by Michelle Drummey
It is not too often that we at Museum Textile Services get the chance to study contemporary objects, no less ones from the Middle East. Recently, Mona Habib generously donated a collection of Afghanistani and Pakistani garments acquired during her time with various overseas service organizations in the ‘90s.
Two outfits are of Pakistani origin. The first is an embroidered Swati shalwar qameez, the traditional dress consisting of a long tunic and loose trousers, from Swat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North-West Frontier Province). Swat is popular with tourists and their embroidered goods attract buyers both locally and worldwide. Included from Pakistan was another outfit from Sind Province. This outfit consists not only of the shalwar qameez, but also includes a matching dupatta, or scarf. Small mirrors are set into embroidered circles on the front of the dress.
Ms. Habib purchased a third outfit from a group of Afghani refugees living in the former North-West Frontier Province. Like those of Pakistani origin, this example is also a sherwal qameez. Unlike the others, which are uniform in pattern or color, this sherwal qameez has a patchwork of horizontal bands of differing colors.
Generous donations to our study collection enable us to teach students and interns a wealth of information about costume and textiles from around the world. We thank Ms. Habib for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about the cultures of Pakistan and Afghanistan through their clothing.
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