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    Inspired by Sol!

    Skip all this and take me straight to the most recent entry!

    Recently on the Medieval_Spain list, Sol posted a very long email summarizing her knowledge of the garb which may have been worn by a Mozarabe (aka a Christian living in al-Andalus)  lady living between 1030 and 1070. She was looking for any additional information to fill in some of the gaps.

    How could I resist? This is  right up my alley! I'm going to make myself an authentic 11th century Mozarabe  lady's outfit, and use that as a vehicle for learning more about the garb  of the period.

    This costume diary will be quite different from Twelfth  Night '05. For one thing, NO DEADLINE. Woohoo! I can work at my own pace, and take as long as I want. I'm counting on the costume diary to keep  me committed to getting the outfit done. It helped a lot with the Twelfth Night garb because I knew so many people were waiting to see what happened.  (No pressure!) Another difference: this diary will be more about the research than the sewing. The period of the Party Kings (muluk at-tawaif,  or "Taifa" period) is one of the hardest periods for which to document the garb, because the Almoravids destroyed most of the artifacts  when they took over at the end of the century. Just designing the outfit  will be a challenge. Lastly, sewing Moorish garb has ceased to be a challenge for me; it's all straight lines, with no fitting required. In order to make  this project more interesting at a technical level, I'm going to look for other ways, besides the pattern, to make the outfit as awesome as possible.  Some possible areas to investigate: hand-made tiraz, dying the fabric (perhaps  even with period dyes!), other types of embroidery or embellishment, etc.

    Now, Sol didn't specify a socio-economic class,  so I'm going to go with upper class. It's better documented. ;)

    January 30, 2005. Sources, or Lack Thereof.

     Very little survives from Spain in the 11th century.  So documenting clothing - for men, women, Muslims, Mozarabes, Jews, nobles, commoners, all of them - presents a great challenge. There is one, I repeat ONE artifact from this period which shows a Moorish woman. Commonly called the Játiva basin, it shows men in a variety of poses, engaged in wrestling, hunting,  imbibing. The one lady however is nude, so it doesn't help in the least!

    Dodds. No. 6

    A few details can be gleaned from other figural depictions from earlier and later in the 11th century; that is, at the tail end of  the Caliphate (pre-1031) or just before the Almoravid invasion (1086). One  of my favorite pictures has always been this ivory plaque from the beginning  of the century. It's one of the few which show real "Middle Eastern" dancing, and it looks more like swing dancing that any Middle Eastern dancing  you see at SCA events. But are the women's outfits really indicative of fashion in the Taifa period? Probably not...

    O'Neill.  No. 53On the other end of the century is this ceramic dish from Málaga. The women in this picture are draped in copious amounts of flowing fabric, to the point where you can't see any details of their costume at all. In fact,  I'm not 100% sure they are women; but there are more sources depicting men,  and they are almost without exception shown with turbans. It's not quite  proof, but I think it's a fairly safe guess!

    Since the figural depictions for Taifa costume are so few and far in between, we will need to get creative in how we document a noble woman's outfit. More on that in the next installment.  For now, here are the two books I used for these pictures.

     Dodds, Jerrilynn D., ed. al-Andalus: the art of Islamic Spain. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992.

    An invaluable source for anyone studying any period of the history of al-Andalus. Textiles, leather,  wood, jewelry, ceramics - this book has a wealth of information about extant Moorish artifacts.

    O’Neill, John, ed. The Art of Medieval Spain, A.D. 500-1200. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993.

    Another really great exhibit catalog, though this one has Christian artifacts as well as Moorish  ones. Also, the time frame is much more limited.

    February 2, 2005. Now What?

    Since  we have so few visuals, we must go elsewhere for clues to Moorish costume in the eleventh century.  We have several options, all of which will be explored in gory detail as this project progresses:

    Costumes elsewhere in the Middle East.  When researching  earlier centuries, my first recommendation is always: Look to Baghdad.  Since the inception of the Abbasid Caliphate, and the flight of prince Abd ar-Rahman  to the Maghrib in the mid-8th century, al-Andalus tagged along after Baghdad (the seat of Abbasid power) in matters of fashion and culture.  It was a love-hate relationship, with Cordoba simultaneously trying to assert its independence from and superiority to the rival court.  But in the eleventh century, Baghdad had its own problems as the invasions of the Seljuk Turks drew attention eastward.  The  western Islamic lands – including al-Andalus, Ifrikiya, and Sicily – began developing their own separate “Mediterranean” identity. 

    Unfortunately, figural depictions are relatively few and far in between in the rest of this Mediterranean community, just as the were in al-Andalus.  The twelfth century would leave behind a comparative wealth of primary sources with figural depictions: the painted ceilings in Palermo, carved ivories and ceramic dishes from the Fatimids.  That may be my next project.   For now, every “Islamic  art”-themed book which crosses my path will be scrutinized for possible clothing pictures.

    A possible source:

    Stillman, YedidaKalfon.  Arab dress : a short history : from the dawn of Islam to modern times.  Ed. Norman A. Stillman.Boston: Brill, 2000.  Themes in Islamic studies, v. 2  

    What next?  Figural depictions in Spanish Christian sources  of the era, of course.  A very careful  investigation of Mozarabic illuminations from the 10th century reveals the periodic potential source for  Moorish costume.  Often these are the biblical “bad guys”, such as the Whore of Babylon and Belshazzar.  But  we’ll take any press we can get, even bad press.  Not only do we have illuminated manuscripts from this period, some carvings survive as well.  Often these show religious figures or Biblical stories, and are worth studying just in case.


    Text sources.  Normally, I prefer to use text sources as a supplement to pictures, rather than a complete substitution.  Poetry, histories, charters: all have information about garments, sometimes including details about  fabric or color.  But it’s the little things which make an outfit specific for a particular time or place.  The basic cut of a Moorish tunic just isn’t  that complicated. It’s the fabric; the amount of ease; the cut of the sleeves; the shape of the neckline; the length of the hem; the placement of any embellishments; the layers which are worn together; the jewelry;  the headgear, including any veils; the shoes; the makeup – all of this together is what makes an outfit special, and authentic.  And those are the details you just can’t find in written sources!


