960s. I was told that it was antique when she bought it in the mid 60s, but I consulted an expert in Palestinian dress who explained it was most likely from the 1950s due to the embroidery being done in cotton threads. He also explained that it was made in the Naqab region in southern Palestine, a region populated by Bedouins. Unlike many embroidered Palestinian dress you see that have bands of embroidery here and there, this magnificent piece is nearly covered in it. Of course, it was all done by hand, and it was all applied directly to the dress, not patched like some modern dresses that took embroidery off older pieces. The background fabric is black, soft cotton. The embroidery is the traditional cross stitch technique, but is so dense and tiny, it almost looks woven. The patterns are wild, and at first glance it seems like a hodgepodge of motifs, but when you study them you see they are actually quite ordered, its the choice of the multitude of colors that gives it the nearly psychedelic appearance. The majority of the threads used are deep orange and red, but then the patterns are accented with turquoise, yellow, violet, emerald, cobalt, gold, plum fuchsia and shocking pink. The cut is a loose fitted "Thobe" or kaftan with straight sleeves and a pretty neckline. This would have been worn with a belt, an elaborate headpiece and a shawl. The seams are entirely hand sewn, not a machine stitch will be found. Some of the seaming can be seen from the outside, this is usual to this type of garment. This was most likely been made for a wedding or for ceremony. The last photo shows the inside near the hem where a sweet piece of floral cotton was sewn in. I see no need for a patch there so perhaps it was just a touch of whimsy.