By Tamjid al-Kohali
Yemeni fashion is considered as an especial and distinct style; it contains many of the life styles of the typical Yemeni. This heritage still exists until today where we watch people dress it on special occasions. Through the development of fashion these days, the Aesthetic character in popular Yemeni fashion makes it a treasure forever and a treasure can never be removed.
In an interview with the manager for the directors of the Board of our House for Culture Center, Amt al-Rzaq Jhaf, spoke proudly about popular Yemeni fashion, stating that:
“Yemeni fashion varies by the change in climate in Yemen, since there is a strong relationship between Yemeni fashion and the region where it originates from. Through this division, we can speak about the popular fashion and in identifying the characteristics of each design according to the geographical diversity; if we were to speak about Yemeni fashion for each governorate, we would dive into an endless abyss.
Jhaf explained the characteristics of each design adding for example, “the coastal areas like Tihamah, its fashion is characterized by the use of certain materials. The Tihamah province for example is mainly known for its cotton cultivation.
“In the mountains and the Highlands, people rely on leather tanning; they would use the skin of baby goats for its softness because it makes exceptional leather. In these areas, most of the women clothing are characterized by its fitted design with long sleeves, complex embroidery, and dark colors.” Jhaf added.
“In the Plateaus within Hadramout there are fashion trends such as, al-Kotama; this style is long from the back and short from the front, with all of the embroidery being sewed onto the back. Al-Kotama is considered to be the upmost popular when it comes to women’s fashion in that region.”
Jhaf emphasized that Yemen is known for weaving since the old ages. Yemeni textiles reach to all parts of the world and through the years, many kings wore products of the Yemeni culture.
In the same text, a well-known exporter for Yemeni fashion in Old Sana’a, Ahmed al-Kokabany, spoke with us about the most trendy Yemeni women’s fashion, stating that “each governorate carries a different sense of fashion. These styles reflect the typical Yemeni woman’s life, depending on the specific occasion.
Al-Kokabany explained ” popular women’s fashion dates back to hundreds of years. One of the most famous fashion trends known as, al-Doani from Hadramout, was the style of women in interior areas. This style trend is characterized by a silver belt and anklet, it’s wide from the lower half and has a veil which is similar to the Bedouins veil.
Al-Kokabany also added “In Sana’a there is a trend known as, al-zana (dress) with al-Osbah, a small veil decorated with silver embroidery over the head.” It is part of the Tihamah’s fashion, which is the most distinguished out of all the embroidery and style.
Popular Yemeni fashion was unlimited because Yemeni women were embroidering their dresses on their own for any occasion and the possibilities were endless.
However, the situation is different today, slowly as time passed so did the fashion trends that were so well known. Clothing that woman used to wear outside the home such as; sharshaf (a long wide black skirt with a black piece of fabric worn from the head), and al-satarh (a big fabric covering the entire body from head to toe) began to disappear as culture and religion began to integrate with the western society.
One of the al-Malah Market’s customers, Suad Ahmed believes that wearing Yemeni fashion makes her feel proud and distinctive. However, she only prefers wearing them on certain occasions, since she finds today’s fashion much more comfortable.
Nowadays, the old popular Yemeni fashion is quite expensive according to al-Kokabany. The prices can range from 20-50 thousand YR, so they save them only for special occasions (i.e. weddings, festivals, etc.) or some would just purchase them as a rental for a couple of days.
Moreover Jahf said that unfortunately, Yemeni fashion these days are made to show in exhibits. “There are many reasons of the disappearance of Yemeni fashion such as, the Cultural and commercial communications and the convergence of distances between countries which enter changes on the fashion trends, as well as emigration to outer countries leads to the disappearance of labor forces,” she explained.
Jahf emphasizes that they try their best to revive this part of the Yemeni heritage. They design modern trends using Yemeni materials, but the issue with that is Yemen lacks the materials that is needed, and is forced to import from other countries such as, India, which now is the main manufacturer for these materials.
There have been some efforts to revive the Yemeni heritage through teaching Yemeni women the Craft of making fashion for Yemeni’s by holding exhibitions to show and remember the people of this proud heritage.
Yemeni fashion is tough to compete against; it’s woven by skilled Yemeni fingers, and until the middle of the last century, Yemeni people were eating what they grew and wearing from what they produced. Yemeni fashion relates to the social environment, which changes and evolves as time passes, who knows what we might be wearing decades from now.