Dating photographs by clothing
Detailed and often quite frank rendering of women in their domestic costume is particularly useful in this respect, for, as women were usually veiled in public, few observers (at least until the late 19th century) were able to describe their dress at first hand.Furthermore, the importance of photographs, which provide a totally accurate record of costumes from the mid-19th century, cannot be underestimated.Many reports in Safavid texts provide clues to the social significance and unequaled richness of court dress in this period: for instance, the gold-embroidered or brocaded s (robes 4 cubits long), given by Moḥammad Ḵodābanda (985-96/1578-88) to Amīr Khan Torkamān, who married his daughter in 988/1580-81 (Eskandar Beg, tr. In 982/1574, for the coronation of Sultan Morād III, Ṭahmāsb’s envoys wore silks with designs of lions, tigers, horses, and human figures (Martin, p. Anthony Jenkinson, an English merchant traveling in Persia in 969/1562, described the sumptuous dress of the khan of Šamāḵī (Shemakha) in the Caucasus.It included robes of silk brocade embroidered with pearls and jewels, a brocaded silk “rope”) a half-yard high, and a gold enameled aigrette set with plumes (pp. The reconstruction of 16th-century Safavid dress proposed here is based on the few surviving garments and, most important, the numerous richly illuminated manuscripts of the period (plate xcix).Furthermore, the dating of garments that have survived is often complicated by the fact that robes were sometimes recut and fine brocades reused after their initial use.Among the best represented survivals are men’s robes from all periods but especially the 17th century; sashes of the same period; and women’s jackets, as well as accessories and jewelry for both sexes, of the 19th century.With the exception of such categories as grooms and dervishes, most of the available information is related to the dress of the upper classes.
A mid-16th-century portrait of a princess clearly shows the transparent sleeves of her undergarments, her jewels and tiara, her embroidered collar, and the complementary colors of the different garments (plate cii). Belts were worn wider and longer, up to 8 m, and knotted in front. Turbans were wider and more loosely tied, and the finial of the no longer protruded.
Especially for the Qajar period there is also considerable information on the social and political background that is so important for an understanding of the practical purposes of clothing and changes in fashion.
Reports of European observers provide specific descriptions of both male and female dress, enriched by details that supplement those given in the Persian sources.
Such garments were sent as royal gifts to European princes or collected by local agents and diplomats of the European powers in the 19th century and have thus been preserved primarily in European collections.
Persian museum and family collections are another source that has so far been little used (see Ashmolean, pp. Pictorial sources for both the Safavid and Qajar periods provide a comprehensive survey of costume types and are thus an important tool, as long as it is remembered that Persian painting is often idealized and standardized (see ix, above).