Coastal Palestinian Dress
This Palestinian dress (thob or shirsh) is cotton with silk embroidery, and was likely made in the 1930’s. The embroiderer used green, pink, and red thread to decorate the dress with geometric designs and cypress trees, a characteristic southwest coastal motif.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Palestinian embroiderers tended to all follow the same general decorative layout on the dresses they made. Usually, women would make their own clothing and embroider patterns on the chest, lower back, sides, and bottom of their dresses. Within those general constraints, there was great regional diversity. Each town had it’s own distinctive combinations of motifs and colors that identified the dress-wearer as being from that town or region. Dressmakers in the southwest coast, for instance, usually embroidered their dresses with cypress trees, used opposing chevron motifs on the sides of their dresses, and created V-shaped instead of square-shaped chest decorations on their dresses.
These styles did not stay static, of course. Different generations within a single town had different stylistic preferences, so certain motifs and colors would wax or wane in popularity as fashions changed. Dressmakers also experimented with new goods as they entered the market, which introduced further changes. Imported black cotton, anilin-dyed silks, and velvet all had an impact on the dresses that Palestinian women made.
The British Museum of Art has a similar dress in their collection.
Origin: South West Palestine
Material: Cotton and silk
Condition: Good overall. Minor wear and repair at neckline.
Dimensions: 58" x 29.25"
Inventory number: WR3846