Ottoman Dress Part I: Inspiration Pictures

Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Design, Historical Costuming | Comments Off on Ottoman Dress Part I: Inspiration Pictures

I was considering going to the Labrynth of Jareth Masquerade this year and have been brainstorming costume ideas.  This is a very manic process for me where I consider ideas then research them obsessively and dream about them at night.  Sometimes this actually results in a costume.  More often it just results in me being very tired.  So I think maybe if I share my research at least someone’s getting something out of it, right?

For those of you that don’t know, Labrynth of Jareth is a ball inspired by the scene in Labyrinth where Sarah is dancing with Jareth surrounded by dancers of the fairie court, in Venetian masquerade-inspired costumes.  Looking through the past pictures it’s sort of a mishmash of people in 18th century ball gowns and people in fairie garb and steampunk, with a smattering of renaissance and tribal dance.  Yay!

I went through a good handful of costume ideas.  I considered going the 18th century route  but I don’t have the proper support garments and since making stays is fairly time consuming and expensive, there’s no way I was going to successfully make new 18th century stays and panniers and then a fully decorated robe a’la anything in 6 weeks on a pretty tight budget.  I considered going the fairy route but just wasn’t inspired, plus I’m doing the historical sew fortnightly so I was hoping to have something to go along with the challenges if possible.  But during my search for 18th century stay patterns (just to decide whether or not it would be feasible) I found a pattern for a Ghawazee coat on Simplicity and I though it might be fun to go the tribal dance route.

It turns out there’s really no specific garment in history that is a “Ghawazee coat”.  The Ghawazee were a type of street dancer in the 18oos in Egypt.  They most likely wore what every other woman wore in the 19th century near east; however they wore in public what most women would only have worn in the privacy of their own homes.  Muslim women in the near east would wear robes and veils when they went out; the Ghawazee would not.  I suspect the reason that modern tribal dance associates that look specifically with Ghawazee is that since they are readily in the public eye there are many drawings, paintings, and early photographs of them dancing in these outfits.


Dancing Girls at Cairo, by David Roberts, 1840s

Many images of the Ghawazee, like those above, were painted or drawn by western artists.  Orientalism and specifically Turquerie were in fashion from the 16th century onward, and there are lovely (if probably somewhat romanticized) paintings of odalisque, turkish baths, and dancing girls.  There are also a large number of paintings of western women in Turkish dress, particularly in the 18th century.  Of course these must be taken with a grain of salt as the clothes are inspired in varying degrees by actual Turkish costume and by western dress of the time.  It may not be the most accurate place to take, for example, fabric inspiration.  (On the other hand, 18th century turquerie-inspired dress might be a pretty good historical costume in its own right.)


Roxane in Jean-Baptiste Racine’s Bajazet, 1800s (Perahps by or in the style of Eugene Francois Marie Joseph Deveria)


Portrait of the artist’s wife, Marie Fargues (ca.1718-1784), in Turkish dress; Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1750s


Wrapping up our pictographic evidence segment, there are also Ottoman minatures.  These are more likely to depict accurate rather than fanciful Ottoman dress but they are painted in a less realistic style than western paintings of the same era.  Although, some do show a fairly impressive level of detail in fabric print, trim, and layers of clothing, particularly those by Levni in the 18th century.

By Levni, 18th century. From Badisches Landemuseum.


By Levni, 18th century.

You will notice I have focused mostly on 17th and 18th century.  It’s mostly because I like the cut of the garments from that era, and also how they influenced 17th and 18th century western costume.   But also I had a lot harder time finding information on the internet about Ottoman costume during that period, so I thought it might be useful.

Next time, extant garments!