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Tilke M. Oriental Costumes. Their Designs and Colors

Tilke M. Oriental Costumes. Their Designs and Colors

The history of costumes has now become an indispensable factor in the study of cultural history. But not only the learned specialists are interested in this branch of human invention which has by no means been exhaustively investigated. Ever-widening circles, such as artists, craftsmen, fashion firms, and the theatrical profession are becoming increasingly interested in it. True, much new and valuable work has been done, since Hermann Weiss laid the first foundations in his "Kostümkunde" (1860-72) for the investigation and definition of costumes in connection with the general cultural life of the various nations. Yet, in turning over the leaves of the various books dealing with costume-lore one is struck by the fact that there is yet something lacking. The real dress itself. That is, we obtain but little information as to the shape of the dress itself, as to its cut, and the connection of the single parts. But even the few patterns in the books especially devoted to the subject of costumes are nearly always completely neglected. Reconstruction of patterns from old oriental costumes are few and far between. They do not do justice to actual discoveries, because the investigators allowed themselves to be unduly influenced by the schematic forms of representation of the old artists without having a general conception of former and present parts of dresses and costumes.

We cannot reconstruct unless we can compare. For this reason it, was first necessary to gather as complete a collection as possible of new and old patterns of garments used by all nations. On journeys in North Africa, Spain, the Balkans, and the Caucasus the material found in the European museums and private collections was completed, and finally united into a collection. I exhibited my first collection in 1911 at the Lipperheide Costume Library of the Berlin "Kunstgewerbe" Museum. The heads of the museum were so much interested in my collection that it was purchased for the library with money provided by the state.

Our illustrations of costumes, which are to be continued, only present a part of all the former and present types worn in the orient. But an attempt has been made to select the most conspicuous and particularly characteristic forms of each country, and thus at least to provide a general view of the general character of oriental costumes. The reader will have no difficulty when looking carefully at the various plates, and comparing them, to find out the types of costumes belonging to certain cultural areas and to recognize their geographical distribution. Inspection of the plates will soon show how costumes resembling one another are distributed over great geographical areas, but also that there are great differences among the costumes of one and the same country. History, it is true, teaches us that peoples have migrated since the earliest times, have crowded each other out, and intermingled. But everything that is recognized as akin could not have been invented in one region and have spread from there. Where human intelligence found similar requirements and the same climate, the same form of costume had to be evolved in spite of local modifications.

In studying a costume one should at first see how many seams are marked or emphasized by ornamental decorations. Attention should not be paid to such seams that are the incidental result of lack of material or similar causes. The shape of the sleeves, the opening for the neck, the fastenings, ornamentation, and colour of the garments should then be scrutinized. The most ancient dresses are the most simply cut, and have the fewest seams. Complicated costumes can be traced back to a characteristic nucleus which remains if one substracts all adjuncts recognizable by seams. It is interesting to note that these costume nuclei-- which I shall term original forms--resemble those still worn to-day. Many of the original forms seem to belong to certain cultural circles, others to have been generally used. As many nations are still living in circumstances that are similar to those of ancient times, it is easy to understand that ancient costume shapes have been retained. In the same manner as excavations devulge various strata of cultural epochs, so do the garments of certain peoples consist of costume types of different cultur al circles and epochs.

The wide undershirt from Morocco (cf. Plate 3) will serve as an example. The nucleus of this shirt corresponds to the ancient Roman tunic, which is characterized by the vertical slit for the neck. The sleeves consist of two parts. The upper part attached to the tunic corresponds to that of the ancient dalmatica, a wide-sleeved tunic of the late Roman period. To the dalmatica sleeve was added a slanting piece which lengthened the sleeve considerably towards the hand. This slanting additional piece corresponds to Syriac-Arabic taste, and was probably introduced into North Africa at the time of the Arab conquest. And in this manner a new garment was finally created, the older local shape of garments was not abandoned. The tunic still exists in Morocco as "djebba", the rough Berber shirt, and the dalmatica is worn by the women of Algiers as a chemise, though greatly reduced in size. And Algerian women still wear the two strips running over both shoulders ("angusti claviae") which were sewn onto the tunic and dalmatica. and are also found on Coptic garments. They are replaced by coloured satin ribbons sewn to the light chemise.

This example will suffice. My "Studier zur orientalischen Kostümgeschichte", which is to some extent a more extensive test-book of this volume of plates will provide further information. The text accompanying each plate is intended, in connection with the material in my "Studier", to pave the way for the understanding of the history of the development of oriental costumes. It was often very difficult to find out the names of the garments. I made all the enquiries I could on my journeys, but no doubt I often received inexact information. Whenever I have found the names in the collections of costumes in museums I have made use of them. I should be particularly grateful to readers who could supply me with information about names missing in this work

I regret to say that I am only partly able to fix the names of all types of dress according to their geographical distribution. But no one will deny how important this is for the history of costumes.

The costumes shown on the plates are drawn to the scale of 1: 10, so that the size relations of the various costumes to one an other are clearly expressed. Whenever possible, the costumes are depicted as spread out so that the cut is visible, and tailors and costumiers thus enabled to reproduce them.

I have found that the most useful way of arranging the plates was according to geographical distribution of the costumes. But of course related forms could have been grouped together. This would have better expressed the historical development. But such an attempt would have remained more or less fragmentary, and for this reason th e present arrangement is justified.

There are two groups of costumes. Either a costume belongs to that class which has been sewn and provided with an opening

for the neck, or it is simply one piece of material which is used to cover the head partly or altogether. Of course cut and sewn costumes are better adapted for reproduction than those which are used as loose wraps, and only receive their shape by more or less artistic draping. The former group is chiefly depicted on the accompanying plates, where as the latter appeared more suitable for illustrating the text of the "Studier".

The reason why I begin my investigations with oriental costumes is because just these afford excellent material for studying the development of individual forms of garments . It is here that we can trace the gradual development of simple wraps to complicated combinations, or how original garments with only one button were developed by the addition of accessories and seams into new forms of dress.

If I am now able to publish a new collection of costumes, and at the same time to show in my "Studier zur orientalischen Kostümgeschichte" the construction of some original forms and their development to costumes, I must not omit to sincerely thank authorities who have so heartily assisted me in my work. Above all, I am obliged to Dr. Albert Grünwedel, one of the directors of the Berlin Ethnographical Museum, who has assisted me in my investigations for a great number of years. The same thanks are due to Professors Le Coq and Ankermann, both of the same institute. I must not forget to express my gratitude to Professor Doege, the late eminent head of the Lipperheide Costume Library in Berlin, for his interest in my collection from its very inception.

Berlin, Summer 1922.

Oriental Costumes. Their Designs and Colors // E. Wasmuth, Berlin. 1922.

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