Dar Anahita Presents

Ottoman Women's Clothing
An Historical Overview

Part 4
The 19th Century

Early 19th Century

The early 19th century reflects a continuity of the late 18th, a chief difference being that the pictures have become bright, even garish.

During the century Europeans, especially European men, develop an appetite for pictures of exotic women, which were considered at this time to be quite racy. And as the century progresses, pictures often get racier, depicting women scantily clothed by both European and Ottoman standards. In fact, European men took sex tours of the Ottoman Empire.

Of the next six pictures, numbers 2, 3, and 4 are from the same artist.

Woman of Istanbul in Outdoor Clothing
Fig. 1. Woman of Istanbul in Outdoor Clothing

Fig. 2. Harem Servant
Female Harem Official
Fig. 3. Female Harem Official

Fig. 4.
Turkish Woman of Pera
Fig. 5. Turkish Woman of Pera

Fig. 6. Relaxing with a Water-pipe
1810 - Sarayli Kadin
Fig. 7. 1810 - Sarayli Kadin
1818 - Harem Supervisor
Fig. 8. 1818 - Harem Supervisor

Fig. 9

Numbers 1 through 4 below are from one French work, while figure 5 is from a different French book. Notice how many of the figures in these book plates are copied from the more elegant color pictures above.

Left: Turkish Woman of Constantinople (see Fig. 1)
Right: Turkish Woman of the Provinces

Left: Qizlar Agha, Chief of the Black Eunuchs
Right: Odalisque of the Harem (see Fig. 2)

Left: Female Musician and Dancer
Right: Khouzmat 'Har Seray, Supervisor of the Harem (see Fig. 3)
Favorite Wife and her Son
Prince Inheritor of the Throne
First Khalenn, Sultan's Favorite

Note that there was no clear line of inheritance to the throne - wives vied, often to the point of murder, to have their sons chosen, so this label suits European preconceived notions.

Greek Woman of Istanbul
Greek Woman of Constantinople

These coy and syrupy sweet pictures are from later in the 19th century. Note the trailing split skirts of the entari on the Haseki Sultana... they are just beginning to appear here...

Sultana and Sultan
Sultana and Sultan
Haseki Sultan and Moldavian Princess
Haseki Sultana and Moldavian Princess
Harem Attendant and Greek Odalisque
Harem Attendant and Greek Odalisque

1850s - Amadeo Preziosi

Note how the women in the pictures below are romanticized and sentimentalized or sexualized, and the stereotypical presentation of the Jewish man.

In the Silk Bazaar
In the Silk Bazaar
Wandering Around
Wandering Around
At the Herbalist
At the Herbalist

An Outing to the Cemetery
Two Jews

In the Harem
Petition Writer
At the Petition Writer

Odalisques in the Harem

1870s - John Frederick Lewis

Paintings by John Frederick Lewis are popular today, but they are from the 1870s, so almost 300 years too late for the SCA. They make it clear how much Ottoman clothing had changed in the intervening years. The entari now has split sleeves, and trailing multiply split skirts. Additionally short loose jackets have entered the fashion vocabulary.

Note that the paintings, is set anywhere, are in Cairo, Egypt, not in Turkey. The paintings are staged and Lewis uses the same models repeatedly in many of them. For example, the model who portrays the saucy slave in "Lilium Auratum" is the female with the fan leaning against the wall at the head of the sickbed in "Prayre of the Faithful". So one cannot be sure these are really accurate representations of what women were wearing.

While Lewis conveys the langour of life in a hot country and the beauty of the surroundings and the women, he is never smarmy, never oogling, never cheapens the women into pure sex objects. He actually lived in Egypt for ten years, avoiding contact with Europeans, and many of his paintings are set in his own house.

Pictures are clickable for a larger view.
Lilium Auratum

"Lilium Auratum" (Gilded Lily?) - 1871
Here is a typical artistic conceit - the elegant and aloof mistress - in this case quite young - and her "saucy" slave who smiles directly at the viewer.
And the Prayer of Faith

"And the Prayer of the Faithful" - 1872
A typically sentimentalized - and staged - tableau, with the mother on her sickbed, the imam in the center reading from the Qur'an and the family members and slaves moping around the courtyard.
Lewis's Courtyard
"The Hosh" - 1864
A scene set in the courtyard of Lewis's own home in Cairo, depicting a Coptic Patriarch dictating a letter.

"The Intercepted Correspondence"

"Harem Life, Constantinople"
The Reception
"The Reception - 1873"
Depicts the arrival of a new woman in the harem... how will the other women react?

Late 15th and 16th Century Ottoman Women's Clothing

17th Century Ottoman Women's Clothing

18th Century Ottoman Women's Clothing

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Actual Ottoman Fabric