An extract from Encyclopaedia Iranica with added links to illustrations & sources.

CLOTHING The early ʿAbbasid period (132-ca. 422/749-1031).

The trends observed in the Omayyad period continued through the early centuries of ʿAbbasid rule, with gradual evolution of new styles. In fragments of wall paintings and painted ceramic wine jars found in the palace of Jawsaq al-Ḵāqānī at Samarra in central Mesopotamia (218-27/833-42) male figures are depicted in the heavy, ornamented caftan with short, tight sleeves and hems dipping to points at the sides and ample, decorated trousers gathered at the ankles above small boots (plate lxxxvi). The caftan with short sleeves, a new feature, is worn over a tunic with long sleeves, recalling garments worn by both men and women in wall paintings from Qïzïl, perhaps dating from the 7th century c.e. (Herzfeld, 1927, pls. XVI, LXV, LXIX; Le Coq, 1926, p. 116 [126]). The bright hues of green, red, and pink seem to conform to the dictum of Abu’l-Ṭayyeb Moḥammad Waššāʾ (246-325/860-936) that men of position should wear pure colors and avoid “ugly” tones in their clothing (Serjeant, 1972, p. 214). A leather belt with short thongs, or lappets, is associated with the caftan worn by noble and warrior figures at Samarra (Herzfeld, 1927, p. 88 fig. 65, pls. LXV, LXVI, LXVIX). This belt, though also represented on the Boar Hunt and Stag Hunt reliefs at Ṭāq-e Bostān, was essentially a foreign fashion originally borrowed from nomadic peoples (Fukai and Horiuchi, I, pls. XXXV, XXXIX, L, LVII, LXXXIX). The first examples seem to come from 5th-6th-century burials of the Avars in Mongolia and southern Siberia, where two belts were customarily worn, the upper as a symbol of rank, the lower for suspending weapons (Ghirshman, 1953, p. 69; idem, 1963, pp. 305-06 fig. 13). The lappet belt was popular in Central Asia in the 6th-8th centuries, and on wall paintings there are many representations with small objects or weapons suspended from the thongs (Le Coq, 1924, pls. 14, 15, 17; Grünwedel, 1920, p. 128 fig. 14; Bussagli, p. 59; Belenitsky, 1973, pls. 9, 11, 122; see belts ii. in the parthian and sasanian periods).

A belt with three long lappets tipped with metal, from which two swords are suspended, is shown on a wall painting of the 3rd-4th/9th-10th centuries from the palace of Sabzpūšān at Nīšāpūr (Figure 63; Wilkinson, 1986, pp. 206-07 figs. 2.39-40). The rider is clad in a stiff, decorated caftan with tight sleeves, ornamented trousers (or leggings that cover the heels), and high boots with pointed toes. On the upper sleeves of the caftan are ṭerāz (embroidered) bands of pseudo-Kufic writing, a common element of clothing in the early Islamic period. Charles Wilkinson believed that plain, uninscribed brassards were worn in Persia as early as the 3rd/9th century; they appear on the garments of what have been identified as “Persians” in wall paintings of approximately that date at Bäzäklik (Wilkinson, 1986, p. 211; Le Coq, 1926, pl. 20); it is more probable, however, that they are Central Asian donor figures. Although this parallel underscores the influence of Central Asian styles on Persian clothing, inscribed brassards seem to be a purely Islamic innovation in dress. According to Wilkinson, the headdress worn by the painted rider from Sabzpūšān is probably a helmet of silk and leather, which he considered unique in form (1986, p. 209). Next to the rider is a second, damaged figure wearing a stiff embroidered coat; what appears to be a stole; ample, decorated trousers; and small slippers reminiscent of Omayyad examples (Wilkinson, 1986, p. 207 fig. 2.40). The headdress, an onion-shaped turban, perhaps of ornamented silk, with a pseudo-Kufic inscription and a knobbed finial at the top, is a new style that prefigures Islamic headdresses known from later representations; only the finial has earlier parallels, in the 7th-8thcentury paintings at Panjīkant (T. T. Rice, p. 108 fig. 91; Azarpay, p. 66 fig. 31). The turban may, however, have had precursors in the Omayyad period: A conical cap of wrapped cloth is depicted in a late 2nd/early 8th-century wall painting at Qoṣayr ʿAmra (Almagro et al., p. 162, pl. XIVb).

