Note that this page is not quite complete - i'm still adding and improving it - but i wanted to get it on-line to make this information accessible.
Paintings and illustrations of Ottoman men are commonplace and easy to find. For example, the entire Sulaymaname, an 16th century illustrated book on the life of Sultan Suleyman, includes no Ottoman Muslim women and only a few non-Muslim women from within and outside the Empire. Additionally, the vast majority of surviving garments, not to mention the armor, in the Topkapi Saray from SCA period were worn by men. This means there is far more SCA-period information available for men than for women.
Because of the difficulty of finding SCA-period illustrations of Ottoman women, i have gathered a selection here to illustrate that typical garments of an Ottoman Muslim woman living in a major city. Additionally, because of limited illustrations, i have included some from the 17th century which show clothing like that worn in the 16th century.
Here is my take on 16th century Ottoman women's clothing. A woman wears multiple layers of garments, depending on where she is, the weather, and the formality of the situation. In the harem, where almost no men will see her, a woman may wear her undergarments plus one short coat. In a formal situation she may also wear four layers, the topmost layer being a coat of brilliant elaborate silk fabric. Out of doors she wears about four layers of garments, the topmost a muted colored wool coat.
As you can see, the outfits are quite attractive, and there is no reason why a woman won't look lovely dancing in an SCA-period outfit, rather than a 19th c. or fantasy outfit.
gömlek -- under tunic|
çakshir - under pants (optional)
chirka -- short under jacket
....... - small cap
shalvar - trousers
entari -- basic fitted coat
yelek --- short outer jacket (optional)
kaftan -- loose ceremonial coat (optional)
....... - small sheer white "veil" on back of head
feraçe -- woolen outer coat (optional)
yashmak - several scarves covering face and neck
Those marked optional are not necessary for one's very first SCA outfit.
I know of none that have survived from the SCA-period Ottoman Empire. In art, there is no complete picture of a woman's gömlek, for reasons of modesty. The hem falls to mid-calf, or sometimes to the ankle. The "skirt" is quite full. Usually the sleeves are voluminous and quite wide at the wrist, draping without drawstrings or ties. The fabric is quite sheer and there appears to be embroidery on or along the seams
Since we are not certain what they were made of "in period", i use white cotton batiste, which is a very light sheer cotton. One could also use handkerchief linen as sheer as you can fine, or lightweight china silk/ silk habotai. I recommend cotton or linen for their washability and functionality, particularly in dealing with bodily moisture. If you plan to wear this in hot humid weather, i recommend linen, which is cooler than cotton. White wool might have been used in winter. It is very cold in a stone house with no central heating in Eastern Europe or Anatolia in winter, and some men's wool gömleks survive from later times.
I suggest using the pattern for the 14th century Persian pirihan and enlarging the sleeves
Extant Fourteenth Century Persian Pirihan/Kamiz
Roxane's Pattern - sorry, Roxane's website is gone.
These appear to be about upper or mid calf length, but some paintings show women in soft, loose, ankle-length white pants, so until i have more information, i would say either is a possibility. Choose the length based on your comfort levels and situation of use.
I make mine of white linen, but cotton is also a possibility. For reasons of comfort, I recommend against silk dupioni, but i have heard that some folks have success with china silk/habotai in light weights. I find that if i am perspiring, silk is not effective.
Photo credit, below...
Going to the bath (hammam) a women wore wooden qubqob, flat slip-on sandals elevated by two tall wooden crosspieces, rather like Japanese geta, often with elaborate chipcarving and ivory inlay. They had one or two straps around the instep, worn with leather socks or bare feet.
The example at the left does not actually have an oddly shaped "window of opportunity". First, the "artist" was an untrained European, so his drawings leave something to be desired in terms of verisimilitude. Additionally, it is clear in other paintings and surviving garments that the front is cut straight down, but is pulling apart across the fullness of the bust. In this case, the garment has a small circular neckline right at the base of the neck.
The bright red chirka above right had buttons from the neck down, but is left open across the bust. It also appears to have a small standing collar. It is hard to tell about the chirka on the Woman in White - it may have a fully buttoned front or it may have a rounded V-neck.
If cut "correctly" it can provide bust support with no modern supplements. I have no guarantee that this was done "in period", but it's possible.
The same garment names are used in Turkish for centuries, yet the garment shapes change radically. This word is used for a couple different garments in the 19th through 21st centuries, quite different from that of the 16th c. Several scholarly sources i've read call it hirka or chirka (Encyclopedia of Islam, 8th ed., for example), so i will also. I have noticed it called a "cardigan" in some modern Turkish writing in English, but in my experience a cardigan is knit, whereas these garments are of woven cloth.
In some of the accompanying pictures you can see that some shalvar are made much longer than the actual woman's leg, and of very soft fabric that pools around the leg.
