Style Destination: Palestine

“Wow.“ When Midwest meets Middle East, that’s about all you can say. Wow. Here’s a look inspired by the beaming Palestinian women in this photograph, tempered by a typical Bougie’s closet.

Palestinian fashion is heavily influenced by geographical division between the north and south. Still further are women’s styles divided by village, city, and Bedouin traveling. Class and religion also play a part in traditional wardrobes.

 Colors and patterns are intricately woven for both ceremonial and personal use. Personalities are said to be recorded in the threads, much like the Scottish plaids reveal heritage and Native American weaves betray history. Until recently (around the 1940s) traditional Palestinian costumes reflected a woman’s economic and marital status and her town or district of origin simply by the resources used in the construction. An intelligent observer could discern much about a woman based on the fabric, colors, cut, and embroidery motifs (or lack thereof) used in her clothes.

Cottons and wools were mainstay for fabric weaves. Dyes were made of nature’s provision, the most common colors being deep blue using indigo. Reds came from insects and pomegranate; yellow from saffron flowers, soil and vine leaves; brown from oak bark; purple from crushed murex shells. Silks were imported from Syria and Egypt for festal garments, with certain markets established for Palestine by foreign importers. Longstanding traditions of densely geometric embroidery were found in the Upper and Lower Galilee, in the Judean Hills and on the coastal plain territories.

Residents of major towns wore shoes of soft sheep’s skin. Villagers wore a higher cut with the common turned-up point in front. Bedouins wore simple sandals made by wandering shoemakers.

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Here’s a look inspired by traditional fashion suitable for any gal, Midwest or coastal. Pillage thrift stores, second hand shops, even antique or farmer’s markets for patterned textiles. Find shorts and scarves at Ross, sandals at Payless or Target, jewelry at a local farmer’s market or craft fair (use your haggling skills) and splurge a little at the sale rack in a boutique for the one-item-thrill… in this case, the golden shirt or a suitable sub. When the continuing news of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts are too much to bear, bring a little sunshine into the world with your new outfit.

For starters, layer a solid white cami under a solid colored top. If you find one with embroidery, all the better. Otherwise, lace will give the textured look quite nicely. Stick with geometric in dark or bright colors.

Next, don shorts in a solid, bright color. These here are green, based on the above picture and one woman’s armband. You can also try red, purple, or black.

If you don’t have sheep skin or Middle Eastern moccasins lying around, simple leather sandals will suffice, either in brown or black.

Here’s the fun part, accessories! The cheapest way to get those patterns into your wear is scarves! Rusty reds or purples can be used around the neck for a hipster look, or loosely woven around the head and neck as our grandmother’s driving scarves. Choose long earrings in neutral shades with gold rims. Most Palestinian jewelry is geometric, and even then tends towards the spherical. A variety of bangles in ethnic and natural colors can also get that geometry into your style.

Don’t forget a pair of shades, looking especially “Old Hollywood Chic” with your headscarf (see above).