Samanid buff-ware ceramics from Nīšāpūr, generally dated to the 3rd-4th/9th-10th centuries, also attest the Sasanian and Central Asian origin of garments worn in Persia during the early ʿAbbasid period. Decorated men’s caftans with stiff skirts and diagonal closings (usually from left to right) and lapels were worn over wide trousers and boots with pointed or upturned toes (plate lxxxvii; Wilkinson, 1973, pl. 2; The Arts of Islam, p. 35, pl. 4); sometimes there were also an overskirt and an undergarment. This costume is closely related to those shown on wall paintings at Qïzïl (Le Coq, 1926, p. 116 [126]; Wilkinson, 1973, pl. 2). The curious pointed boots are akin to those of the rider in the painting from Sabzpūšān and in one early representation at Čāl Tārḵān-ʿEšqābād (Wilkinson, 1973, pl. 2/62a; Thompson, p. 44, pl. IX/1). Possible Central Asian affiliations can again be cited, for upturned shoes of felt and leather are known from the late 2nd-3rd/8th-9th centuries at Mazar Tagh, east of Khotan (Whitfield, pl. 84). A unique feature of male dress depicted on Nīšāpūr buff ware is the bifurcated wing-like veils or sleeve attachments, which terminate in narrow points (plate lxxxvii; Wilkinson, 1973, p. 47 fig. 64, pl. 2; The Arts of Islam, p. 35, pl. 4). Judging from the ceramics, tight-fitting, decorated shirts and full, elaborate pantaloons, sometimes covered from ankle to knee with stiff leggings, were also popular at Nīšāpūr (Wilkinson, 1973, pp. 45 fig. 62, 47 fig. 64). Leggings, a distinctively nomadic accouterment, were first worn by Persian tribes in the Achaemenid period and continued to be worn through the Sasanian period (see ii-iv, above). The stiff version represented on the ceramics most closely resembles those of donor figures on the wall paintings at Qïzïl (Le Coq, 1913, pl. IV; T. T. Rice, p. 190 fig. 180 [179]).

There appear to be but few representations of early ʿAbbasid headgear other than helmets, and it is often difficult to distinguish caps from hairstyles. It seems, however, that at Nīšāpūr long, decorated head coverings with points were popular, in contrast to the pointed caps with ear flaps that were worn with stiff coats and boots in Mesopotamia (The Arts of Islam, p. 35, pl. 4; Atıl, p. 18 fig. 3; Grube, 1976, p. 77 fig. 38). A number of headdresses are also to be found on silver and gold ʿAbbasid medallions of the 3rd-4th/9th-10th centuries. The ruler may be shown in what seems to be a crenellated crown or in a rounded cap with beaded brim, tied at the sides with ribbons; the latter harks back to Sasanian styles (Sourdel-Thomine and Spuler, pl. 154d-e). A camel attendant wears a tall, conical hat and a lute player a small pointed cap with a brim (Sourdel-Thomine and Spuler, pls. 155b, 204c). By the 5th/11th century the ruler was depicted wearing not a cap or crown but an elaborate tulip-shaped turban (Sourdel-Thomine and Spuler, pl. 267b).

