A Safavid Persian Outfit: The Overview

My next project is a Safavid Persian woman's outfit based on this picture (at left) of a princess from 1541. This outfit consists of three robes, trousers, underwear, head coverings, jewelry and makeup. Many people assume that 16th century Persian and 16th century Turkish women's clothing is the same except for their headcoverings.  However just because they appear to wear the same basic combination of robes, there are many differences.  To the trained eye, Safavid Persian and Ottoman Turkish women's clothing is vastly different.  The Mongol influence of the Timurid Dynasty that ruled Persia until 1501 is very evident in Persian clothing.  There is a distinctly east Asian flair that Turkish clothing of the same period lacks.  The fabric aesthetic also differs.  Turkish clothing — particularly the outermost robes — is stiff to convey breadth and thereby power and control.  Safavid Persian clothing flows on the wearer.  It is soft and yielding, even on men.  Fabric decoration runs to small, scrolling designs of vines and other plant motifs.  Turkish fabric design is large and geometric, even when depicting natural elements like flowers.  Turkish clothing may be tucked up to show other layers or even the shalwar.  Persian clothing shows only the tips of the feet. The underwear consist of a shift called kamiz and drawers called zirshalvari.  Not much is known about the shape and construction of these items since they are very rarely seen in period art.  The only indication of either in my source picture is a little line barely visible inside the dark blue innermost robe.  You can see it in the detail shot at right.  We'll talk about its construction in the next post. The inner robes are called jame.  Typically two jame are worn.  Both have long, tight sleeves that are pushed up on the arm.  The inner jame always closes with a single button at the throat and is drawn in again at the waist by either closures or a sash or being sewn together.  The outer jame usually has a V-neckline (or is worn falling open in a V).  It can have passementerie closures but these are rarely closed above the waist.  In the picture of the princess, her innermost jame is dark blue and her upper jame is light blue.  I'll be making a dark blue inner jame and a light blue outer jame in the third post in this series. The outer robe is called bala push or the "Arab" robe.  It is worn open in front and has short side vents at the bottom of the side seams.  It is typically lined.  It can be short sleeved, but more likely it is long sleeved and worn with the arms emerging through slits in the front of the bicep area.  The rest of the extra-long sleeves hang behind the arms as decoration, not unlike Elizabethan loose gown sleeves.  The bala push may or may not have a cloud collar.  Our princess's bala push is orange and her cloud collar is the typical black with multicolour embroidery.  I'll be talking about mine in the fourth post in this series. The crown worn by the princess in the picture is called taj i mughuli.  I will not be wearing a crown.  Instead I will wear a common woman's headdress called a charghat.  We'll discuss its construction, jewelry, and makeup in the next to last installment in this series.  Then we'll wrap it all up at the end with an overview of the whole outfit. Next post... Making the kamiz.

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