    The Arabic sources I plan on using for this diary include poetry,  and an autobiography.  I don’t know of any hisba treatises from the eleventh century, but if I find any I’ll included them  as well.

    `Abd Allah ibnBuluggin.  El siglo XI en 1a.persona :las "Memorias" de `AbdAllah, últimoreyzirí de GranadadestronadoporlosAlmorávides (1090).  Tr. E. Lévi-Provençal and Emilio GarcíaGómez.  Madrid :Alianza, c1988.

    Pérès, Henri. La poésie  andalouse en arabe classique au XIe siècle. 2. éd. rev. et corr.  Paris, Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1953.

    Zwartjes, Otto. Love Songs from Al-Andalus:  History, Structure and Meaning of the Kharja.  Medieval Iberian Peninsula.Texts and Studies, Vol 11.Brill Academic Publishers, 1997.


    The Latin sources I currently have access to are mostly from the tenth century.  Two books in particular published lists of Arabic clothing terms which appeared in Latin charters; extracted from their original context, they merely serve to identify which Moorish garments had been adopted in wealthy Christian society.  Maybe someday I’ll get access to Latin registers of the 11th century, but we’re not going to hold up this project until that happens. 

    Some sources:

    Gómez-Moreno, Manuel.  Iglesias mozárabes : arte español de los siglos IX a XI.  Reprint of the 1919 ed. published by Centro de EstudiosHistóricos, Madrid.  Granada : Patronato de La Alhambra, 1975

    Sánchez-Albornoz, Claudio.  Estampas de la vida en León  durante el siglo x.  3. ed.  Madrid, Espasa-Calpe, s. a., 1934.

    February 5, 2004. Textiles and Embellishments.
    The other way to make garb really stand  out is to pay careful attention to the fabric you choose. For many years  now, I have failed to do this, and it showed recently when I purged my  garb closet. Ouch! At least they were all natural fibers, but too often the textile did not match the style of garb, and some of the colors were  pretty atrocious. Besides, how many different shades of “burnt orange”  can you have in your wardrobe anyway? And to a garment, they were plain  weave. Not one twill or herringbone or otherwise interesting weave in the lot! (A lot of the outfits were impractical for my SCA “day  job” as a shop keeper, but that’s a different rant.) In addition, a lot of these garments had very conventional embellishments, consisting primarily of store-bought metallic jacquard trim. You know the  type! Not one bit of embroidery (I’m very bad at embroidery),  no card weaving (I’m even worse at card weaving) – nothing  unique or original.

    Mind you, I am not saying that weird colors, plain weaves, and modern trim make garb “bad”. After all, I have worn primarily that for five years now! For a generic SCA persona, or  an overall medieval “look”, it works great. But I have done a ton of research about *Moorish* garb, and you can’t get a *Moorish*  look with these materials.

    So what does it take? …I’m still working on that! Looking at paintings and illuminations in books can give you  a sense of color and design, and reading textile books can tell you about thread count, S- versus Z-twist, and weaves. But the texture, the sheen, the drape – these are all things you can only really “get” when you look at a textile up close and in person. There are only a handful  of extant textiles from Taifa Spain (and this is the “strict” definition of Taifa, aka 1031-1090, as opposed to the looser “some  time in the 11th century” definition which I often use in this diary).

    1) Lining of the Reliquary of Saint  Pelagius (O’Neill, no. 109)
    2) Lining of the Reliquary of Saint Isidore (O’Neill, no. 110)
    3) Lining of the Reliquary of Saint Aemilian (O’Neill, no. 125;  Dodds, no. 23)
    (Do we detect a pattern, here?)
    4) The Witches Pallium (Dodds, no. 24)
    5) Lining of the Reliquary of Saint-Chaffre (listed in O’Neill,  no. 109, note. 6)
    6) The Colls tiraz (Dodds, no. 22)

    Florence May’s Silk Textiles of Spain also shows several eleventh century textiles (figs. 8-12), but it’s not clear whether they are Taifa, per se.

    Also in the “eleventh century” category  is this fragment,  which is linen embroidered with silk. This is the earliest example of Moorish embroidery I know of, so I’m very disappointed that it is so hard to see any detail.

    Since these textiles are all mere fragments, it’s  impossible to say whether they were originally used for garments, curtains, or other furnishings. Stylistically, they are all over the map. You can  point to textiles from the early twelfth century and say “That is an Almoravid style”, but no such cohesion exists for the Taifa textiles.  Since there is no “typical” Taifa style, that will be a challenge in finding the perfect fabric for this outfit.

    Ergo, with textiles as with images, we may have to look elsewhere in the Mediterranean world in the eleventh century for  ideas and inspiration.

    A few books on textiles, Moorish and otherwise:

    Baker, Patricia L. Islamic Textiles.London : British Museum Press, c1995

    Bolens, L. “The Use of Plants for Dyeing and Clothing: Cotton  and Woad in al-Andalus.” The Legacy of Muslim Spain. Ed. S.K. Jayyusi. Leiden, 1992. 1004-7.

    Crowfoot, Elisabeth. Textiles and Clothing : Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, c.1150-c.1450. Boydell Press, 2004.

    May, Florence Lewis.Silk Textiles of Spain: Eighth to Fifteenth Century. New York: Hispanic Society of America, 1957.

    Remie Constable, Olivia.Trade and Traders in Muslim Spain: The commercial  realignment of the Iberian peninsula, 900-1500. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.

    Serjeant, R. B. Islamic Textiles: Material for a History  up to the Mongol Conquest. Beirut: LibrairieduLiban, 1972.


    Specifically for embellishments:

    Ellis, Marianne.  Embroideries and Samplers  from Islamic Egypt.  AshmoleanMuseum: Oxford, 2001.


    And some links:

    Andalusian Textiles article by Halima

    Andalusian Dyes article by Halima


    Palermo Robes.February 9, 2005.  Pipe Dreams.

    I’m in love.   I just spent an hour gazing upon these gorgeous images.

    The  silk! The gold!  The pearls!  Needless to say, I will find a way to work these  beauties into my current project!  OK,  OK…12th century Sicilian is not the same as 11th century Spanish.  But it may be close enough to get some inspiration!


    February 21, 2005.  All That Glitters.A Moorish bead.

    If you were wondering…no, I’m still not done talking about sources. There’s still one category of surviving artifacts which I think is very important to the “look” of any outfit: jewelry.  Several hoards have been found from al-Andalus, at least two of which are from the late Caliphal period.  To see pieces from one of those, click here. Unfortunately, the jewelry elements often lack specific context to show how they may have been used.  For instance, there’s  no way to be sure how loose beads would have been strung back in the day; medieval aesthetics for balance and symmetry were probably different than  what modern taste dictates.  Likewise, connected plaques might have been  a belt, or perhaps a diadem. In fact, one secondary source notes how “jewelry from al-Andalus is characterized by interchangeable elements…” (Dodds,  223)  I shall have to learn more  about the matter; at first read, it seems like that’s the easy answer when you don’t actually know what the pieces are supposed to be!


    The  disproportionate presence of gold in the surviving Andalusi jewelry from  the late Caliphal (read “Almost Taifa”) period probably reflects the importance of gold in hoards.  The jewelry  is characterized by repoussée work, filigree and granulation, and falls into a couple of over-arching categories.  Two large bracelets and a cuff; beads, both glass and gold.  At least one pair of earrings survives, and pieces which may belong to another pair.  Some elements are thought to belong to belts, or diadem (ar: taj). 


    Various jewelry elements.


    The  pieces which I find most intriguing are called “bracteae” in the secondary  sources.  I’m not sure whether they are the same as bracteates; they surely don’t look like the same thing.  These bracteae (singular, bractea) are multi-lobed; each lobe has a loop at the end for sewing onto clothing.  Since only a few bracteae appear in each hoard, there’s no way  to know for sure how they were originally arranged on garments. But there’s that cloak from Sicily – the bracteates could have been stitched down the front like the enamels on the cloak.  Or  they could have been stitched onto a fabric belt, or used as embellishments on a veil. 


    Which  leads to the other interesting tidbit I’ve read in a secondary source:  “Practices common until the taifa period – the sewing of perforated coins to clothes as ornaments and the use of coins in diadems – seem to have disappeared by the Almohad  period; instead coins with attached rings were appended to necklaces.”  A hoard at the V&A.(O’Neill,  106).  Go back to the part about  sewing coins to clothes and using them diadems.  Wow!  This is a practice which is often seen in SCA Middle Eastern garb because it seems “right”, or because it is done in traditional Middle Eastern cultures, but is very hard to document as a period practice.  Of course our author does not cite any sources  for this sweeping statement.  However,  the exhibit catalogue for “Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and Albe rtMuseum” has this tiny picture of a Moorish hoard. (While the hoard wasn't in the exhibit, you can see part of it online by clicking on the gold bead above.)  And a few of the coins pictured as part of the hoard have holes: two holes, to be exact.  Which seems to me would be consistent with stitching coins to clothing.  After all, if there was only one hole and the stitching came loose,  you’d be out a dirhem!

    ...Miguel  recently won three silver dirhem from Caliphal Spain on eBay...he was not amused when I asked him if I could poke holes in them...

    Some other pictures  of Moorish jewelry from the Caliphal period can be found in E. Levi-Provençal’sHistoire de l’EspagneMuslumane

    Jewelry elements.Bracelets and cuff.

    And right  now, I only have one comment about the "interchangeable elements" issue. Is it a part of a belt or part of a diadem? If belt, it would really  hurt when you bend over!

    Belt? Diadem?  You decide!

    Two sources which I  haven't already mentioned elsewhere:

    Levi-Provençal, E. Histoire de l’EspagneMuslumane.3 vols. Paris,  G. P. Maisonneuve, 1950.

    Stanley, Tim.  Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and AlbertMuseum.London: Victoria and AlbertMuseum, 2004.

    March  13, 2005.  Change of Plans!

    My projects always suffer from scope creep, and this one has been no exception.  What started out as one outfit has morphed into two: one for winter and one  for summer.  So far my research leads me to believe that  such a dichotomy, introduced by Ziryab in the ninth century, may well still have been present in the eleventh.  Originally, my plan was to focus on making the winter garb now because with how slowly my projects go, that was the only way to make sure I have something to wear by the  time winter actually gets here!  (It’s  hard being a sewing diva with two little children and a full-time job!) 


    That particular plan just changed.  A friend of mine with even less time to sew  (!) let me raid her fabric stash and one of the cuts I brought home is  a lovely green linen, somewhere between olive and sage.  Based on careful reading of Serjeant, it appears that al-Andalus was better know for linen and silk industries, whereas North  Africa excelled at production of wool and cotton.   And while we don’t have any extant pieces of  dyed linen from Moorish Spain, we do have the Coll’s fragment (al-Andalus,  no. 22), parts of which are a similar shade of green, and as late as the  fifteenth century Valencia was “famed for…great skill in dyeing fine linen tissues…” (Serjeant, 175).  OK, so it’s a stretch, but it’s as good as any  other argument!   As soon as I get a picture which does justice to this  color, I will load it on the website.


    A Conjectural Ghilala Pattern.Maybe  it’s too soon to talk about pattern layout – after all, I still haven’t found additional pictures on which to base the cut of this garment.  But based on the copious folds on the figures of the Malaga bowl, I would assume: long, wide sleeves, on a long, wide tunic.   My guess, based on what I have read so far in Pérès, is that this style of tunic would have been called a ghila>la – a ladies’ tunic with buttons at the collar (Pérès, 179).   If  I had to cut the gown out tomorrow, this is the layout I would use.  (The proportions are similar to the Ximénez de Rada tunic (al-Andalus, no. 94), which is about  two centuries later.) Note that I am treating the linen as though it were two pieces, each woven at a width of 30”.  This may seem like a large loom width, but the Witches Pallium  is approximately 40” by 90”.  I haven’t been able to tell from the picture  in al-Andalus (no. 24) which direction is warp and which is weft, but it’s either 40” wide (the height of the piece) or 58” wide – the distance  between two apparent vertical seams in the piece.  And while this piece obviously wasn’t woven for clothing, it still shows what was possible in the eleventh century. 


    A word on the font change.  I recently found an Arabic transliteration font which is based  off of Times New Roman.   From now on I’m going to use this standard to represent Arabic words to help distinguish between words which appear similar in English, but are actually quite different in Arabic.  To see these words correctly, go to this website and install the font.  Otherwise  there will be random braces and slashes and angles showing up in the words.

    April  6 , 2005.  Hijacked!
    I must confess. The preparations for Blackstone Raid XIV have hijacked the costume diary. I wasn’t joking when I said earlier that I threw out a large portion of my wardrobe, and now  all my free time is devoted to making sure I have enough garb to last a meager three days. However, the garments I’m making are highly influenced  by the research I’ve done for this diary. With appropriate modifications  for the class & status of my actual persona, a well-to-do shopkeeper. We can’t all be Moorish princesses after all.

    Bear in mind when reading these descriptions that IT IS ALL PURELY CONJECTURAL.  Until we find some surviving garments from 11th century al-Andalus (hahahahahaha), these garments are all hypothetical based on a handful of figural depictions and some poetry which was translated from Arabic into modern French, and then into English. (More on that another entry.)

    Qaba>’.  I’ve chosen to render this garment as a coat with fairly wide sleeves.  I have only been able to reach three solid conclusions about the qaba>’:  1) it opened up the front either completely or in part; 2) it was worn by female dancers; 3) it was not floor length.
    1) Pérès concludes that the qaba>’was  front opening based on several quotes from poetry (p. 390). The best, in  my opinion, describes a man how a man "tears his shirt (qami>s})  from the collar to the bottom, in such a manner that it became a qaba>’." (p. 390, note 6)
    2) On this same page, Pérès makes at least two references  to "danseuses" wearing the qaba>’,  although the quote above suggests men might wear it as well.
    3) One of the references to female dancers describes how they attached carvings  of horses to their hems, so as they danced it would look like warriors fighting. If the carvings were intended to move freely and swing about, the hem must not have reached the floor.

    We do have one picture of dancing from this period, and perhaps these garments are in fact qaba>’.  They certainly meet the "not floor length" requirement! But it’s impossible to tell how they opened. Also, the sleeves are tight, so the  garment clearly wasn’t intended like an outer layer the way I have  interpreted it – there just wouldn’t have been room for several layers of sleeve underneath. (On page 176, Pérès identifies  the qaba>’ as a robe with large sleeves, but there is no context and thus no way to  know what he's basing that description on.)

    So is there a better word for my coat? Probably. But qaba>’ will do for now.

    I used a striped cotton twill for the outer layer, and a cream silk noil for lining. Both fabrics seemed appropriate for my status. Striped fabrics were always popular in Spain. Cotton tended to be expensive, but was considered  to be very warm. So in order to be able to afford cotton, a shopkeeper may  have given up bright dyes, and chosen an inferior quality of silk for lining. (Ah, but it is still silk.) Also, the cut is very generous, which shows  just how much of the fabric you could afford!

    Despite the size of the sleeves, they are relatively short, so the qaba>’ will still be functional to wear while merchanting.

    Sara>wi>l.  I’m not sewing my own pants this time around. A lot of department stores sell white linen pants in Spring, and most of the modern details  (pockets and elastic) are so high up that no one will see them at events  anyway. Pants in the 13th century are cut long, and wrinkle horizontally  at the calf, but there is no sign that they did so in the 11th century. Well, for that matter I don’t have conclusive evidence that women  even wore pants in the 11th century, nor what they would have been made of. While Pérès mentions sara>wi>l in his section on costume (p. 318), it's clear that he's using some other secondary source. But “yes they wore pants” and “white  linen” both seem reasonable based on what I’ve studied from the periods before and after.

    Qami>s}.  I feel even more confident in the qami>s} than I do in the sara>wi>l. Qami>s},  camisa, chemise – it’s all the same garment which serves the  same purpose – to serve as a durable, washable under layer for the  rest of an outfit. My new chemise is white linen, in a “Moorish cut”  (i.e., side gores which extend from hem to sleeve, and no gores in center  front or back), with sleeves which are narrower than any of my current chemises.  After all, I am a shopkeeper: wide sleeves are very pretty and an excellent way to advertise your wealth, but they knock over merchandise! Extremely impractical for a shopkeeper.

    Tunics. Reading through Pérès I’ve come across a handful of words which can be translated as “tunic”. Unfortunately,  there are many more references to tunics for which he does not provide the Arabic, so there isn’t enough context to decide whether a zihara,  for example, is exclusively a men’s tunic, or if the ghilala had wide sleeves. Additionally, certain words which I always assumed were common  based on previous research – namely, jubba> and durra>’a – are not identified at all. (Though again, this could just be because Pérès chose  to always translate both these terms as “tunic”.) Anyway, I have two tunics in process for BSR. Both are closer to the body than my previous tunics, and both are relatively short as well (calf-length). There  are side-slits for ease of movement. I’ve never been able to document side-slits for regular wear, but they are so functional I simply refuse  to go without them. I’m wearing pants underneath, so it’s not  like I’m exposing anything!

    One tunic is beige linen, with comparatively short sleeves. This is a good “working” outfit, and can be dressed up with the qa’ba if the need arises. The other tunic is cotton, which is cut longer, with fuller sleeves. In fact, I designed the sleeves to be long enough to tie up and keep out of the way, if necessary. My intention is for this one to be a “house” tunic – something I would wear around the tent before getting dressed in the morning, for instance.

    Time permitting, I’d like to make one more tunic before BSR, but I’m not going to hold my breath. We’ll see!

    One last editorial note - I'm sure you've noticed that the Arabic terms  have strange gaps between the letters sometimes. That's an artifact of the  special font, mixed with the browser. I started italicizing the Arabic,  to help make it more clear which letters were part of the same word!

    May 7, 2005. Attack of Life!
    I hate it when real life gets in the way of the important things. That's exactly what's happened to me over the past month or so. First there was the panic sewing for BSR. Then, I got sick during the event. I mean, sick. It snowed, of all things! I spent all that time sewing beautiful, lightweight linen garb...and it snowed. I froze, and came home with a horrible cough. So between that, and pressure at work increasing exponentially, today is the first day I've found time to really focus on my current project.

    The other thing I have noticed is that without a firm deadline, I've been having a hard time focusing on scoping this project. I could end up with an entire wardrobe as I keep researching and uncovering new information...or I could end up with no garb at all, because I do continue to find new information, and I sometimes wonder if I will ever be able to say I'm "done" and there is nothing left to find which might make the garb just that much more authentic. My latest find is:

     Abu Abd Allah, al-Sakati, al-Malaki. Un manuel hispanique de hisba; traite sur la surveillance des corporations et la repression des fraudes en Espagne musulamane; texte arabe, pub. avec une introduction, des notes linguistiques, un glossaire en une traduction francaise par G.-S. Colin et E. Levi-Provencal.(Series Institut des hautes-etudes marocaines Publications, v. 21) Paris, E. Leroux, 1931.

    Al-Sakati wrote this hisba treatise at the end of the 10th or beginning of the 11th century, so whatever material he has about costume is relevant to this project. ("Hisba" is a genre describing market regulations, thus may include information about the manufacture or selling of clothing.) Apparently, the editors originally intended a "volume 2" which would include a translation into French, but I haven't been able to track it down; I'm not sure it was ever actually published. So my Arabic will be getting a work out soon!

    May 11, 2005. Speaking of Scope...
    And no, we're not talking about mouthwash.

    It occurs to me that if I'm not careful, this costume diary will take over my (SCA) life. I need to have clear boundaries, or before you know it, I will get sucked into the Taifa period and never come out! And that's not what I want at all, because I'm very happy in the thirteenth century, thankyouverymuch.

    The green linen ghila>la is still on my "To Do" list. Eventually. A flowing, loose-fitting tunic is good for Hispano-Muslim garb, no matter what the period. Maybe the name changes, but the concept remains the same: this sort of outfit is wonderful in the heat because it permits air to circulate close to the skin. But if I wanted to do something which was inarguably Taifa, what would it look like?

    Currently, it involves hand-spun silk yarn, to be hand-dyed, and then embroidered onto white linen as tiraz for a tunic. While I don't know whether there is a cut which is strictly "Taifa", I do know what the embroidery looked like. Well, one piece of it, anyway.

    Taifa embroidery.

    What me, ambitious? OK, so I don't know where I am going to find the time for all this. But I have silk roving, and a spindle, and delightful selection of period dyes. So whenever I have free time (hahahahahahaha) I will be able to get started!

    May 13, 2005. Decisions, Decisions.
    What’s white? What’s linen? What textiles get embroidered? When I think “white linen” I think “chemise”, but it doesn’t make sense (to me anyway) to embroider a chemise – if I’m going to put that much effort into embellishment, by golly people shall see it! And my inspiration is particularly large: the overall piece is 9” high by 23.74”, and the embroidery itself is almost 6.5”. It's not subtle! To our left is the ghilala schematic from above, with a proportional sample of the inspiration embroidery pasted onto it in two possible locations - at the upper arm (the "traditional" location for tiraz strips) and at the hem.

    (I personally find the hem doubtful: Arabic is a sacred language since it was the language of the Qur'an. Embroidered Arabic lettering at the hem would be more likely to get dirty, torn, etc. Well, that and I haven't seen any documentation for it. If anyone knows differently please email me...)

    Most of the other examples of medieval Islamic embroidery I've seen (Embroideries and Samplers, for instance) have also been done on white (or natural colored) linen. They've also been fragments, so it's really hard to know what the original context was. I'll have to go back through Pérès and see if he's got any input.

    I've gotten a few recommendations to make the silk yarn out of reeled silk instead of spun, so I'm looking into it. I don't think I'm going to go that route - maybe it would be more correct, but the last thing I need is yet another hobby. At least I already know how to spin. (Sorta.)

    May 19, 2005. It's a Willow Moment.
    Take everything you know - or think you know - and just toss it out the window.

    La Suaire de St. Lazare d'AutunMy embroidery project, which seemed so simple and straight forward, has been getting increasingly complicated as the days go by and I dig deeper and deeper into sources.

    Item. A lot of people have suggested that reeled silk is much more authentic for embroidery than spun silk. The more I learn, the more I think I will NOT be boiling dead bugs in my kitchen any time soon, however it is possible to buy reeled silk yarn and then dye it myself. Lo, I give you Eterna! Their "stranded filament silk" sounds like what I'm looking for, because if you look closely at the pictures in Embroideries and Samplers, the silk yarn doesn't appear to have any twist at all. (For those of you reading along at home, check especially no. 3.)

    Item. It could have been a pillow. Wasn't it just a few days ago I was debating what style white linen garment might have been sporting embroidery like the inspiration piece? No. 4 in Embroideries and Samplers describes the current and previous pieces in the book as "most probably from furnishings." No, that doesn't mean that this Spanish example is also from a furnishing. But until I read that, it had never even occurred to me that it was a possibility.

    Item. I missed one! The Musée National du Moyen-Age actually has TWO, count 'em TWO pieces of 11th century Andalusian embroidery. In addition to my original inspiration piece, they have this stunning sample: I present the Shroud of St. Lazarus of Autun. (You'll notice that the picture here is much better than the one at the Musee de Moyen Age site. That is thanks to the "Photo Agency" of Réunion des Musées Nationaux.) This is almost like a dream come true for me. I have found a piece of early medieval Middle Eastern embroidery which was NOT done on white or natural colored linen. In fact, this is a blue silk taffeta; at a guess it would be the fabric called s{iqlat{u>n. What survives is 21.65 inches long by 11.8 inches wide. So proportionally speaking, it would have an even more significant impact on a garment like the ghila>la. And it's not a strip...the edges show a larger, repeating pattern which is invocative of 12th century textiles which have survived. And it's not Arabic lettering, which the inspiration piece, however floriated, most definitely was. I still can't tell what the stitch was, though, in either of the pieces.

    Item. A stitch by any other name. I keep thinking some day I will discover all there is to know about Hispano-Muslim costume. In fact, it would be very comforting to reach "the end" and to finally be able to say definitively, "This is how it was." But the more I learn, the more I realize how much is left to learn, and that's why I will probably NEVER publish a book about all this. My point? I would cheerfully start embroidering a design using split and stem stitches filled with couching, and never again worry about the "right" stitch for this project, except for the Creation Tapestry. Morales, in O'Neill, identifies the primary stitch used as "figure stitch" (catalog no. 159). Following her footnote to The Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework (p. 139 of the 3rd edition) reveals the stitch as "Roumanian Couching". The Historical Needlework Resources Website calls it "self couching" or "Bokhara couching". It could be argued that the Creation Tapestry is almost 100 years after the Lazarus of Autun shroud, and maybe that long after my original inspiration piece as well; and since it was embroidered in Girona it probably reflects more of a European-continental influence, rather than Moorish. But still. Until I write the Musee and find out definitively, the Figure/Roumanian/Bokhara Couching Stitch is a possibility. Add one more thing to my To Do list...

    And one last completely random note: the transliterated Arabic words look much better when this page is viewed in Netscape, as opposed to Internet Explorer.

    May 20, 2005. The Secrets of My Success.
    And now, for something completely different!

    I have been asked several times now just how it is that I have managed to scrounge up so much stuff about Moorish costume. So I shall divulge the truth! The secret of my success is the fact that I regularly go back and reread the same material over and over and over. How frequently I revisit a book depends on how relevant and useful the material is. I've just started Serjeant again, and I think I'm beginning to figure out reeled silk in the medieval Islamic textile industry:ibris{m.

    So the secret is to never assume you already know everything that is in a source! Well, that and the Internet. So the two secrets of my research success is to reread sources and the Internet. Hmm, and I have a gift for foreign languages. So the three secrets of my success are ...

    Remember: a dhira>' = a cubit, and a shibr = a span. Now, I don't know how it is that people can know this for sure about medieval Arabic measurements...nor how they know that "span" = 1/2 cubit, and that a span is 9". But even though I don't know how they figured it out, I'm willing to accept it as true because I'm trying to research costume, not measuring systems, and sometimes you have to trust that other people know what they are talking about.

    June 18, 2005. The Truth is Out There.
    It's just in French!

    It's taken me a month to write an update because I was waiting on some new tidbits of information. And now I have them. I braved the unknown and wrote to the Musée National du Moyen-Age to ask about their two embroidered Moorish textiles. The results are nothing earth-shattering, but I still wanted to know for sure: the techniques used between the two pieces were split-stitch, stem-stitch, chain-stitch, and couching for the gold and some crimson silk on the shroud.

    Alas, they believe the shroud may be a fragment from a khil'a ("robe of honor") which was made for 'Abd al-Malik after his victory over the Christians at Compostella in 1007. What are the odds that I'm going to embroider an entire garment of my own in this style, even with such simple techniques to employ? Slim to none! Which means I need to find another, smaller article of clothing to embroider. Maybe a veil or something...

    Oh, and the red dye in the shroud is apparently kermes mordanted with alum, which is good to know. Since cochineal was used as a substitute for kermes later in period, I may go ahead and use cochineal as a substitute in this project as well. After all, I've got cochineal...

    Two new items for the bibliography:
    Desrosiers (Sophie) avec la collaboration de Georgette Cornu, Viviane Huchard, Florence Valantin et Thalia Bouzid. Soieries et autres textiles. De l'Antiquité au XVIe siècle - Musée national du Moyen Âge - Thermes de Cluny. Paris : RMN, 2004.

    Bernis, Carmen. “Tapicería hispano-musulmana (siglos IX-XI).” Archivo Español de Arte. 27, no. 107 (1954): 189-211.

    3 July 2005. The Color of Love.
    I confess. My attention has been consumed by yet another "Hobby of the Week" (aka "HOW"). I am totally enchanted with natural dyeing.

    No really. I have gotten the most gorgeous colors imaginable, with very little effort. The following dyes were used in this picture, from left to right:

    Fustic - a New World (aka late period) dye, since I couldn't find weld.

    Madder root - a very ancient dye, though I have to say I'm surprised it gave me such orange.

    Cochineal - another late period dye, used as a subsitute for kermes since that's not available any more.

    Indigo - came in crystalized form so I didn't have to deal with the dye vat.

    Fustic overdyed with Indigo. Beautiful!

    All were done on white Eterna stranded silk with a basic alum mordant. And this isn't at all a tangent to the costume diary. I plan to dye up some more colors, and hopefully a get a real honest-to-goodness red, and then embroider with it. Eventually. Right now I'm having too much fun just playing with the colors!

    According to Ana Cabrera Lafuente (pp. 20-24) dyes found in Spain included:

    red: rubia or granza (madder - rubia tinctorum); hena (henna - lawsonia inermis linne); murex; orchilla (a lichen - rochella tinctoria); quermes (kermez - quermes vermilio); and cochinilla (cochineal - dactylopius coccus).

    yellow: gualda (weld - reseda luteola); and azafrán (safflower - carthamus tinctorius). If you were wondering, YES, azafrán is the word for "saffron" (crocus sativus), and the Spanish word for safflower is "alazor". Yet another example of the confusion between saffron and false saffron. Fortunately this book includes the Latin name so I assume that they really do mean safflower...

    blue: índigo (indigofera tinctoria and indidigofera argentea); and pastel (woad - isatis tinctoria)

    green: usually made from mixing yellow and blue. According to the "Calendar of Coroba" (10th c.) it could also be made with a mineral dye, cardenillo (verdigris) which was fixed with vinegar, but no surviving textiles have been identified which used this technique.

    black: zumaque (sumac - rhus coriaria), which could also be combined with madder to create "rojo turco" or "Turkey Red".

    The most common mordants included alumbre (alum), cobre (copper) and hierro (iron).

    Olivia Remie Constable (pp. 156 - 159) says,

    Brilliant reds and purples could be produced from vegetable agents such as madder, safflower, and brazilwood, or extracted from mollusks (for an imperial purple) and beetles (for a brilliant crimson dye called qirmiz). Equally fine yellows came from saffron, turmeric, and mineral ochres; blues from indigo and woad; blacks and browns from gall nuts and walnuts.

    Later, she also describes how lac (a tree resin red, ar: laqq), brazilwood (ar: baqqam) and indigo were all imported into al-Andalus. (Woad, ar: ni<l busta<ni< was grown locally, but considered inferior to imported indigo.) The only mordant she mentions in any detail is alum (aluminum potassium sulphate).

    Do you notice the comparatively small amount of overlap in the list provided by Cabrera Lafuente and Remie Contsable? Well, I have a new article to look for which should help provide a more definitive answer as to what dyes were used in al-Andalus.

