My apologies for this late response, but Yahoo has been bouncing my
mail a lot in the last week and a half...
Amal binti Hala Al-Chania wrote:
>Sorry about my stupid questions, but if there is anyone who is able to
First, questions are not stupid. If we don't know or understand
something and we don't ask, we don't learn or we misunderstand.
Asking questions and getting answers lifts the veil of ignorance. It
is perhaps more stupid not to ask and remain ignorant or confused.
>I am planning to make Arabian/Turkish dress from them but I want to
>make sure first are they authentic or not.
First, the vestimentary systems of Arab cultures are quite different
from those of Turkish/Central Asian cultures.
-- Arab systems feature garments that either slip on over the head =
tunics (borrowed from the Greeks and Romans who ruled the area for
many centuries) or wrapped garments composed of flat rectangles of
various dimensions (indigenous).
-- Turkish/Central Asian systems feature garments that open in the
front ("coats"), although under tunics often slip on over the head
and have long central slits in the front or, sometimes for men,
-- Both systems have pants with a draw-string waist, worn by both men
and women, but these pants differ. The sirwal (pl. sarawil) of the
Arab system tends to have legs that are the same width from hip to
ankle. The shalvar (various spellings) have legs that are quite wide
at the hip and thigh, and narrow at the ankle.
-- There are also differences in colors preferred or avoided, and
motifs and the scale of motifs used in textiles.
Second, i would ask "which Turkish?" There is a multitude of Turkish
cultures that are important within the time span of the SCA, the
Seljuks being the most significant; but there are also Uighur,
Buyyid, Turkoman, etc.
So it's important to differentiate, first, between cultures based on
Central Asian clothing systems and those based on Arab systems, and,
second, among the different Turkic cultures.
Also, which culture and time period you choose will determine what
fabric patterns and to some extent what colors are appropriate, not
to mention the style of the garments.
>I have couple of questions regarding
>authentic fabrics (esp. in Asia/India area). I have two Sarees (both
>silk) but I am a bit unsure about the colours. First saree is purple
>with lighter pallu
>It's transparent and therefore I am not totally sure should I use it
First, sheerness... From what i can tell, sheer fabrics were not much
used in outer garments. Linen or cotton under garments were often
*quite sheer*, based on both surviving garments and paintings from
al-Andalus and the Persian and Ottoman Empires. Outer garments,
however, were not sheer, other than head veils for women in some
Outer garments were meant to present both a modest image and to show
one's status. So unless one was a very devout and conservative
Muslim, then one would have outer garments of the best fabric they
could afford. Clearly that is your intent with intense colors and
metallic threads, so you're on the right track.
Next, the pattern in the fabric. The pattern looks good for Persian,
if Persian paintings can be trusted to be close to reality (since
what's shown in paintings is often different from designs on
surviving fabrics). 15th and 16th C. Persian paintings often show
both men and women wearing garments of a solid color with small gold
motifs. Ottoman (if that is what you mean by Turkish) fabrics nearly
always had VERY LARGE motifs (for example, a pattern might repeat
only 1-1/2 times in a man's kaftan). So the fine motifs of this
fabric are unsuitable for Ottoman. I am not sure about the Seljuks,
as we have less material culture surviving from them - plenty of art,
but fewer textiles.
Third, the color is not particularly suitable for Arab or Ottoman
garments (and i suspect not for Seljuk either). Purple was identified
with the Christian Byzantines and therefore not used much in most
Islamic cultures. The Persians often did things rather differently
from the more Arabic cultures. However, i've never seen any actual
purple Persian fabric. Also, the particular hue of purple (at least
as it looks on my monitor) is very modern and not like what i've seen
within SCA period.
In Roman and early Islamic Egypt sometimes the tapestry woven clavi
and segmentae on Roman style tunics were worked with "purple" wool.
The color is now nearly black, but chemical analysis shows that often
this wool was madder overdyed with indigo, which makes a dark
The purple of clavi on important Roman men's togas and of Byzantine
royal family garments was usually from murex (a sea snail, and which
can give a range of colors from dark blue to purple to dark red). But
to the best of my knowledge this dye was not used in the Islamic
It is a beautiful fabric, but based on what i know, not really
suitable for Near Eastern clothing, if you want authenticity. It
might work for Indian - i know less about the Mughal/Moghul cultures
than i do about cultures in the Middle and Near East.
Re the blue sari:
The color is a little closer to a "period" color. I can't tell what
the scale of the motifs is, but they might be too small for Ottoman,
so this might work for a garment from the Arab vestimentary system.
