In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Dress and Fashion

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Dress Laws and Codes
  • Khilʾa
  • Tiraz
  • Ihram
  • Presentation of Self
  • Pre-Islamic Dress
  • Early Islamic Dress
  • Early Ottoman Dress
  • Fashion Designers and Islam

Islamic Studies Dress and Fashion
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0115


The subject of dress is concerned with what people do with their bodies and what they wear in order to provide information about themselves. Dress is affected by a number of factors, including age, gender, social and economic condition, matrimonial status, occupation, religion, color and object symbolism, iconography and art history, as well as communications, transportation, and economics at local, national, and international levels. Dress is used by people to differentiate between groups who belong and those who do not, and within a particular group it is used to indicate the social hierarchy. These, plus many more factors, play a role in the concept of dress and identity. Despite the importance of dress, there are comparatively few books and articles about Islamic dress and fashion, in comparison to, for example, the fields of illustrated manuscripts, carpets, or theological studies. There is also a natural tendency to link together textiles and dress, but while closely related, they should not be regarded as synonymous. Studies about Islamic dress and fashion tend to be dominated by several specific subjects, namely, tiraz textiles from the medieval period, the art historical role of (woven) textiles, gold and silver jewelry, and modern-day (female) hijab (or Islamically correct) clothing. The latter is usually interpreted as “veils and veiling,” but in fact it covers a much wider range of garments. For the last few decades or so, other subjects have been receiving more attention: for instance, the wide variety of regional dress within the Islamic world, the role of Jewish producers for the Muslim and Christian markets within the Islamic world, the concept of male hijab, and the future role of fashion designers in presenting an Islamic fashion scene. Certain subjects have been deliberately excluded from this bibliography, namely, the textiles and dress of Muslim groups outside of central and southwest Asia and North Africa. This was a deliberate choice based on geography rather than cultural or religious backgrounds. In addition, it was decided to concentrate on Muslim groups, rather than, for example, Christian, Jewish, or Zoroastrians.

General Overviews

There are a number of general books and studies about the production of textiles and their use as clothing in the Islamic world. These are based on a mixture of both medieval and later accounts. These publications include Dozy 1845, Lombard 1978, Serjeant 1972, and Stillman 2000. Anthropologically oriented studies are Lindisfarne-Tapper and Ingham 1997, while Ross 1994; Scarce 1987; Stillman, et al. 1986; and Vogelsang-Eastwood 2010 present more general and contemporary descriptions. What became clear while producing this list is that much more work needs to be carried out in the field of Islamic dress and fashion in order to make it into a coherent and comprehensive area of research.

  • Dozy, Reinhart P. A. Dictionnaire détaillé des noms des vêtements chez Arabes. Amsterdam: Jean Müller, 1845.

    Reprinted in 1969. This is a standard, albeit antiquated source of information, which includes 275 entries on a range of Arab garments. As there are no illustrations, it is often difficult to be sure exactly to which garment Dozy is referring. Extra lemmata were added in his postclassical Arabic dictionary, Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes (two volumes, 1881 and later editions).

  • Lindisfarne-Tapper, Nancy, and Bruce Ingham, eds. Languages of Dress in the Middle East. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1997.

    A deceptive title as this collection of papers includes articles about Maltese and Caucasian (Abkhazia and Georgia) dress. Nevertheless, there are some useful articles with respect to Southwest Asian dress, such as those by Yamani about the changing dress in the Hejaz (pp. 55–66) and Chatty’s article on the burqa from Oman and southeastern Arabia (pp. 127–148). The illustrations are not always helpful.

  • Lombard, Maurice. Les textiles dans le monde musulman Viie–XIIe siècle. Paris-La Haye: Mouton Éditeur, 1978.

    A detailed study of the production and trade in textiles in and around the Mediterranean. The study looks at the raw materials, production techniques, centers of production, and uses.

  • Ross, Heather Colyer. The Art of Arabian Costume: A Saudi Arabian Profile. 4th ed. Montreux, Switzerland: Arabesque Commercial SA, 1994.

    Includes information about Saudi Arabian, Gulf, and Yemeni dress, with a few details about Omani costume. The author’s knowledge of Saudi Arabian dress in general is impressive, although the lack of references makes the work confusing at some points. The book is illustrated throughout, and the author’s background as an interior designer comes across in many of the “arty” shots and drawings.

  • Scarce, Jennifer. Women’s Costume of the Near and Middle East. London and Sydney: Unwin Hyman, 1987.

    A useful source of information about women’s dress from the early Islamic period until the end of the 19th century. The emphasis is on Ottoman dress for women and how it affected dress throughout the medieval and later Islamic world. Subjects covered include dress from within the Ottoman Empire, including Istanbul, central Asia, south-east Europe, and the Arab world, as well as adjoining lands (Persia and Afghanistan).

  • Serjeant, R. B. Islamic Textiles: Material for a History up to the Mongol Conquest. Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1972.

    Based on a series of articles published in Ars Islamica (1942–1951, Volumes 9–16). Although the title implies that all Islamic textiles are described, there is an emphasis on tiraz, namely, textiles with inscriptions. Nevertheless, a wide range of textiles, garments, soft furnishings, and related items are described. There are also chapters on sea-wool, dyers, furs, and Indian and Chinese influences.

  • Stillman, Yadida. Arab Dress: A Short History from the Dawn of Islam to Modern Times. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2000.

    An extensive study of the role of dress in early Islamic history. It concentrates on pre-Islamic and early Islamic dress within the Arab world using mainly contemporary written sources. As a result, much of book deals with Maghreb, Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi textiles and dress, with comparatively little about dress from, for example, the Arabian Peninsula.

  • Stillman, Yadida. “Libas.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 5. Edited by Clifford E. Bosworth, 732–752. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1986.

    A general survey of dress, which is divided into Islamic dress from pre-Islamic times to the 21st century, dress in the Muslim West, Iranian dress, and Turkish dress. This article is a comprehensive study with an extensive glossary and bibliography. It relies heavily on written sources rather than field research.

  • Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian, ed. Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Vol. 5, Central and Southwest Asia. Oxford: Berg, 2010.

    The Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion is a ten-volume series about dress and fashion. Volume 5 deals specifically with central and southwest Asia. The subjects included in this volume include Turkish dress (Anatolian and Ottoman), Israeli (orthodox Jewish and secular) dress, eastern Mediterranean Arab dress (Druze, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian), Iraqi dress, Arabian Peninsula dress as well as dress from Persia, Afghanistan, and the central Asian republics.

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