    I'm apparently a dyemaster without knowing it! All this time I have been applying a copper post-mordant to my skeins. I had no idea until this evening. Miguel and I were playing with a brazilwood dyebath I had been working on all day, when we realized that some splashes from the liquor were turning screaming pink, but others weren't. We finally decided to do an experiment: is there something in our local WSSC tap water which was changing the color of the dyebath? Research time! Heretofore I had been using Brita filtered water for all of my dyeing. One of the minerals filtered out by a Brita pitcher is copper... Hmmm...the WSSC website says that copper in their water is about 16 parts per billion. We did a test, straining some of the liquor into a babyfood jar and tossing in a few pennies. WOW. Screaming pink indeed! About the shade of the silk shown here. (OK, more like a purple.) Miguel is currently rounding up every penny in the house to throw in the dyebath. Now I know why a few of my skeins (espcially the madder) appeared to change color as I was rinsing out the dye. I thought it was my was actually a copper post-mordant! Cool...

    9 July 2005. The Fine Art of Dyeing
    I take it back. I have no idea what the heck I'm doing.

    I'd heard that a vinegar bath was good for restoring the pH of silk after it had been dyed, so every single one of my skeins got a quick rinse in vinegar after they came out of the dyebath. I ran out of regular white vinegar so I switched to red wine vinegar. Point one: vinegar is a "modifier", i.e., it can change the color after you dye; point two, red wine vinegar is apparently even more so! The cochineal and madder skeins above which gave me such "weird" colors compared to what I was expecting...they were both rinsed in the red wine vinegar. So I'm going to redo them, being a ltitle more careful about what else I subject the skein to!

    Oh, and the brazilwood dye bath turned a dark, black-cherry color after several dollars worth of pennies were added to the bath. You could actually watch the liquor change from red to purple to almost black as Miguel dumped more and more pennies in! The skein didn't turn out quite that shade, because (duh) I didn't know better and rinsed it in red wine vinegar, and panicked as I watched the color changed before my eyes! Well, I rescoured the skein and put it back in the bath, but I don't think the damage was done at that point. More experiments! More tests!

    15 July 2005. The Whole Nine Yards.
    Or 66 inches, as the case may be. But either way, this changes everything!

    See, I was wondering around the internet minding my own business, and I literally stumbled on this website by accident. Now scroll down to the bottom...and click on item #7.

    Apparently, there was an exhibit of Andalusian art back in 2001 called "Les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue", and for this exhibit, the three separate pieces of the Suaire de St. Lazare d'Autun were brought together. Once they are all matched up, the total size is 35" wide by 66" long. And it's still a fragment. I don't know about how tall the men of al-Andalus were but there's no way this fragment was a tunic. Maybe it was a curtain, or fulfilled some other similar furnishing-type of function.

    But it's OK! Even if it wasn't part of a tunic, it's still a stunning example of the style and technique of 11th century Andalusian embroidery. I'm confident that embroidery on garments would have been similar.

    I just have to finished deciding what garments to make, what to make them of, etc. That's the hard part.

    16 July 2005. Us vs. Them.
    I just got a new ILL book, thanks to the Montgomery County Public Library System. And as I'm drinking in all the wonderful information in this book, it's becoming increasingly clear to me one of the primary differences between historical reenactors and academics.

    The book, if you are wondering, is

    Tejer y vestir de la Antigüedad al Islam. Ed. Manuela MARÍN (Estudios árabes e islámicos: Monografías, 1). Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2001.

    It will show up in the bibliography in many different entries, since it's chock full of articles on Andalusian costuming. But with every page I turn, I keep going "But... but..." Academics are concerned with "What". Reenactors are concerned with "How."

    The best example so far is a reference in Puente's article to a linen garment called s{udra, which she translates as "chaleco"; "vest" in English, judging by the definition of chaleco in the RAE. But...does the vest end at the waist, or higher or lower? Does it button? How do you even know for sure that's what a s{udra really is? If two or three different secondary sources all translate it as chaleco, is that reason enough to believe it really is a vest? What if the secondary sources differ, then what?

    Veils are an even stickier issue. Sometimes translated a velo, sometimes cubrecabeza, sometimes toca - none of which really tells you what the veil looks like, and only "cubrecabeza" answers the unspoken "head covering or face veil?" question.

    The fact that I don't read Arabic doesn't help. I'm at the mercy of the secondary sources, and all I can hope for is to come up with enough examples in context to make some sense of the mountain of information that's burying me alive. If someone had told me at the start of this diary that I would find so much possible information that I wouldn't be able to process it all, I would have laughed. But here I am...

    2 August 2005. The Lady of Sabra.
    Lady of SabraI got a new book for my birthday! And it has one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. Behold, the Lady of Sabra! OK, well, one of the two "dames de Sabra" at the Museum of Islamic Art in Kairouan. [No. 224 in the catalog.] No date is given for the cup onto which this figure was painted, but this lady shares much similarity in the eyes, hair, and profile to another female face dated to the 10th or 11th century, from Malaga. [No. 121 in the catalog.] I feel confident in saying that this piece is probably is from around the same time.

    Notice the long braid hanging down her back; the relatively narrow cut of the dress; the tight sleeves; and the overall pattern on the fabric of the dress. (Miguel swears she's wearing scale maile...) She appears to be wearing slender, pointed slippers. It's impossible to determine any details about the neckline, but she may have large hoop earrings.

    Long story short: this is a totally different style of dress from those shown in the Malaga bowl. (Though notice the comely curl of hair laying against her cheek; the ladies in all three of these extant ceramics share this feature, and it's still seen in the 13th century miniatures from Bayad wa Riyad.)

    3 August 2005. The Details.
    I always say, "The devil's in the details."

    I got to thinking about these two pictures, the Malaga bowl and the Lady of Sabra (also a ceramic dish). And it occurs to me there are two details "missing" from these images that I would have hoped or expected to see.

    No tiraz.

    No veils covering either face or hair.

    Hmmmmm... Do either of these necessarily mean anything? Maybe. Maybe not. Most of the research I've done on face veils suggests that it was a privilege of rank for a Moorish lady to cover her least, by the 10th century it was, and presumably into the 11th. Likewise, with the fall of the caliphate of Cordoba, tiraz had fallen from indicating the caliph's favor to being just another status symbol. I need to double check the text sources and see whether these details (or rather, their omission) carry any special significance.