Or are the blue and purple pictures from the same sari?
In going back and re-reading your post, i think perhaps i am
misunderstanding and these two pictures are parts of one cloth. If
so, the colors appear quite different on my monitor, so i am not
certain of what color the cloth is. However, if both are part of the
same sari, it is still likely that the color is the modern so-called
"purple", which is a blue violet and not "SCA-period", since dyes of
this color only developed in the 19th century with the advent of
Anyway, if you want a "purple" fabric, the more "period" color is
that produced by some Indian lac insects. They make a color close to
what in paint is called "purple lake", a color more like what we
might call maroon or burgundy. And from what i can tell, this color
is closer to what is meant by "purple" in period writing, and
apparently still by the French today. What we call "purple" here in
the US is a bluer color, called "violet" by the French, and available
with the advent of purely synthetic dyes in the mid to late 19th
>Second saree is pink(ish) silk with golden border
To me, the fuchsia looks a bit strong and synthetic for SCA clothing.
I've seen muted rose colored silk in an early 17th century Ottoman
garment (remember "dusty rose" from a few decades ago?), but it was
not an intense color as this sari appears to be.
Also, from what i can tell of my study of fabrics and garments of
both the Near and Middle East, fully saturated colors were generally
preferred, especially for reds. Yes, one can make a sort of "hot
pink" from kermes, but from what i've seen of textiles of the
SCA-period Islamic world, this was not a sought after color. It takes
a LOT of kermes to give a strong red, so a saturated kermes/lac
insect red was a way of showing off one's wealth, rather than a
not-fully saturated fuchsia/"hot pink"/magenta/etc. Kermes was
generally reserved for silk, although it will dye wool. Note that i'm
speaking here of the Near and Middle East.
For those who couldn't afford the rich cool-red of kermes or other
lac insect dye there was madder root, which makes a warm-red and was
rather commonly used. Madder can give a range of reds, from a rich
warm red, a more orangey "tomato soup" red, a deep orange, red-brown,
to a dark warm brown. More people could afford madder dyed fabric.
Madder was used to dye wool, linen, and cotton, and less often for
silk. The complex process later known to Europeans as "turkey red",
was developed to dye linen and cotton.
So if you want a reddish fabric, then a fully saturated red would be
authentic, either a cool kermes (cochineal) red or a warm madder red,
but this fuchsia doesn't look like a "period" color to me.
As for other colors, indigo was generally used fully saturated, but
less saturated indigo blues were also used. Besides being used on
wool and silk, indigo was used to dye linen and cotton. Often a
single linen or cotton fabric would have stripes - sometimes in both
the warp and the weft - of two or three shades of indigo blue.
Less saturated colors of all sorts show up as accent colors in
complex brocades, especially in 16th century Persian and Ottoman
To me the issue is less whether one can achieve certain colors with
certain dyes, and more a question of whether people in a particular
culture, in a particular time and place, actually wanted those less
>Second problem is to decide that kind of dress to make if the silks
>are ok to SCA-use :D
In my opinion, if you want authenticity, the first thing to do is
study the specific styles of garment fabrics - you don't need to know
how to make them, unless you really want to :-) - but it helps to
know what the fabrics of particular cultures and times period looked
like BEFORE you go fabric shopping. Then it is much easier to buy
suitable colors and patterns.
We modern people have an amazing array of colors available to us
today, both natural and synthetic. While modern natural dyers mix
dyes from 5 or 6 continents all sorts of ways to create a wide range
of colors, in the Near and Middle East of the SCA period, a much more
limited range of colors was used. Overdyeing was used to produce some
colors, such as a more colorfast green, but these were not the
preferred dyes. For example, the Geniza documents from Fatimid Egypt
indicate that green fabric (which was yellow, often weld, overdyed
with indigo) was less expensive than fabric dyed with a single dye.
I have a few examples of Persian fabrics on my web site:
and slightly more examples of Ottoman fabrics:
A good general reference for textiles in the Islamic world is:
Patricia L. Baker.
London: British Museum Press, 1995.
It is out of print and not cheap. I recommend getting it via ILL
(Inter-Library Loan). It is the best survey of the topic and had many
lovely full color photos, as well as some info on dyes and textile
techniques. If the Islamic world is your area of focus, and
authenticity is your goal, it's worth having in your library.
To sum up, neither the colors, patterns, or sheerness of these saris
is very suitable for SCA-period garments in the Islamic world.
These saris may be suitable for Mughal/Moghal clothing, but i know
less about that cultural area. There is an SCA list devoted to
SCA-perid India where you could ask:
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita