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Description

A multicoloured woman’s tunic that is embellished with panels and bands of embroidery on both the front and the back, incorporating several styles of embroidery. On the front, there is a large embroidered panel from shoulder to hip, and the upper edge of this panel extends over the shoulders to form a narrow yoke on the back. The embroidery on this panel is so elaborately detailed and so densely worked that none of the background textile is visible, and this part of the tunic is very stiff. Design elements in this embroidered panel include circular motifs enclosed within squares, a border of stylized floral ornaments and many small mirrors. Below the densely embroidered panel on the front are three solid coloured horizontal bands of silk and cotton textile (orange and yellow; purple and green; bright pink and red), embellished with black embroidered edging and rickrack. The back of the tunic has a center-back neckline slit (30 cm) with twisted fibre ties. Pouches made of yellow and black striped cotton textile and containing small amounts of dried plant material are sewn into the top of the neck edge on both sides of the neckline slit. Below the back shoulder yoke, a large panel of light purple cotton textile, embroidered with scattered, multicoloured medallions and bordered with a repeated triangular motif, extends to the hemline; a narrow horizontal band of machine printed red cotton textile separates the shoulder yoke from this panel. Narrow vertical strips of plain silk and cotton textile form side panels that connect the front to the back. The front of the tunic is slightly shorter than the back. Elbow-length, close-fitting sleeves are made of solid coloured bands of silk and cotton textile, embroidered with metal-wrapped thread and coloured sequins. All panels and bands are underlined with cotton textile (orange; purple; pink). A label made of off-white cotton textile, printed with a rubber stamp and handwritten with ball-point ink, is attached at the neck edge on the front with a loose running stitch.

History Of Use

Worn by a bride at her wedding, and then daily until it wears out. After that, salvageable parts are used to make other items, such as purses, cushion covers or door hangings. Wedding tunics are made by the bride’s mother, who begins the embroidery when a girl is born. She continues working on it until the wedding day, sometimes with the help of neighbors and relatives. Razia Ahmed states that “during the wedding ceremony the (neckline) slit is worn to the back, but after the marriage is consummated it is worn to the front. This is symbolic. After the wedding ceremony the slit is, again, worn permanently to the back.” This type of tunic is worn with shalwars (baggy pants), usually made of susi, a special woven cloth made in Sindh. It is rare to see women wearing this type of tunic today. Many of the women who would have made them are now employed in the money economy and no longer have time to embroider, as in the past.

Cultural Context

ceremonial

Specific Techniques

Many different embroidery stitches, including buttonhole stitch; double buttonhole stitch; cretan stitch; couching; satin stitch.

Narrative

This garment was purchased by the owners of Terlingua, a retail shop in Calgary, from an agent or dealer in Kabul, Afghanistan, and exported to Canada from there. The tunic was offered for retail sale at Terlingua previous to its acquisition by the Museum of Anthropology. See Cataloguer’s Remarks.

Item History

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