    19 August 2005. Back to work!
    Last night, Miguel rightly pointed out the harsh truth to me. This has ceased to be a costume diary, and is rather just a rambling blog of my research. This can mean only one thing! It's time to start sewing.

    So I hauled out the piece of linen earmarked for this project to validate the layout and set to cutting. Remember from earlier that:


    = a cubit

    = 18 inches


    = a span

    = 9 inches

    Al-Saqati (the same author cited above as al-Sakati) is quoted in Serjeant (p. 200) as saying that the usual size of a piece of silk is sixteen dhira>' by four shibr; in other words, 8 yards long by 36" wide. From this, we cannot make any firm conclusions about the possible loom-width of a piece of linen, except to say that some looms for silk could weave a piece 36" wide, so maybe looms for linen could as well. The issue of loom-width is crucial for informing the layout, because even if we do not know the precise layout for a medieval tunic we know a) roughly what shapes the pieces may have been and b) the medieval tailor would have tried to lay the tunic out as efficiently as possible.

    (Al-Saqati takes a very dim view of tailors of made-to-order garments, suspecting them at every turn of trying to cheat the fabric owner out of precious scraps of silk!)

    So far, I haven't found any documentation which would make me radically change my ghila>la layout. Although I must say that I no longer know for sure whether ghila>la is even the right term. There are apparently many, many different possible tunic names (and thus, tunic styles) and matching the name to the garment is impossible without more visual evidence. So perhaps we will simply say: there are at least two cuts for women's tunics, loose (Malaga bowl) or narrow (Lady of Sabra). This tunic will be one of the "loose" style.

    I haven't found any good documentation for the cut of the neckline either. Hmm... Maybe I will go look at some pictures tonight and start sewing tomorrow...

    10 September 2005. And now, for something completely different!
    Have I mentioned lately how much I hate hand sewing? I'm not very good at it, and it goes sooooooooo slowly. So why, oh why, did I decide to hand-finish *all* the seams in my new tunic? I've been working on it for several weeks now, and it's a good thing I don't have a deadline or I'm sure I would have long since missed it. All I have left are the side and underarm seams, and the hem at wrist and feet, and I will be done. Well, that and any embellishment I choose to put on it. I simply cannot imagine that they would have left a tunic simple and unadorned. We are, after all, talking about a civilization which apparently did not believe in white space!

    So while I continue to draw my own, I mean, finish my seams, I thought I would put another picture online. These four women represent my favorite NNM image. NNM stands for "Not Necessarily Moorish". It's a special category for those non-Moorish Spanish images which still may be able to inform us of various aspects of Moorish culture, art, dress, etc. With early Mozarbic miniatures especially, the costume details are often so impressionistic it's impossible to tell anything specific about them. But here we see four women wearing loose, floor length robes, veils over their hair which reach down as far as their gowns, long black hair (in braids?) over their shoulders, and large white earrings. Three of them may be bare-footed. (Biblia primera, dated 960; Mentré, fig. 80)

    25 September 2005. Oh, My Broken Heart.
    It took a very long time for me to track down a copy of al-Saqati in a language I could read. The 1931 French edition was supposed to be followed by a translation into French, a mythical volume two which apparently never happened. I even enlisted a professional to help track it down, to no avail. I was delighted to finally find a reference to the Spanish translation, and ILL'd all the pieces, as it was broken up into four sections and published in different issues of the journal al-Andalus. Imagine my delight when they all finally arrived! Imagine my dismay to read the introduction by Chalmeta where he presents all the evidence that this hisba treatise actually dates to the 13th century, rather than the 11th (as the original editors, Colin and Lévi-Provençal, claimed). It matters, because the other two sources central to my research - Pérès and Puente - each have serious flaws. Since Pérès' focus is poetry, many of costume references are allegorical, and frequently lack the context and/or corresponding Arabic to accurately and precisely identify a clothing item. The three sources in Puente, by contrast, are very focused and specific, covering those clothing items a man was obligated to provide his wife, children, and slaves. But only one of the treatises dates to the Taifa period; the other is earlier and the other quite a bit later.

    Where does that leave me? Frankly, I'm not sure. My primary time period is the 13th century, so part of me is quite tickled at the thought of being able to add al-Saqati to the piles and piles of sources I already have for that century. But it doesn't get me any closer to solving the Taifa mystery.

    26 October 2005. And The Other Thing...
    (I think this is the point where I'm supposed to complain about daily life getting in the way of the 'important' things in the world...hopefully I'll have more time for updates going forward.)

    I realized another reason for my disappointment at learning that al-Saqati is a 13th century source. When I thought the text dated to the 11th century, it provided the only clear documentation for *women*wearing*tiraz*.

     "After he covered a mule with a piece of brocade, he put on it the slave girl whom he had dressed with a tunic of silk with tiraz." (al-Saqati, p.149)

    I already had good documentation for women in the 13th century wearing tiraz, thanks to Hadith Bayad wa Riyad. But nothing for the taifa period, neither text nor pictures. Hmmm...

    12 December, 2005. WWSW?
    OK, so it's been a while... The loss of al-Saqati as a source had left me foundering and directionless. My remaining sources seem to describe divergent costuming realities, and the past weeks have been spent rereading somewhat tangential sources (namely Stillman and Marín) to see whether they could provide fresh insights, new leads, etc...

    “Signos Visuales" especially reminded me of the degree to which a) your clothing identified who you were in al-Andalus and b) how many different segments there were to identify in al-Andalus! If you take together all the demographic differentiators, any one individual can be distinguished by their

    socioeconomic-ethno-religious-gender-occupational-temporal class.

    I'm not making this up.

    Socioeconomic Status





    (temporal, pt 1)

    Life Event
    (temporal, pt 2)








    Middle Class




















    Holy Men


    Any combination of these factors could affect textile, textile quality, color, cut, layers (including veils), jewelry, and other cosmetics. What does this all mean?

     I've been trying to document every conceivable aspect of ladies' costume in Taifa Spain, when only one thing matters: What Would Sol Wear?


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