Literary and historical accounts contribute further information on male clothing in the early ʿAbbasid period. Waššāʾ described the fashionable footgear for men of rank: shoes and boots of black or red leather with fur trim. He approved of the use of fine silk and linen shirts worn with cloaks and hoods but decried the choice of saffron-dyed garments and those scented with musk and ambergris, as such trappings were more appropriate to dancing and serving girls (Serjeant, 1972, p. 214). Ebn Qotayba Dīnavarī (213-76/828-89) gave an account of the cloaks (borūd) of Baṣra in southern Mesopotamia, which were, according to an Arab informant, “sewn with blossoms of spring which caught the eye” (ed. Guirgass, I, p. 300; Serjeant, p. 90). This description recalls the elaborately decorated garments depicted at Samarra and Nīšāpūr. The stiff contours of many of the early illustrated caftans may be explained by the statement of Ṯaʿālebī (d. 412/ 1021) that for winter silk (ḵazz) robes were lined (mobaṭṭan) with silk and quilted raw silk (qazz; Ḡorar, p. 710; Serjeant, p. 68).

On a few polychrome-painted ceramic wine jars from the Jawsaq al-Ḵāqānī palace monks or priests are depicted (Herzfeld, [1927,] pls. LXI, LXIII). Their habits consist of striped shawls or vestments worn over long, decorated robes; hoods like balaclavas cover their heads and necks. The garb of a figure represented on an approximately contemporary luster-painted jar from Mesopotamia, consisting of a long robe with a pointed hood and long veil, has been interpreted as that of a priest (Atıl, pp. 20-21 no. 4), though the presence of earrings suggests that the figure may be female. (There is no doubt that a comparable image on a luster-painted bowl from Fatimid Egypt, probably of the early 6th/12th-century, is a priest wearing a long, decorated robe with wide sleeves and a pointed hood; Lane, pl. 26a.)

A particularly valuable source of information on Persian costume in this period is a manuscript of Ketāb ṣowar al-kawākeb al-ṯābeta (Treatise on the fixed stars) by ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. ʿOmar Ṣūfī, written in 355/965 for the Buyid ʿAżod-al-Dawla and copied by the author’s son in 400/1009. In the drawings of the personified constellations male and female clothing of the early 5th/11th century is represented in some detail. The basic male garment is a tunic similar in form to the caftan, with a diagonal closing from right to left and lapels, open in front below the waist to reveal knee-length trousers or long, loose pantaloons covering the heels. This tunic was worn over a shirt with longer sleeves (plate lxxxviii). It differs from the caftan in that it is shorter, has wider sleeves, and is made of soft material (Wellesz, pls. 2/3-4, 3/5, 4/7-8, 5/9). The most common male headdress represented in this manuscript is the soft, wound turban, flat in silhouette and set squarely on top of the head (Wellesz, pls. 2/4, 4/8, 5/9, 7/14). The personification of the constellation Cepheus, however, wears a tall hat, rounded at the top and covered with a lattice pattern (plate lxxxviii), probably representing the qalansowa ṭawīla (tall qalansowa). Richard Ettinghausen has identified the qalansowa as the official headgear of the Omayyad and early ʿAbbasid caliphs on the basis of historical and literary sources (1972, pp. 30-33), though no early pictorial representations survive, with the possible exception of the tall, rounded cap worn by a camel attendant depicted on a silver medallion of the caliph al-Motawakkel (232-47/847-61; Sourdel-Thomine and Spuler, pl. 154e). Ettinghausen traced its origin from the kyrbasía of the Achaemenids (see ii, above) through the 1st-century b.c.e. pointed hats represented at Commagenian Nimrud Dagh in southeastern Turkey and Parthian examples; tall, rounded caps were also current during the Sasanian period (Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 153-54 fig. 196, 169-170 fig, 212). By the beginning of the 5th/11th century the qalansowa had come to be worn by men who did not have royal status, even by non-Muslims. The taller version was probably of silk over a framework of reeds, whereas the shorter one may have resembled the modern fez and was most often worn wrapped in a turban. The use of the qalansowa ṭawīla is documented in illustrated manuscripts as late as the 8th-9th/14th-15th centuries (Ettinghausen, 1972, fig. 89; see ix, below).

