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Red is the preferred colour for embroidery on Syrian dresses. It is said to possess magic qualities and offers fertility, protection and wealth to those who wear it. If you understand the symbols and patterns used in Syrian dress embroidery, you can discover details about the woman’s place in her community, her age, marital status and her affiliation to a particular village, tribe or ethnic group.

Where was this textile created?

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Asia: West Asia, Arabian Peninsula, Syria
Early to mid 20th century
Cotton cloth with silk embroidery
132 cm x 140 cm
Gift of Dr. Howard Gorman
T92.0092 Textile Museum of Canada

This simply cut traditional cotton dress is embroidered with geometric and tree-like branching shapes. The cross stitches, worked in silk floss, are so tiny (one square millimetre each) they are hard to see with the naked eye. Herringbone stitch outlines the yoke and other seams.

The Tree of Life is an ancient motif in many parts of the world and is represented here by multiple branching forms. This dress has several small tree symbols (possibly cypresses or date palms) and one large tree from hem to bodice on the left side crowned by a multi-coloured top. On the right, the tree form is apparent but the top is missing.

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