Today’s post is about the top layer of the Safavid ensemble: the bala push (بالاپوش) or outer robe. I am constructing mine based on the so-called “Dragon Robe” in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, a 16th century kaftan. It is entirely made from rectangles and trapezoids with the extra-long sleeves and the lack of front overlaps we see in Persian miniatures.
The bala push is not an essential element of a woman’s outfit. Many miniatures show women wearing multiple jame but nothing on top of them. However the bala push is the layer given to display. Who doesn’t want to show off their best stuff? If you’re going to make an early Safavid outfit, there’s no reason not to make a bala push. But know that you don’t have to wear it all the time.
I found the same cotton brocade I used for my upper jame but in orange and gold. I’ll be using that for the bala push. I’ll be lining it with black silk habotai. The cloud collar will be made from a piece of Chinese brocade I found that most resembled the cloud collars seen in Persian miniatures. There will be no fastenings as the bala push is always worn open.
Construction couldn’t be simpler. The pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The super-long sleeves are similar to those of the jame, but these are longer and often sewn closed at the wrists. The hands emerge through openings on the front of the bicep, leaving the rest of the sleeve to hang behind the arm as decoration. The sleeves appear to be short in our Princess picture, but indications of the rest of the sleeve can be made out upon closer inspection. It is thought that this manner of wearing sleeves is what inspired the 14th century fashion of tippets.
The cloud collar.
Get Reconstructing History’s best info on Safavid clothing for yourself:
Ackerman, P., ‘The Gold Brocades of Isfahan’ in Apollo, XIII, 1931, ‘Ghiyath, Persian Master Weaver’ in Apollo XVIII, 1933
______, ”Persian Textiles’ in CIBA Review, No. 98, 1953
Bier, C (ed), Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart: Textile Arts of Safavid and Qajar Iran, Textile Museum, Washington DC, 1987
Canby, Shiela. Persian Painting. 1993: Interlink Books, Northampton, MA.
Ferrier, R.W., ed. The Arts of Persia. 1989: Yale Universeity Press, New Haven & London.
Gervers, V. “Construction of Turkmen Coats.” In Textile History, 14 (1), 3-37, 1983.
Housego, J., ‘Honour is according to Habit: Persian dress in the 16th and 17th centuries’ in Apollo, XCIII, 1971
Kendrick, A.F., ‘The Persian Exhbition: Textiles: A General Survey’ in Burlington Magazine, LVIII, 1931, pp. 15-27
Pope, A.U. (ed), A Survey of Persian Art, London 1938-9, Vol. III text, Vol. VI plates
Reath, N.A. and E B Sachs, Persian Textiles and their Techniques from the 6th to the 18th centuries, New Haven, 1937
Scarce, Jennifer. Women’s Costume of the Near and Middle East. Unwin Hyman, London, 1987.
Shirazi-Mahajan, Faegheh. Costumes and Textiles Designs of the Il-Khanid, Timurid and Safavid Dynasties in Iran from the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Century. 1985: The Ohio State University.
Upton, J.M., ‘Notes on Persian Costumes of the 16th and 17th centuries’ in Metropolitan Museum Studies, Vol. III,Pt. 2, 1930
Wace, A.J.B., ‘Some Safavid Silks at Burlington House’ in Burlington Magazine as above pp. 67-73
Welsh, Stuart Cary. Persian Painting: Five Royal Safavid Manuscripts of the Sixteenth Century. 1976: George Braziller, New York.
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