Depictions of female dress in the 3rd-5th/9th-11th centuries are less numerous than those of male dress. A variety of styles is, however, depicted on the wall paintings from the Jawsaq al-Ḵāqānī palace at Samarra. In a particularly well-known example (plate lxxxix) two dancing girls are clad in long-sleeved hip-length tunics, long skirts, and soft shoes; the tunics are girdled at the hips with two strands of beads. Scarves are draped over the arms and across the front. On their heads the dancers wear rounded caps with gold diadems and strands of pearls in their hair, which is worn in long plaits. There are pearl drops in their ears. The pink garment on the left is patterned with “v”s, and the blue robe on the right has a broad, frilled collar. These bejeweled figures with their clinging robes and scarves are reminiscent of the dancers on Sasanian silver vessels (see iv, above, plate lxix). The broad collar and hip-length tunics are new features, however, probably derived from the costume of female entertainers like those on a post-Sasanian plate in the Hermitage (Survey of Persian Art IV, pl. 208A). A similar collar is also worn by male figures represented on post-Sasanian silver plates (pls. 208A, 218), and the caps of the Samarra dancers recall the round, filleted headdresses worn by male figures on still another vessel in the Hermitage (pl. 207B). Other dancers are also represented in the Samarra wall paintings; they are bare to the waist and wear brightly colored and patterned skirts girdled at the hips with corded sashes (Herzfeld, 1927, pls. XX-XXI), evoking the costumes depicted on Omayyad stuccos from Ḵerbat al-Mafjar and Qaṣr al-Ḥayr al-Ḡarbī (see above). Other female dress depicted at Samarra includes tightly fitted tunics with a variety of patterns and narrow short sleeves worn over long-sleeved undergarments, again resembling some male costumes (Herzfeld, 1927, pl. XVI). This type of tunic was also worn by both men and women somewhat earlier in Central Asia (Le Coq, 1926, p. 116 [126]).

Aside from the paintings at Samarra, depictions of women are rare from the Islamic world in the 3rd-4th/9th-10th centuries. Two women on a Samanid bowl are dressed like their male counterparts in heavy belted caftans with tight sleeves and simple undergarments; the caftans are wrapped diagonally from right to left and have lapels (Atıl, p. 24 no. 6). That such caftans were in fact worn by women is also clear from the donor figures on the wall paintings at Qïzïl (Le Coq, 1924, pl. 1; idem, 1926, p. 116 [126]). In the Ṣūfī manuscript already mentioned most of the female figures representing constellations are rendered as dancing girls. Two distinct types of costume are illustrated. One is a long, soft tunic with a diagonal closing; it is belted with a jeweled girdle over full trousers. Like the male tunics represented in the same manuscript, it has features in common with slightly earlier caftans but is of soft material and is worn with an undergarment with long sleeves and possibly a decorated skirt (Wellesz, pls. 3/6, 7/13): it lacks the lapels that usually appear on the male version, however. Female figures are frequently also represented wearing a more complex fashion. It consists of a close-fitting tunic with short scalloped sleeves and hem over an ankle-length dress with longer sleeves. A third skirt, short and open at the front, is held in place by a twisted scarf; sometimes tight, decorated trousers are worn beneath the dress as well (Wellesz, pls. 5/10, 6/11-12). All the female figures in the manuscript are adorned with jewelry: diadems with single composite jewels in front, necklaces, bracelets, hoop earrings, and anklets. The jewel on the diadem of one image of Andromeda is a rosette contained in a crescent, which is derived from elements of the Sasanian crown (Wellesz, p. 14, pl. 6/12). Although in general the jewelry and diadems are similar to those of dancers on Sasanian and post-Sasanian silver (e.g., Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 215-17 figs. 256-58), the dress is new and may reflect the actual attire of entertainers at the Buyid court.


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(Elsie H. Peck)




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