Traditional clothing in Palestine actually varies and depends on the geographical location. Whether you were in the cities, the highlands or the coastal regions, different areas had their own styles unique to them.
However, one thing that was uniform in clothing across almost every city or village was “Tatreez”, also known as Palestinian embroidery. Cross-stitching is an ancient art form which Palestinian women used to design their clothing. They used different colours, fabrics and cuts to personalize their clothing and make them unique to their tribe or area.
Tatreez is most famously used on the Palestinian dress which is called the “thobe”. The thobe, also known as “malliaia”, is a loose-fitting cloak with long sleeves, handmade and embroidered with lovely patterns and colours that showcase the beauty of Palestinian textile artistry.
Regional Thobe Styles
The Bedouin women in Northern Palestine would wear blue or black thobes with tight sleeves that featured embroidery around the neck, hem and seams. Whereas Southern Bedouin women would wear more voluminous thobes with winged sleeves. Their cross-stitched embroidery was usually in the colour red for women who were married and the colour blue for the unmarried girls.
Palestinian village women living in the Northern villages would usually wear coats in bright colours which were paired with long-sleeved shirts and either long skirts or ankle-length pants that were either narrow or loose. On the other hand, women in the South wore thobes that were either black or white and also featured handmade embroidery.
As previously mentioned, the colours used could indicate a person’s origins. For example, the colours green and red were associated and mostly used in the town of Nablus.
Different motifs and designs were also used in different regions. In Bethlehem, women embroidered a moon shape to represent their village. In Galilee, thobes had beautiful floral and foliage designs in red and blue.
Wedding attire was also a big part of Palestinian culture, and the town of Bethlehem was known to create detailed “couching stitch” malak (queen) wedding dresses that grew to be very popular and a symbol of status.
Although women’s fashion in Palestine was much more unique and significant, Palestinian men also had their own styles. The clothing worn could indicate a man’s region, status and even age.
Traditionally, their outfits mainly consisted of undergarments, a kaftan, baggy trousers and a headdress. A “qamis” was a long-sleeve undergarment made out of white/beige cotton or fine wool. The main piece of a man’s outfit was either a “jubba” or a “abaya”. It is the closest equivalent to a woman’s thobe and its design also varied depending on the region. The cotton baggy pants, called “shirwal”, wide, tied at the waist and came in either black, navy or white. An important accessory for men were fabric and leather belts called “hizams”.
Palestinian men traditionally had three head garments including a shash, a turban and a tarboush. A “shash” is a piece of linen that was worn as a headscarf and was usually worn in white, but colours varied in different regions. The turban also came in different colours and were mainly worn by those of higher status. This was later replaced by the more modern “tarboush”, also known as a fez. The tarboush was a dome hat with a dangling tassel which was worn by the Palestinian city men as well as in neighbouring countries of the Ottoman Empire.
Palestinian women also had many different styles, including a “araqiyyeh/taqiyyeh”, a shawl and a “shatweh”. The “aqraiyyeh” or “taqiyyeh” is a hat that fits tightly around the head which was embroidered and had actual gold coins dangling from it. The shawls worn could be plain or embroidered with designs as well and women wore them as a form of hijab. A “shatweh” was also another embroidered hat, one that was dome shaped and embellished with gold coins, which represented a symbol of wealth and status for brides and married women.
Although the current occupation has attempted to destroy historical Palestine, the Palestinian culture must live on, and that is why it is important for us Palestinians to hold onto and proudly showcase our traditional roots.