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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
Accessories of the Ottoman Empire
In the Ottoman Empire, the clothing a woman wore outside her house was very different from the clothing she wore when she was safe withini her own walls. A long, loose robe called Ferace (ferajeh) was worn over a lady’s clothing. This robe had elbow to three-quarter length sleeves and covered all the other clothing a woman wore, except the sleeves on the lower part of her arm. The purpose of the Ferace was to keep the eyes of the unworthy from violating the dignity of the ladies of good Muslim families. (Non-muslim women were not required to dress in this way.)
As we can see in the illustration at right, the all-enveloping Ferace did not prevent Ottoman women from being physically active. Ottoman women are often depicted riding horses astride by themselves (or with a female servant). Foreign writers visiting Istanbul in the 16th century made much of the freedom of Ottoman women. They marvelled at the amount of time Ottoman women spent at the baths while their servants cared for teh children, cooked the food and cleaned the house. Ottoman women going to the baths would have looked like a great procession to foreign visitors; female servants carried stools, rugs, and food as well as bath gear on their heads while the ladies walked ahead of them, gossiping and enjoying the company of other women. Some foreign writers call the Turks “the cleanest people on Earth” because they went to the baths as often as four times a week. Upper class ladies had baths in their homes, so the people the foreign writers were observing were middle class, but they didn’t show it by their dress or lack of servants.
The ladies depicted by Nicholas de Nicolay in the illustration at left show the variation in Yashmak and Peçe (pechay) seen among Ottoman women. The Lady on the far left wears a long Yashmak trimmed with gold embroidery and fringe. Her Peçe is also more decorated than we normally see; Peçe are typically plain black horsehair eye veils, as seen on the middle woman in the above picture. The lady on the far left also appears to have pinned her Yashmak to her Tarpush (hat).
By contrast the lady in the middle has wrapped a shorter Yashmak around her head à la Grace Kelly and tucked all the ends either into the wrap or into the neckline of her Ferace. The third figure, on the right (and in the illustration to the right of this paragraph) shows a third way of wearing the Yashmak -- with the ends tied at the back of the head in a half bow. This allows the Yashmak to be taken off and put on quickly since it will be removed as soon as the woman wearing it enters the women-only bath or her friend’s house.
If there is any rhyme or reason to be discerned from the pictures of Ottoman women in outdoor dress it is that the women without Peçe covering their faces tend to be the servants of the women in the same illustrations who are wearing Peçe. However this is not always so. The wearing of Peçe seems to have come down to personal preference or perhaps the formality of the situation.
Under the Yashamak, women wore a pillbox-type hat called Tarpush. This hat was made from brocade or embroidered material and elaborately trimmed. It was not unusual to wear a feather plume in the Tarpush and a jewelled band around the cricumference of the hat. The hair was typically braided in a single plait down the back with a sidelock curled in front of each ear. Drop earings and jewelled chockers were also worn.
Over the Tarpush was worn a triangular veil called Nezkep. The Nezkep was a brightly coloured small scarf decorated with borders of gold or embroidery. Its purpose is to adorn the Tarpush and hang down over the ears on either side. Around the Nezkep was worn a brocade headband called çeki (checkee). In the case of rich women, the çeki was replaced by a kashbasti or jewelled headband. The purpose of the çeki or kashbasti was to keep the Nezkep from flying off.
By the mid-17th century, the shape of the Tarpush began to change. It became taller and more pointed as we can see in the extant example illustratied at right. This seraser (brocade) hat belonging to Hanzade Sultan (d. 1650, the daughter of Sultan Ahmed I) is Topkapi Palace Museum accession number 13/792. It is precisely the kind of tall hat we see in pictures of women in the early 17th century. It is beautifully simple in its construction.
At left we can see the difference silhouette of the Yashamak that this new Tarpush style creates. The elongated look of seventeenth century Ottoman dress is in part due to this change in hat shape.
Before the end of the 17th century, the shape of the Tarpush changed again. This time it became wider at the top than at the bottom and a strange shape was created on the head of the wearer. Accession number 13/791 is a printed velvet hat belonging to Kaya Ismian Sultan (1632-59). A sketch of it can be seen at right. It is of the type seen in mid- to late 17th century paintings of women. The conical shape of the early century has reversed and the top is wider than the bottom. This type of hat is worn even farther forward on the head so that the round top faces the viewer.
In the illustration at left, you can see the effect of the late 17th century Tarpush under the Yashmak. The entire headdress has grown substatially from the compact form of the 16th century. The top veil of the Yashmak is now tied under the chin. The unchanging shape of Yashmak worn by this lady’s servant indicates that the shape of servants’ Tarpush did not change from the pillbox shape of the 16th century.
Men’s accessories may not seem to be as complicated as women’s, but in some ways they were moreso. Turbans were the main indicator of rank in Ottoman Turkish society, so the kind of Turban you wore was extremely important. Furthermore, many Sultans invented new Turban styles during their reigns so the target was constantly moving.
The Turban is an ancient headwrap that began in the deserts of Asia and Africa as a way to keep the sun off one’s head. By the 15th century, Turbans were being worn in as far-flung places as Arabia, Persia, India, Spain, Italy and France. Turbans provided padding under helmets and sometimes padding for helmets. But eventually the adornment aspect of such a potentially large headdress would win out and Turbans would become a mark of rank and importance.
The Turban, or Tülbend as it is called in Turkish, may be divided into three main types: simple wraps, wraps around caps, and wraps around special constructions. The most common type of Turban seen in Ottoman paintings is the wrap around a tall conical cap, usually red, called a Kavuk. This type of Turban can be seen in the illustration of the turban örf shown at right (although the turban örf was reserved for Muslim dignitaries). Ottoman men attached the Kavuk to their hair and then wrapped the Turban around and around until they ran out of fabric. The bigger the Turban, generally, the more important the wearer. Turbans of Courtiers were adorned with a plume called Balikçil (balikchihl) in a mounting called Sorguç (sorguch). The Grand Vizier was allowed two Sorguç but the lesser Pasha could only wear one.
Sultan Selim I (r. 1512-30) introduced a structured Turban seen at far left in the illustration above. It was a straight cylinder of pasteboard about two feet high coveed with muslin and then red fabric and decorated with feathers.and a band of gold. It hardly appears to be a Turban in the classical sense. This design seemed to spawn other non-Turban-looking Turbans. The turban mücevveze and turban kallâvi can be seen in the illustration above. These were worn only for special occasions and ceremonies.
The headgear of the Sultan’s police force, the Janissaries, departed greatly from the typical designs of Turbans. The keçe, the Janissary officer’s cap, and the cap külah can be seen in the illustration at left. An in-depth discussion of Janissary headwear is beyond the scope of this work, but see the Bibliography and Websites list for more information on the Janaissaries and their dress.
Faroqhi, Suraiya and Christoph K. Neumann, eds. Ottoman Costumes: From Textile to Identity. EREN Press, Istanbul, 2004.
Metin And. Istanbul in the 16th century. Akbank, Istanbul, 1994.
Texcan, Hülya. “The Topkapi Palace Museum Collection -- Fashion at the Ottoman Court.” In P Magazine, Issue 3, Spring/Summer 2000.
Sevgi Gurtuna. Osmanli Kadan Giyisi. Kültür Bakanligi , Ankara, 1999.
Zygulski, Zdzislaw, Jr. Ottoman Art in the Service of the Empire. New York Univeristy Press, 1992.
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This information © 2008 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History
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