The Splendid Attire of the Ottoman Empire

Collection of Ottoman Empire Attire on display at the British Museum, including textiles, jewelry, and ceremonial clothing
Collection of Ottoman artefacts on display at the British Museum; Photo by Kianoush for Craftestan

The fabric of Ottoman clothing history is woven with tales of empires, cultures, and civilisations, each thread adding depth and texture to the grand tapestry of time. Few realms have contributed as vibrant and diverse threads as the Ottoman Empire. With its rich history spanning several centuries, the empire not only left its mark on the pages of history books but also influenced art, culture, and fashion in ways that continue to resonate today. Delving into the sartorial splendour of the Ottoman clothing era offers more than just an exploration of fashion; it reveals stories of identity, tradition, and evolution, each garment bearing witness to the world it inhabited. Join us as we step back in time, unearthing the artistry and tales embedded in the attire that graced the streets, palaces, and homes of the Ottoman world.

Collection of Ottoman artefacts on display at the British Museum; Video by Kianoush for Craftestan

Threads of Empire: The Rich Tapestry of Ottoman Clothing and Its Stories

The Ottoman Empire, one of history’s most enduring and influential empires, stretched from the late 13th century until the early 20th century. At its zenith, it bridged three continents, enveloping a vast array of cultures and ethnicities, each contributing to the empire’s unique melting pot of traditions. Notably, its rich cultural tapestry manifested in the arts, architecture, cuisine, and significantly, in the realm of Ottoman clothing.

Ottoman clothing, a splendid testament to its sartorial excellence, was more than just clothing—it was an intricate dance of geography, social status, and religion. Drawing influences from Central Asia to Europe, and from Africa to the Arab world, the empire’s garments told tales of trade routes, royal edicts, local customs, and foreign inspirations. One could witness the empire’s might and diversity just by observing the silks from Persia, the brocades from India, or the velvets from Italy that were popularly incorporated.

Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, stood as the empire’s epicenter, and its bustling weaving centres became legendary. It wasn’t merely a city of trade but a cauldron of innovation and artistry. Textiles and garments produced here were unparalleled in their finesse and design, becoming coveted items as far away as the royal courts of Europe and the palaces of Asia.

Yet, the garments weren’t just about opulence. Embedded within the threads were stories and symbols. From the protective inscriptions against the ‘evil eye’ to the minute detailing showcasing one’s region or rank, to the choice of colours resonating with seasons or emotions — every aspect was deeply symbolic. Each robe, turban, and slipper bore witness to the ever-evolving zeitgeist of the Ottoman clothing world, reflecting its societal norms, aspirations, and even political shifts.

So, as we embark on this journey through the fabrics and fringes of Ottoman clothing, we don’t just explore fashion; we delve deep into an era where clothing was a mirror of its epoch – exuding opulence, adhering to function, and, above all, paying homage to a rich tapestry of tradition.

The Üçetek Entari: A Tapestry of Tradition and Innovation

As you scroll through the annals of Ottoman clothing, certain garments catch your eye with their sheer artistry and historical significance. One such piece is the “üçetek entari,” a robe worn by ladies during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This particular robe, an emblem of the empire’s luxurious craftsmanship, tells a tale of a society at the crossroads of tradition and innovation.

Detailed view of the Lady's üçetek entari, showcasing its gold embroidery, long sleeves, and scalloped edges, exemplifying Ottoman Empire Attire textile artistry.
A woman’s coat, an ‘üçetek’, 18th century, Turkey, British Museum; Photo by Kianoush for Craftestan

A Blend of Craftsmanship and Regal Patronage

The name ‘üçetek entari’ translates to ‘triple-skirt robe’. Dipping gracefully till the ankles, it features scalloped edges and elongated sleeves, reminiscent of the grandeur associated with the Ottoman elite. Made of finely woven yellow silk, its design showcases a harmonious blend of geometric motifs and organic patterns: diamond trellises encapsulating blue leaves, pink chevrons bordered by intricate dark brown designs, and gold chevron stripes echoing the opulence of the era.

Its fabric, referred to as ‘selimiye’, carries a fascinating backstory. Named in honour of Sultan Selim III, who reigned from 1789 to 1807, it is a testament to the ruler’s visionary approach. Sultan Selim, in his bid to modernise and yet retain the empire’s distinctive character, established new weaving workshops in the scenic Asian part of Istanbul. By hiring French weavers, he introduced fabrics that embodied European lightness while still echoing the soul of Ottoman clothing aesthetics.

Detailing that Narrates a Story

Every inch of this robe is a canvas of artistic endeavour. The stand-up collar, sleeves, and hemline, adorned with generous scalloped edges, are embroidered with gold-coloured metal thread set against a striking red backdrop. This robe was designed not just to clothe, but to communicate status and affluence.

Functionality too found its place in this masterpiece. The sleeves are thoughtfully designed with openings, offering ease of movement, and there are internal pockets, a practical addition that speaks of the consideration given to the wearer’s needs.

The robe’s embroidery stands out as a masterclass in the plaited stitch technique. The fifteen green silk thread buttons, beautifully knotted, act as fasteners, offering both utility and aesthetics. Lined with natural cream cotton, it showcases how comfort wasn’t sacrificed for style.

Detailed view of the Lady's üçetek entari, showcasing its gold embroidery, long sleeves, and scalloped edges, exemplifying Ottoman Empire Attire textile artistry.
A woman’s coat, an ‘üçetek’, 18th century, Turkey, British Museum; Photo by Kianoush for Craftestan

Tracing its origins to Turkey during the Ottoman dynasty, the robe is more than just a garment; it’s a chapter from history. Representing a time when the empire was evolving, embracing new influences while fiercely protecting its own identity, the üçetek entari is an embodiment of the harmonious dance between the past and the present.

In the realm of Ottoman clothing, each piece narrates a story, unveils a secret, or reflects a societal norm. The Lady’s üçetek entari does all three. It’s a mirror to its times, reflecting the nuances of an empire, its ruler’s ambitions, the intricacies of craftsmanship, and the aspirations of its people. As you behold this robe, remember, you’re not just looking at a garment; you’re peering into the soul of the Ottoman Empire.

The Bridal Elegance of the Balkans: The Džube Coat

In the heart of the Balkans, in the historic town of Prizren, Kosovo, a tradition unfurls, as vibrant and detailed as the threads on a woven tapestry. The Ottoman Empire, a vast dominion that painted the world with its culture, had left an indelible mark on the region. Here, amidst the intermingling of faiths and traditions, emerged a symbol of matrimonial status and style: the džube coat.

Deep purple silk velvet džube coat from Prizren, adorned with gold and silver Ottoman-style floral patterns and lined with red and yellow stripes.Ottoman Empire Attire
A long sleeveless coat (‘džube’) of deep purple silk velvet with narrow bodice and full skirt, mid 19thC, Balkans,Kosovo, Prizren; British Museum; Photo by Kianoush for Craftestan

Crafted from rich, deep purple silk velvet, this sleeveless coat stands as a testament to the grandeur of the era and the skill of the artisans. But it’s not just any coat; it’s a story interwoven with gold and silver threads, a narrative of love and commitment. Gifted by the groom to his bride, the coat’s very first embrace was on their wedding day, marking her transition into married life.

The džube coat’s design draws inspiration from a myriad of sources – the intricate patterns of church vestments, the formality of military uniforms, and the undeniable influence of Ottoman clothing aesthetics. The elaborate Ottoman-style floral motifs, couched meticulously onto the velvet, shimmer with a metallic luster, while horizontal bands of braiding and ribbon grace the back. These details weren’t just for beauty; they were a declaration of the wearer’s status, with the use of costly metallic threads signaling both wealth and prestige.

This isn’t just a singular piece lost in history. The Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade treasures similar specimens, each with its unique embroidery and design. And yet, the džube from Prizren stands apart. Perhaps it’s the commercially-woven ribbon, or maybe it’s the lining of red and yellow striped cotton, or quite possibly, it’s the stories it holds within its folds.

Produced in the mid-19th century, this coat is not just an attire; it’s a bridge. A bridge that connects traditions, cultures, and most importantly, hearts. In the world of Ottoman attire, where every thread tells a tale, the džube coat from Prizren spins a yarn of love, craftsmanship, and cultural convergence.

Deep purple silk velvet džube coat from Prizren, adorned with gold and silver Ottoman-style floral patterns and lined with red and yellow stripes. Ottoman Empire Attire.
A long sleeveless coat (‘džube’) of deep purple silk velvet with narrow bodice and full skirt, mid 19thC, Balkans,Kosovo, Prizren; British Museum; Photo by Kianoush for Craftestan

The Hidden Tales of the Ottoman Empire: The Allure of Belt Clasps

The sprawling dominion of the Ottoman Empire conjures visions of grandeur, from its towering mosques to the charisma of its leaders. The empire’s culinary tapestry is famed for intertwining flavours from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Yet, while these marvels define the empire’s overt legacy, it’s the subtle elements—like the art of women’s attire—that reveal intimate tales of its heart and soul.

