Kurdish Clothes in the Eyes of Tourists from 1501 to 1979 - Part 2

Chia Azizi

Walter Harris describes the buttoned up short-vests like Rich: "On top of their blue or red trousers, women used to wear Kawa (made from the same fabric) which was decorated with silver buttons." (1)

Sonn (2) also talked about a type of buttonless blouse and wrote that women wore a short shirt and a puffed pair of trousers made of white linen and the bottom was made of some stripped material. Over this, they wore a long gown that reached their ankles with white cotton short sleeves which is open on the neck part. Over this gown they also wore another long buttonless blouse called Kawa (3) which also reached their ankles; this part of their clothing is made of highly priced fabrics with tight sleeves however, a few inches over their wrists there are some cracks in the sleeves. (4)

According to Dr. Wum's information, women's clothes in the Humarml (Omarml) village are described as such: "Women wear a shirt underneath that reaches their waists; in addition to this they wear a long dress like the Egyptians. A large fabric tied around their heads is a part of their headscarves that is hung over their shoulders like a shawl." (5)

It is possible that Wum was talking about a long dress worn by Kurdish women when he mentioned the Egyptian dress. (6)

The head scarf is described in Ziyapour's book as such: "The fabric is black and it is rolled and tied around the hat and it is pinned to it with a part of the scarf hanging over the back of their head." (7)

Although Rich believes that describing Kurdish women's headscarves in detail is very hard to do however, he does so skillfully: "This scarf is made of silk or colorful shawl material, it is tied to the forehead carefully and beautifully and they use a pin to fix it in place which looks like a crown at the end, another larger scarf called Dasmal is worn over the shoulders and neck which is tied over their chests and it reaches their waist on the back part. As long as I know the married women wear this Dasmal. They do not let their hair be easily seen but they have bangs on their foreheads." (8)

The description of Kurdish women's clothes in ceremonies that include dancing is not ignored by the tourists believing that this kind of clothes is special. Eugine Uben describes Mahabad women's clothes like this: "Women wear colorful skirts with velvet or shiny shirts as well as white floral scarves that are tied over their head. A silk black shawl is worn around their neck that looks like a cross." (9)

Kurdish women still wear Kurdish clothes for wedding and dancing ceremonies and they have still preserved this custom although there are several changes made in the form of these clothes however, in general, the differences are not significant compared to the past. The white floral scarves that have been mentioned earlier are no longer used. Perhaps, what they meant by the shawl that was tied like a cross is "Charoka (10) or Faqiyana which is a part of the dress and is hung from the sleeves and it is also called Sorani which is a fabric sewn to the sleeves from the wrist down. Women used to tie the end of these sleeves over their neck which resembles a cross shape or they could simply tie them around their hands" which is now seen rarely. It is important to say that skirts are seldomly used among Kurdish women except for the Kurdish women in Khorasan and the reason the tourists thought these were skirts is probably because of the many creases these dresses had or maybe because the belt the women wear makes the dress seem like it is made of two pieces and the bottom part is a skirt." (11) However, there are reports on some kinds of skirts worn by Kurdish women that were made in a circular form that resembled ballerina skirts (12). (13) (14)

To be continued…

Sources and Notes:

1. Harris/ B. Walter (1896)/ From Batum to Baghdad: Via Tiflis/ Tabriz/ and Persian Kurdistan/ William Blackwood and Sons/ Edinburgh and London. / 1896" 198

2. Martin Henry Donohoe estimated the number of tourists who had visited Kurdistan to be very small (since Kurdistan was far away from the well-known roads for travel in the past) and the Russian and German analysts of tourism identified them very little in their linguistics and anthropological studies however, he believes that E. B. Soane, the British captain had enhanced their views with his book called To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise which has helped them to see Kurdish people's behaviors and lifestyles more accurately (Donohoe, 2020: 181).

3. Perhaps what Soane meant by a long half vest is the piece of clothing item that is called "Kawashor" in Kurdish.

4. Soane E. B (1926)/ To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise/ Boston/ Small/ Mayrand and Company Publishers, 1926: 402.

5. Bainder Hanry (1991) Hanry Bainder's Travelogue to Kurdistan, Mesopotamia, and Iran, translated by Karamat Allah Afsar, first edition, Farhangsara Tehran Publishing (Yasawoli) 407_ 408.

6. Ziayapour, Jalil (Bita), The Iranian Tribes', Nomads' and Villagers' Clothing, Bija, Farhang Amme Publication from Culture and Art Ministry Publication, p. 21.

7. Ziayapour, Jalil (Bita), The Iranian Tribes', Nomads' and Villagers' Clothing, Bija, Farhang Amme Publication from Culture and Art Ministry Publication, p. 22.

8. Rich, Claudius James (2019), Claudius James Rich's Travelogue (Kurdistan Chapter), translated by Hassan Jaff, edited by Faramarz Aghabeygi, first edition, Tehran, Iranshenasi Publication, p. 230_ 231.

9. Eugine, Uben (1983), The French Ambassador's Travelogue and Notes in Iran, Iran Emrooz 1906_ 1907, Iran and Mesopotamia, translated and explained by Ali Asghar Saeedi, first edition, Tehran, Zawar bookstore, p. 116.

10. Charoka: is a cloak like shawl worn by women (Sharafkandi, 1990: 196). Pfeiffer describes this clothing item as such: a large piece of fabric that is blue is tied around the neck and reaches the ankles. (Pfeiffer 1859: 189).

11. Aghabeygi, Faramarz (2021), Kurds in Travelogues (from the Safavid era to the Pahlavi's), first edition, Tehran, Iranshenasi Publication, p. 12_ 13.

12. Ballet_girl.

13. Harris/ B. (1896)/ From Batum to Baghdad: Via Tiflis/ Tabriz/ and Persian Kurdistan/ William Blackwood and Sons/ Edinburgh and London. / Barjesteh/ 1999: 110_113.

14. Aghabeygi, Faramarz (2021), Kurds in Travelogues (from the Safavid era to the Pahlavi's), first edition, Tehran, Iranshenasi Publication.

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