Monday, July 16, 2007

"Help! I need a Palestinian wedding dress!"

19th century northern Palestinian
dress with appliqued chest panel
(on loan from Tareq Rajab Museum)

The most regular requests for information we receive are from brides. We love dealing with these! Usually the conversation goes something like this. We receive an email, sometimes from a Palestinian bride, or like this one, from someone marrying into a Palestinian family:
"Dear Sir / Madame, I am getting married to a Palestinian man and I am looking for a traditional Palestinian dress to wear for my wedding. I was wondering if some of your projects make such dresses. Thank you very much"
This one was from a lovely lady named Esther. We send back this reply:
"Dear Esther,

"Thank you for your email to the Palestine Costume Archive regarding your wish to wear a Palestinian dress at your wedding.

"Firstly, congratulations from all of us here on your wedding! Secondly, we sincerely thank you for wishing to honour your fiancee's culture in this way and would be most grateful if you could respond to the questions below. These may seem a little strange but they will provide us with enough information to make our next reply more specific.

1. which country are you residing in
2. where will the wedding take place
3. when will the wedding take place
4. which region of Palestine was your fiance from
5. does he have any family still in the Palestinian region (including Syria, Lebanon and Jordan)
6. what kind of budget are you proposing for your wedding dress
7. do you speak Arabic (or do you have access to someone such as a female relative of your fiance who speaks Arabic?)
8. do you have any image in mind of the kind of dress you would like (have a look at our website for photos)
9. would you like advice on any other traditional Palestinian wedding elements that you might like to consider incorporating into your wedding (such as music, food, women's bridal rituals, etc).

We look forward to hearing from you'
Why these questions? Well, we've learned over the years these are the important questions to ask, and we like to ask them quickly because the bride usually has no idea how long a traditional dress takes to embroider, and so it's important to get things rolling asap.

From the answers that might be provided we'll know how much time we have, what kind of budget (again usually brides have no idea these garments are seriously expensive - after all, someone may have just spent nearly a year of their life embroidering it), whether she will feel confident contacting refugee embroidery projects (having Arabic helps), what kind of style dress is appropriate (because every region of Palestine was different) and what kind of style the bride actually likes.

Esther provided the following:
1. We are both currently studying in the UK.
2. The wedding will take place in Baqa al Gharbia (a Palestinian town which is now part of Israel).
3. The wedding will be sometime beginning to mid of next year. We are not sure of the exact date yet.
4. My fiancee is from Baqa al Gharbia.
5. All his familly is in Baqa al Gharbia.
6. The budget would be up to $200.
7. I am learning Arabic. Unfortunately I don't think it is good enought to communicate properlly though. All my fiancees female relatives speak Arabic. However, they all live in Baqa.
8. I have seen a few dresses I like (see attached file). I would be interested in seeing what the traditional dress looks like of the region my fiancee comes from. Do you know what the dresses in that region looked like?
The details Esther provided were unexpectedly useful. Normally we'd have advised her that a budget of $200 was not really going to go further than a nice embroidered shawl at most. However, now knowing her fiancee's family was from Baqa al Gharbia in the north, if needed we could advise Esther that this region practiced very little embroidery prior to 1948. They preferred applique, which is faster - and cheaper - to create. The same would be true for a contemporary wedding dress in the northern Tulkarm region style.

As luck would have it one of the photos of dresses Esther sent us (from our website, of styles she liked) was a modern design based on a northern Galilee dress, so we were pretty sure we could come up with a design she really liked for her own dress.

In some cases we help all the way through to the ordering and design of a dress (especially if the person writing doesn't speak Arabic and/or is a bit nervous about contacting refugee handicraft projects). However in Esther's case she was already on the right track:
"Thanks for the advice and inspiration! It has been very helpful. We will probably be going to visit my fiancee's family in August. We will see what we can find there. I will keep you updated. Thank you very much for all your help!"
We hope she had a truly magical wedding!

So keep in mind those questions, if you want to ask us about wedding dresses. As you can see, even the smallest piece of information can be very useful in helping us to help YOU achieve a perfect wedding!


katty said...

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I like all kind of dresses, it drive my crazy.

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