Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


In 1919 a pair of refugees fleeing from strife occurring in Southeastern Turkey arrived at a mission station in Mardin wearing well-worn Kurdish everyday clothing as a disguise. Subsequently the mission worker who received the couple donated these ensembles to our costume collection. These rare garments are artifacts of the original wearers, as well as of the experience of the refugees, presumably Armenian, who were fleeing from the terrible events of this period. When clothing is saved, it is usually special occasion clothing, not the sort commonly worn for daily work. One of the most interesting features of these garments is the extensive patching. There are more than twenty different fabrics, including several types of hand-woven, sometimes naturally dyed and hand block-printed textiles. There are also industrially woven print cottons. Therefore these garments are rare documents of late 19th-early 20th c. multicultural textile production, trade and use in this region. Although today we may think of southeastern Turkey as isolated, it was then a nexus of trade routes, including the major river systems of the Tigris and Euphrates, and the network of roads that connected into the trade routes generally termed the Silk Road. These garments will also be discussed in the context of field research on traditional textiles and dress done in this region. In addition, historical images and eyewitness descriptions of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Kurdish dress will provide context.