Imagine walking the bustling streets of Constantinople during the zenith of the Ottoman period. The air is thick with the scent of spices, the clamour of merchants, and the distant murmur of prayers. Women, draped in fabrics that dance with every breeze, move gracefully through the crowds. At the waist, glinting in the sunlight, are metal clasps—each an artwork, each a chronicle.

These belt clasps, more than mere functional adornments, were emblematic of the times they belonged to. Woven deeply into the tapestry of the Ottoman era, they became crucial elements of women’s costumes. Especially in regions like the Balkans and the Greek peninsula, they held their prominence even after these regions gained independence from the mighty Ottoman rule. They weren’t just symbols of fashion; they narrated tales of love, marriage, beliefs, and above all, protection.

Two intricately designed Ottoman-era belt clasps. One in nickel silver with a peacock motif, the other in copper alloy adorned with mother-of-pearl bird engravings.
clasp (down), clasp (up), 19thC, Balkans; British Museum; Photo by Kianoush for Craftestan

Gifted to brides by their grooms as cherished symbols of their union, these clasps carried with them an aura of mysticism. They were amuletic in nature, embodying the deep-seated beliefs of the time. Wearing one wasn’t just about adorning oneself; it was about seeking protection against the ‘evil eye’, ensuring fertility, and safeguarding the future lineage from potential miscarriages. The very act of gifting them was akin to wrapping the bride in a cocoon of blessings and well-wishes.

An intriguing specimen is the gilded clasp with mother-of-pearl plaques showcasing crowned doves. This wasn’t a mere design choice. These plaques were often souvenirs from sacred pilgrimages to Bethlehem or Jerusalem. For a woman wearing this clasp, it wasn’t just an accessory but a piece of the Holy Land itself—a talisman that bore the blessings and significance of the sacred terrains.

The 20th-century clasp from Karlovo, with its Mughal inspired ‘boteh’ motif and peacock imagery, speaks to the cosmopolitan nature of the empire. It’s a testament to the intercultural exchanges and the blend of artistic traditions. The peacock, a symbol of beauty, grace, and divinity, resonates with the aura the clasp was meant to bestow upon its wearer.

The contrast of the 19th-century copper alloy clasp adds another layer to this narrative. Adorned with mother-of-pearl bird motifs, likely hailing from the Holy Land, it draws parallels between the trade routes, pilgrimage paths, and the constant flux of ideas and beliefs.

In this ever-evolving world, fashion isn’t just about trends; it’s a dialogue with history. The belt clasps of the Ottoman era are not mere relics of the past but narrators of a time when love, belief, and artistry melded seamlessly. As you journey through the annals of the Ottoman attire, let these clasps guide you, whispering tales of romance, faith, and craftsmanship that defined an empire.

Stepping into History: The Artistry of Ottoman Empire Footwear

In the sprawling canvases that depict the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire, a discerning eye will often glimpse a world teeming with colour, design, and exquisite detail. Much has been said about the architectural marvels and sartorial elegance of the era, but one element that gracefully bridges the public and intimate domains of the Ottoman life is the richly crafted footwear.

When we imagine the cobbled streets of Istanbul during the Ottoman epoch, it’s not just the bustling bazaars and aromatic spice scents that come to mind. It’s the soft patter of elegantly adorned feet, bearing the weight of both human bodies and profound traditions.

Lady’s Velvet-Clad Slippers

For the Ottoman woman, her slippers were more than mere footwear; they were an extension of her persona. Just as poets would pen verses about the beauty of a woman’s eyes or the grace of her gait, her footwear too spoke volumes.

The lady’s slippers from the late 19th to early 20th century were more than functional coverings for feet—they were a canvas for artisans to showcase their mastery. Wrapped in the plush embrace of blue velvet, these slippers whispered tales of luxury. Yet, the true marvel lay in the meticulous decorations that adorned it: the sheen of gold-thread embroidery intertwined with delicate silk threads in pink and blue. Each sequin, or spangle, was a shimmering star against the deep blue night of the velvet, narrating tales of moonlit dances and echoing laughter.

And in a true testament to the Ottoman attention to detail, even the parts that remained hidden—the inner soles—were touched by the artisan’s hand, embroidered with golden floral motifs on a bed of red velvet.

