Silk, embroidered wtih mirrored paillettes
Overall: 132.1 x 63.5 x 30.5 cm (52 x 25 x 12 in.)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade 1916.1472
Folds and old stitch lines on the sides of this garment indicate that it was taken in at one time, making it shorter and suggesting that more than one person wore it.
Covered with symbolic decorations, this multitone silk garment beautified and protected its wearer. The khamsah (خمسة)—an open five-fingered hand—figures prominently as a cream-colored appliqué. The khamsah deflected or absorbed al-'ayn (العين)—the evil eye—as did the appliquéd mirrors, shielding the wearer from many varieties of harm. New research connects this garment to an entry in museum founder J. H. Wade’s 1881–1900 travel purchase notebook: “Kalifa’s gown emb[roidered] on purple silk.” A caliph (or khalifah) is a leader of a Caliphate (Islamic state) or an Islamic religious group. Whether this was indeed a caliph’s gown is a point of future research.
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