Big poofy so-called "harem pants" are *way* out of period for the SCA. Please, i beg of you, don't make them or wear them. I'm groveling, please, don't do it.
130 Years of Ottoman Women in European Art
Drawing of a serving woman, circa 1490
Codex Vindobonensis 8626
Illustrations on this page from various sources, including:
Section C. Seljuk and Ottoman Periods, pp. 190-295
"Fashion at the Ottoman Court: The Topkapi Museum Collection",
For the gomlek, use pure white fabric, or off-white/ivory if you prefer. Cotton is good, especially batiste, as is handkerchief weight linen. In this case habotai/china silk would have a suitable weight. I think that undergarments would more likely have been cotton or linen, and that cotton and linen serve the function better than silk at dealing with bodily moisture. In the winter men wore ivory wool gomleks - i don't know if women did, too.
For entaris (and chirkas and yeleks and kaftans), silk is best, of course:-) I buy dupioni when it's on sale (between US$7.50 and $10 a yard) and mostly i get the 54" wide stuff. I realize the slubby fabric would not have been used as outer fabric, but it's what i can afford and still be silk, and it has the right hand. I get both solid color and shot silk. Shot silk has one color in the warp and one in the weft - the surface is the more closely set color, while the other shows in the folds, lending an iridescent quality. Most habotai/china silk is too thin for outer fabric, so I use it for lining because it's fairly inexpensive.
I also buy some mostly-cotton upholstery fabric when i find it on sale with woven Ottoman-oid patterns. I even managed to score some that was a copy of an actual late 16th-early 17th c. Ottoman fabric! Such fabric needs to have a soft hand. If it's stiff, it will work for a khaftan - the outermost formal "coat" - but it won't work for the antari, which needs softer fabric for easier fitting and better drape.
These multicolored woven upholstery fabrics available at the typical fabric store are commonly called "brocade" or "tapestry", but are neither. They are actually Jacquard woven and because of the Jacquard weaving process, the fabrics tend to be thicker and generally much stiffer than period brocades and the threads themselves are quite often thicker as well. Since true brocades are out of the price range of most SCAdians (starting at a few hundred dollars per yard and going up into the multi-thousands of dollars per yard) we are generally forced to buy Jacquard simulations
Damask weaves are also suitable, although i haven't seen as many of them in Ottoman garments. Damask fabric usually has the same color warp and weft, which because of the way it is woven, with long floating threads, has a clearly discernable textured pattern. There are also Damasks with one color in the warp and a different one in the weft - in this case the pattern on both sides will be the same, but in opposite colors - for example, one side could have blue flowers on a yellow ground while the other has yellow flowers on a blue ground.
I also buy a few printed cottons if they have a very Ottoman pattern and gold metal stamping. These are best lined with silk and best worn with silk over them, because otherwise the cotton will stick to the other garments.
There are several chief characteristics of Ottoman fabrics. One, they are highly formal - no random scattering of motifs. Second, the motifs are usually on a large to very large scale. The patterns in some period Ottoman fabrics only repeat 1-1/2 times from shoulder to hem on a tall man's garment! Third, the patterns are often arranged vertically, such as tall wavy lines of highly stylized flowers.
Common motifs include pomegranates, carnations, tulips/lilies, cypress trees, crescent moons, abstract patterns arranged in ogee forms (sort of vertical ovals with pointed ends). One very distinct pattern is çintimani (pronounced chin-tah-mah-nee) - in the individual motif, three circles are arranged in a triangle which is frequently accompanied by two short wavy lines. The significance of this is uncertain - there is speculation that it is a Central Asian pattern, similar to one seen in Tibetan fabrics. The woman seated on the far left of the first Codex Vindobonensis picture has an entari with this pattern in white on blue.
Fabric for entaris, chirkas, and yeleks would make use of prestige colors like kermes red, a rich cool red. In surviving garments and fabric fragments there is much more red fabric than any other color, often with golden-yellow designs, sometimes with other accent colors. There's a much lesser amount of indigo blue (which can dye anywhere from very pale to nearly black). Then there's some amazing fabric that has a nearly black ground with a fairly large pattern of sinuous vines and flowers which are red, yellow, blue, and white. There are also some garments of dull medium green (greener than olive drab, but not much), and some using brown, usually partnered with white. Metallic gold threads were often woven into the pattern.
Linings tend to be olive green, teal blue, red, or golden yellow - NEVER matching the outer fabric.
Feraçes were usually of wool in a modest color. Muted blue, grey, or brown are more likely than light or bright colors, since in public modesty is essential, and pale or bright colors are considered less modest.
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This page first published on 02 May 2005
and copyright Anahita al-Qurtubiyya bint 'abd al-Karim al-hakam al-Fassi