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Palestinian Embroidery: Becoming Part of Contemporary Fashion

Embroidery is considered to be part of the cultural costume in many places in the world. Each country or culture differs in the way it represents its embroidery pieces, and in the way it is decorated, made and used. Palestinian Embroidery is unique and is is recognized among other embroideries for its vibrant colors and impeccable designs as well as for its cultural and social meaning. What has known to be a Palestinian tradition and an artistic way of preserving the Palestinian identity, is now embellishing the contemporary world of fashion.

Some experts believe that the embroidered Palestinian traditional women dress can be traced back to the styles of clothing represented in art over 3000 years ago. In the past, particularly before the 1948,  Palestinian Embroidery was practiced as a traditional craft mainly by the rural women. Women in villages used to practice the art of what is called in Arabic “Al-Tatreez” from a young age, learning it from their mothers and grandmothers. These artistic embroideries were presented in the women’s dresses, which are called “thobes”.

In these “thobes”, and through the embroidery that decorates them, the women represent their culture and heritage, their financial status, and the place or the village they come from. It is said that “A Palestinian woman’s village could be deduced from the embroidery on her dress”. Each pattern crafted in the “thobes” used to mean something, some were used as amulets to protect from the evil eye, illness and the bad luck. Others even gave indication to the women’s social status, as either being a maiden, a married woman, or a widow.

After the Israeli occupation in 1948, and the exodus of many Palestinians from their homes, Palestinian Embroidery turned to be not only a traditional craft practiced in the villages, but became a cultural expression of the Palestinian identity. Palestinians started to embroider articles of clothing and accessories other than dresses, such as belts, blouses, pants, shoes, bags, rings, necklaces etc. They  also started to include Palestinian Embroidery in household objects like table cloths, pillow cases, shawls, hangings and others. These embroidered objects crafted by Palestinian hands are now found in many e-commerce sites and are being shipped and sold worldwide.

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