Today's society thinks of the Near-Eastern/Middle Eastern/Muslim women as figures covered up mostly in black long dresses. But studying the history of their culture and values makes people more aware of why they dress like they do…
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What many people might find interesting is that these women probably wore and owned the most extraordinary and stunning jewelries and clothes of their time. In this research paper, I want to go back in time to the Ottoman Empire and examine what the traditional Ottoman woman wore - jewelries, clothing etc. - and show that there is so much more to discover about them under the veil. Over the centuries, the most important feature of a Turkish female dress was that they wore traditional clothing. We know about the various aspects of a woman’s dress between the 12th to 14th centuries because of tiles, miniatures and the stone carvings that they have left behind and have been discovered. Ottoman clothing is the fashion followed and worn by the Ottoman Turks. It changed over time, but it remained as lovely as ever. Even though the women covered themselves with the ferace – a black long upper dress like a cardigan with full sleeves and no collar – before going outside, they were dressed up beneath this layer (Inal 263). They wore the most beautifully made clothes with exquisite jewelry. The styles and designing of the clothes were the same, the class and religious difference only being apparent due to the quality of the cloth used to make their clothes. The rich made their dresses of a fine cloth called barami. Guillaume Postel, a professor, was sent to Istanbul by King Francois the First. He kept a travel log in which he has written: “The materials used are gold and silver satin, brocade, damask and many kinds of silk. These are the fabrics chosen by the rich and the city aristocrats, the city poor and villagers dress very badly” (Ministry of Culture and Tourism). The women, in hopes for making a way for themselves in the Empire, did embroidery. They wove intricate designs and used these cloths as headscarves, etc. They were quite proud of their appearance and wanted to look their best. Later in the period, they started wearing a two-layer long entari, too, which is a gown. They also wore tul, a shawl of velvet around their heads. Even later on in the century, an entari was worn inside beneath a caftan-shaped dress which was short-sleeved (Besse and Morris 176). The basic accessories worn by the Ottoman women were jeweled belts made of gold, crystal, silver, mother-of-pearl or even ivory. Belt buckles were worn around the waist or at times over the hips. These had floral or geometric designs and were bedecked with gems like diamonds, turquoise, emeralds and others. Beneath it they wore salwar – a kind of loose pants (Inal 252). These were mostly made of taffeta. They wore leather shoes which were usually yellow in color, probably because of the gold embroidery (Kia 216) and the toes were quite narrow and so very tight. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the English ambassador to Turkey had this to say about their clothing whilst her stay over there: “The first piece of my dress is a pair of drawers, very full, that reach to my shoes and conceal the legs...They are of a thin rose color damask brocaded with silver flowers, my shoes of white kid Leather embroidered with Gold. Over this hangs my Smock of a fine white silk Gause edg'd with Embroidery...The Antery is a waistcoat made close to the shape, of white and Gold damask, with very long sleeves....My Caftan of the same stuff with my Drawers is a robe exactly fitted to my shape and reaching my feet...” (Kamps and Singh 101) As Muslim women have been advised to cover themselves in front of any male who is not their husband or close relative, the women used to wear veils or, at least, covered their heads. These were made of silk for the summers and of wool, lined with fur for the colder seasons. Over time
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