A pair of blue velvet lady's slippers embroidered with gold-thread, and a pair of children's leather sandals adorned with gilt embroidery, glass beads, and silk pom-poms, both exemplifying Ottoman Empire Attire.
slipper, sandal, 1830s-1890s, Turkey; British Museum; Photo by Kianoush for Craftestan

Footsteps of the Future: The Child’s Gilded Sandals

While the women’s slippers bore the weight of elegance and grace, the child’s shoes were a testament to hope, future, and celebration. Made somewhere between the 1830s and 1890s, these leather and cotton sandals hinted at a world where children were treasures.

Embroidered with gilt-metal wrapped thread, each stitch on the child’s shoes mirrored the dreams and wishes parents had for their young ones. The playful silk pom-poms in hues of orange and blue added an element of whimsy, while the glass beads reflected the world around them—a world of endless possibilities. And like the women’s shoes, these too had their secrets, with inner soles ornately adorned, reminding us that in the Ottoman world, beauty wasn’t just skin deep.

Conclusion

As the curtains fall on our journey through the Ottoman sartorial landscape, it becomes evident that fashion in this grand empire was not merely a reflection of vanity or aesthetic tastes. Each piece of attire, from the exquisite üçetek entari to the delicate belt clasps, tells a story that intertwines personal aspirations, societal norms, and global influences. Through the intimate lens of clothing and accessories, we are granted a glimpse into the soul of the Ottoman world—a realm where craftsmanship met tradition, where the personal met the political, and where the past danced gracefully with the future. Though the empire has long since faded into history, its legacy endures, stitched into the very fabric of the clothes that once graced its people. Through these garments, the heartbeats, whispers, and dreams of an era continue to echo, reminding us of the timeless allure of the Ottoman Empire.

About Craftestan

Embark on a journey with Craftestan, where each accessory tells a story – a story of age-old traditions, painstaking craftsmanship, and unique artistry. Our carefully curated collection boasts not only of aesthetic brilliance but also of the tales, histories, and passions of the artisans who have crafted them.

For those with an appreciation for history, an eye for unparalleled beauty, and a penchant for unique artistry, our product range offers an exquisite blend of tradition and contemporary design. Every tie, every earring, every necklace, and every handbag is a testament to the craftsmanship of hands that have woven stories of culture, identity, and passion.

From intricately embroidered earrings to hand-painted enamelled necklaces, from sophisticated ties to authentic embroidery handbags – each piece speaks volumes of the dedication and art that has gone into its making. These aren’t mere accessories; they are wearable art pieces that carry with them a piece of history and a spirit of resilience.

We invite you to explore our product page. Delve deep into a world where each item is a culmination of art, history, and tradition. By choosing Craftestan, you’re not only acquiring a unique piece of art but also supporting a brighter future for artisan communities globally.

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FAQs

What was the significance of Ottoman attire in showcasing the empire’s history and culture?

Ottoman attire was more than just clothing; it served as a reflection of the empire’s vast geographical expanse, social hierarchy, and religious beliefs. Drawing influences from various regions, from Central Asia to Europe, and from Africa to the Arab world, the garments represented trade routes, royal decrees, and foreign inspirations. By observing elements such as Persian silks, Indian brocades, and Italian velvets, one could decipher the empire’s might and diversity.

How did Istanbul contribute to the evolution of Ottoman fashion?

Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, was the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Its legendary weaving centres were renowned for producing textiles and garments unparalleled in design and craftsmanship. As a hub of innovation and artistry, Istanbul was not just a city of trade but a melting pot where fabrics, techniques, and designs converged, influencing fashion trends across the empire and even in distant royal courts of Europe and palaces of Asia.

Why were the belt clasps of the Ottoman era considered more than mere adornments?

The belt clasps in the Ottoman era held deep symbolic significance. Beyond their functional role, they were emblematic of love, marital union, and beliefs. Often gifted by grooms to their brides, these clasps were seen as protective amulets, safeguarding against the ‘evil eye’, ensuring fertility, and even preventing miscarriages. Their designs often echoed stories of faith, romance, and artistry, making them cherished pieces that transcended mere fashion.

How did Ottoman footwear reflect the culture and values of the empire?

Footwear in the Ottoman Empire was not just a utilitarian item; it was a canvas for artistic expression and cultural values. Women’s slippers, adorned with intricate designs and plush materials like velvet, symbolised grace and elegance. On the other hand, children’s shoes, embroidered with playful motifs, mirrored the hopes and dreams parents held for their offspring. The rich detailing, even on hidden parts like the inner soles, highlighted the Ottoman emphasis on inner beauty and meticulous craftsmanship.

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