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Woman’s silk taffeta multi-coloured ikat robe. The warp-dyed ikat textile is boldly patterned in red, yellow, blue, dark red and blue green on a pinkish white background; bright pink weft yarns give the garment an overall pinkish appearance. Collarless; wide v-neck; center front overlaps from waist to hem; no closures; 9.5cm slit at each side at the hemline. Gathering at the underarm is held in place with bright green embroidery, and the neck, front edges and hem are bound with narrow bright green woven binding. There is a welt pocket, bound in dark green cotton textile, in a seam on the right front. The sleeves are tapered to the wrist and are finished with purple woven binding. The body of the garment is quilted onto a lining of red cotton twill-weave textile; the center-back shoulder area is lined with dark green cotton textile, which is also used to face the front edges; the sleeves are lined with multi-coloured cotton textile. There is a lightweight cotton batting between the silk and the lining.

History Of Use

Silk robes were worn by privileged people, either singly or layered with other robes, as a display of wealth and social status. In addition, the wide V-neck gives the wearer a space for displaying several chunky silver necklaces and brooches. Women were married in their robes, wore them for ceremonial occasions and were finally buried in them.


The provenance of this piece is unknown. Many of the Central Asian textiles that were collected in the mid-20 century in Afghanistan had been brought there by refugees from the Soviet Union, who left to escape collectivization earlier in the century. These artisans continued to make textiles, but in greatly reduced quality and quantity.
The production of ikat silks, which reached its peak in the 19th C and declined rapidly in the early 20th C, was a commercial venture, carried out primarily in urban centers, such as Bukhara, Samarkand and Marghilan in the Ferghana Valley by various groups, such as Uzbeks, Turkmen and Tadjiks. Woven silks were widely distributed throughout Central Asia and were sold in local bazaars. The varied tasks required in the complex dyeing and weaving of ikat textiles were traditionally assigned to specific ethnic groups. For instance, Jewish people were traditionally those who did the ‘cold dyeing’ with indigo. The cultivation of silk was women’s work, done in the home. Dyeing and weaving were done by men; women could not work outside the home. The lives of women centered around the home, where colourful, lavish textiles played a major role in the rituals of daily life. Men’s robes were made in the bazaar by the merchants who sold the textiles, while women’s robes were generally made by women in the home from textiles purchased from the market. Only individuals of high rank and social status could wear silk; the garments of lower ranking people could be made of textiles with silk warp, but cotton weft.

Item History

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