While at first, clothing styles in the Islamic and Byzantine empires were of contrasting design and served different purposes, they evolved, by way of cultural diffusion, to have strikingly similar concepts and designs. To paraphrase Kidipede (historyforkids.org), because the climate in the Islamic Empire was so hot and dry, the people needed clothes that could provide them with sun protection. So, to prevent sun burn, they covered up as much skin as possible and wore several layers of clothing. At this time, they also thought that God wanted them to be modest, so they did not let skin show and wore clothes that hid their figure. People also thought that women would be safer under several layers of clothing. My primary source for the styles of clothing in the Islamic empire is a fragmented Persian wall hanging from an exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a picture of which is below. According to The Complete History of Costume and Fashion from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day by Bronwyn Cosgrave, the Byzantines, who were Christians, also believed that God wanted them to be conservative in their clothing. The faces and hands of women were hidden, and pants were worn under the tunics of men. Both sexes wore several layers of clothing that hid their figures, so it was hard to tell men apart from women. People used embroidery techniques to depict religious scenes on their clothing. In the beginning, the Byzantine people were more toga-oriented because they were influenced by the Romans. Later on, when Justinian came to power, everyone (men and women) wore at least simple t-shaped tunics because they realized that tunics were more practical. However, higher-ranking people, like the emperor and his court officials would still wear richly decorated togas to show off. A higher-class man in the Byzantine empire would have also worn a circular cloak called a chlamys on their shoulders. The kinds of clothes one would wear in the Byzantine empire was determined by one's wealth and social status. My primary source for the styles of clothing in the Byzantine Empire is a mosaic from the sanctuary in San Vitale, Ravenna of Justinian and his entourage wearing the fashions of their time. A picture of the mosaic is below.
|Fragments of a Wall Hanging with Figures in Persian Dress|
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this wall hanging dates back to the late 6th - early 7th century. In the textile's foreground is a (presumably male) figure without a head, wearing a yellow tunic that has pearl bands around the waist, chest, cuffs, and lower hem. The figure appears to be mounted on a horse and has a scabbard slung around his waist. Behind and to the left of this main figure is a bearded man wearing a belted dark blue tunic that is patterned with hearts, as well as a tan strip of cloth tied around his head. This second figure is adjusting the battle standard that he is grasping with both hands. The topmost part of the battle standard is red and blue and has the shape of a circular flower, while the stem of the standard has symmetrical wings coming out of it's sides. The third and final figure in the textile is only part of a man. He is bearded and located behind and to the right of the figure in the foreground, wearing a blue tunic with a long, yellow, cloth tied on his head. He is holding up a wooden bow.
|Mosaic from the Sanctuary in San Vitale, Ravenna of Justinian and His Attendants|
A mosaic from San Vitale, Ravenna is my primary source for Byzantine dressing styles. The mosaic is rich in color and detail and it accurately depicts the style of clothing that a court official would wear during the time of Justinian's rule. The mosaic shows Emperor Justinian (the figure fifth from the right) and his court officials wearing cloths draped toga-style over tunics and pants. Based on rank within the empire, the colors of the cloth are different for each person. Justinian is wearing a royal purple toga-style tunic with gold colored embroidery, while some of his other attendants are wearing white toga-style tunics with gold colored embroidery or a brown stripe. The group of people on the far left look more militaristic, as they are carrying spears and shields. They are wearing orange and green tunics with vests and legging-style pants. Justinian has a crown on his head and is holding a bowl. The man farthest to the right is holding a little green pot on a chain with an orange substance inside it, the official second from the right is holding a bejeweled book, and the official third from the right is holding a bejeweled cross. There is a border made of geometric shapes surrounding the mosaic. According to The Complete History of Costume and Fashion from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day by Bronwyn Cosgrave, only people with royal blood were allowed to wear the royal color purple, and the way to manufacture purple dye was a closely guarded secret.
1.Thesis Statement: While at first, clothing styles in the Islamic and Byzantine Empires were of contrasting design and served different purposes, they evolved, by way of cultural diffusion, to have strikingly similar concepts and designs.
2. Body Paragraph 1
A. Topic Sentence: Religion had a major influence on the styles and designs of clothes in both Empires.
1. Symbolic Christian scenes were often depicted on clothes using embroidery techniques in the Byzantine Empire.
2. People in both the Islamic empire and Byzantine Empires thought that God wanted them to be modest and wear layers of clothes that hid one’s figure so much that it was difficult to tell men and women apart.
3. Most women in the Islamic Empire had to wear veils over their face in public and cover their hair.
4. Women in the Byzantine Empire had to hide their face and hands in public
B. Concluding Sentence: Religious modesty was one of the factors that made fashion concepts in the Islamic and Byzantine Empires similar to each other.
3. Body Paragraph 2
A. Topic Sentence: Rich materials were used to make clothes in the Islamic and Byzantine Empires.
1. Simpler materials such as linen and cotton were used in the Islamic Empire, along with a small amount of richer materials, like silk.
2. Several rich materials such as silk, velvet, brocade, and taffeta were used in the Byzantine Empire, along with simpler materials, like linen and cotton.
3. The kinds of materials one would wear depended on their economic situation and social status.
4. In the Byzantine Empire, only royal people were allowed to wear purple and the way to make purple dye was a closely guarded secret
5. Wearing extravagant materials was a symbol of power
a. Silk was a material that was used often in both empires
I. Silk was used in both the Islamic and Byzantine Empires to fashion clothes
II. At first, people in the Byzantine Empire could only get silk by way of the silk road, because they didn’t know how to make it, and it was expensive
III. Later on, some monks smuggled silk worms and other supplies for silk-making into the Byzantine Empire and taught them how to make silk
IV. The Byzantine Empire soon had a monopoly on silk trade
B. Concluding Sentence: While several of the materials used in the Islamic and Byzantine Empires were different from each other, there were materials that the empires had in common with each other.
4. Body Paragraph 3
A. Topic Sentence: The practical aspects of clothing styles in the Islamic and Byzantine Empires were important.
1. Climate was a factor in the Islamic empire
a. The Islamic Empire was located in a hot desert environment
b. People in the Islamic Empire wore layers of clothes and covered as much skin as possible in order to protect themselves from the sun.
2. Articles of clothing sometimes had several uses
a. According to Kidipede, veils had several uses:
I. Baby slings
IV. Table cloths
VI. A little tent
b. Concluding Sentence: The practical aspects of clothing styles were a similar concept in the Islamic and Byzantine empires.
5. Conclusion: Though the Byzantine and Islamic Empires were starkly different from each other in most ways, one of the ways in which they were similar to each other was their clothing style.
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Fragments of a Wall Hanging with Figures in Persian Dress. 700. Benaki Museum, Athens. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/byzantium-and-islam/blog/topical-essays/posts/costume-styles#_ftn2>.
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