When I participated as a member of the Ottoman Empire group for the 2018 Florida Renaissance Festival, I wore different costumes every week based on stuff I already had in my closets. One of my favorites was the one at left, which was assembled from a bellydance cover-up from Bipin Jain, along with gold harem pants (not visible in the pic), and of course suitable jewelry and headpiece. There were 2 key things about the main piece, the cover-up, that made this a favorite:
I liked it so well for the purpose of Ren Fest that I
would totally consider purchasing similar items for the same
purpose, and I would assume there are other people with
I do think there are some improvements that could be made
to make them more usable for Middle Eastern wear at Ren Faires.
I've been thinking a lot about stylistic options that could help
make them even more useful for Ottoman style, without
losing their basic intended function of bellydance coverup or caftan.
I just wanted to document those thoughts here.
It is, of course, relevant to understand what proper Ottoman style of the period (i.e. the Suleyman era, the early 1500s) was. I found this image online that shows what seems to show it well. It's a costume design by "jamberry song" for a Barbary Pirate/Corsair, which were, basically, privateers for the Ottomans. But the basic design is relevant for Ottomans in general. (Note: My research has generally been for female clothing, but males were fairly similar.)
So, the basic costume was pantaloons, with at least 2 top layers, that I will call an underdress and an overdress or coat. Those 2 layers could be various and different lengths, from floor to midi to knee to tunic to waist.
In my research, I also learned about a style of Turkish dress called bindalli. If you google it, you'll see a lot of really gorgeous outfits, similar to the one at left. My understanding is that it's not really accurate to the style that women wore in the 1500s, but it looks like it might be, i.e., it "reads" well. It seems to be the style used for many of the costume designs for the women in the TV show The Magnificent Century, which is about the Ottoman era of Suleyman.
So, the bindalli looks like a fancy "coat" over a nice underdress, which relates pretty well to the basic Ottoman attire of the proper period. I've seen some where the coat is worn over harem pants, but most of them show long skirts like the pic at left. (They might still have pants, but you wouldn't see them.) Also, they look really good, which is important, so I think the bindalli is useful as inspiration.
For the basic Ottoman outfit, the pants and underdress are simple and easy enough to obtain. It's the overdress/coat that's the hard part because that's where you want the fancy fabric and decorations. So my focus in this article is on the overdress/coat.
I have 2 sets of potential enhancements that I think would help make a basic bellydance coverup like the one I wore into something that would make it even better to use as Ottoman wear as well. This first set is what I would consider higher-priority:
Midi length would still be totally usable for a bellydance cover-up or a short caftan. Shorter lengths would work as tunics, perhaps as part of a salwar-kameez set (which is cool because Ottomans need salwar too).
Another option that would seem easier to do, rather than cutting a special slit, would be to use the seam on the bottom of the sleeve for that purpose. Instead of stitching the seam together between the elbow and the wrist, just leave it open. Besides using a tie to close it, you could use a snap, or a hook and eye... or, if you really wanted to be "in period," a button. Or, don't put a closure, just let it hang... a purchaser could always add something to close it if needed, but I suspect many wouldn't use it.
Some people might think that having the sleeve open on the bottom instead of the top would look weird, but I really don't think it would be an issue, mainly because a lot depends on arm positions and they vary so much. Also, it might actually be totally logical if your goal is to allow drippy sleeves on an underdress to hang out.
So, those were the major things I'd like to see. The second set of ideas, decscribed following, are things that would also be nice, but I see as less important:
So to enable the edges to be tucked in like that, you could do things like line the underside and give it a fancy shape, but I don't think that's necessary, or even very desirable. I think all that would be important would be to make sure the edges were finished so it looked nice on the underside.
So those are my ideas about some hopefully minor changes
that might make bellydance cover-ups more appealing
to Renaissance cosplayers.
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