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Woman’s backless blouse, made from several large, very elaborately embroidered, multi-coloured panels. The top portion of the blouse is embellished with circular motifs, large clusters of yellow, red and green glass beads and mirrorwork; a large rectangular portion is outlined with small white cowry shells to form a bib effect. The neckline is high and squared; it fastens at the center back with cloth ties made from printed cotton textile. Below the waist, an embroidered rectangular panel is divided into four squares, each embroidered with mirrors and geometric shapes; each square is outlined with small white cowry shells. Over-all, many of the designs are outlined with a silver “braid” formed by tightly coiling a very narrow ribbon of metal into a long strip, which is attached to the surface with a couching stitch. The hem and sides, as well as the sleeve edges, are bordered with black embroidery, white rickrack and many small tassels made from yellow and green beads and black, yellow and orange pompoms. Back shoulder yokes, underarm gussets and narrow side panels are pieced from brightly coloured, machine-printed cotton textiles. The embroidery is underlined with red and multicoloured printed cotton gauze. A pocket made from green striped cotton textile is attached on the inside at the lower right-hand side.

History Of Use

Backless blouses are worn with a long, gathered skirt or baggy pants as part of the everyday or festive costume. A veil is worn over the head and shoulders, covering the back. An embroidered blouse front like this one is called a “greban” in Threadlines Pakistan, but the term “gaj” is used in Colours of the Indus (see References). “Gaj” is also spelled “guj” in the literature. The hang tag that was attached to the blouse at the time of purchase in Pakistan calls it an “greban old.”

Cultural Context


Specific Techniques

couching stitch; chain stitch; satin stitch; buttonhole stitch


This blouse was purchased by William McLennan at Threadlines Gallery in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 1985 while he was on assignment for the Museum of Anthropology, which had a contract with the administration of Expo ‘86 to set up the Pakistan pavillion at the fair. The Museum purchased it, along with the other items in the 1098 accession, from McLennan in 1986.

Item History

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