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Woman's dress

Woman's dress

  • Place of origin:

    Ethiopia (made)

  • Date:

    1860s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cotton embroidered with silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Secretary of State for India

  • Museum number:

    399-1869

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This dress was taken by British troops at the siege of Maqdala (Magdala) in 1868. It is said to have belonged to Queen Woyzaro Terunesh, the second wife of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros (Theodore), and mother of the prince Alamayehu.

This dress is made from two layers of soft cotton extensively decorated with a series of embroidered bands around the neck, appearing to hang down the front of the chest like a massive piece of jewellery. Solid flat bands of chevrons separate three chain-like patterns in which the ground fabric has been manipulated to form small bumps. The cuffs are narrow and also embroidered.

Physical description

Woman's dress [kamis] of cotton embroidered with silk.
This dress is made from two layers of soft cotton extensively decorated with a series of embroidered bands around the neck, appearing to hang down the front of the chest like a massive piece of jewellery. Solid flat bands of chevrons separate three chain-like patterns in which the ground fabric has been manipulated to form small bumps. The cuffs are narrow and also embroidered.

Place of Origin

Ethiopia (made)

Date

1860s (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Cotton embroidered with silk

Dimensions

Length: 49 in, Width: 62 in sleeve to sleeve

Object history note

This dress was taken by British troops at the seige of Magdala in 1868. It is said to have belonged to Queen Woyzaro Terunesh who was the second wife of the King, Tewodros II.
Displayed in "V and A Africa: Exploring Hidden Histories"
15th November 2012- 3rd February 2013

Descriptive line

F, embroidered, 1860c, Ethiopian

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Crill, Rosemary, Jennifer Wearden and Verity Wilson. Dress in Detail from Around the World. London: V&A Publications, 2002. 224 p., ill. ISBN 09781851773787. p. 36.
Robe featured in V&A web theme 'Treasures from Ethiopia' [http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/hiddenhistories/ethiopia_treasures/index.html]

Labels and date

Maqdala 1868 display, 5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019

Woman’s dress, or kamis, belonging to Queen Terunesh | የሴቶች ቀሚስ፣ የእቴጌ ጥሩነሽ ንብረት
Made in Ethiopia around 1860

This dress was probably given to Queen Terunesh as part of her wedding dowry when she married Emperor Tewodros, aged about 12 years old. The dress has been extended with additional panels at the bottom, perhaps to allow the queen to continue wearing it as she grew older and taller. The series of embroidered bands around the neck hang down the front of the chest, mimicking a large piece of jewellery.

I knew nothing of the history of Queen Terunesh, wife of a king and mother to a prince. Now I am gazing at her dress, its colour and embroidery preserved, a symbol of a young girl becoming a woman.

- Almaz Tesfaye, V&A Estates Services, member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church [5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019]
RELATED LABEL:

Pair of anklets
Ethiopia
1800–67

Contemporary reports record that the widowed queen wished to be escorted back to her native province of Semyen but she died en route, possibly of lung disease. Her funeral took place on 16 May 1868 in the great church at Chelicut and was covered in the Illustrated London News. The queen’s possessions were sent on to the Secretary of State for India at the India Office in London. They were given to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) the following year.

Silver
Given by the Secretary of State for India
Museum no. 403&A-1869
[15/11/2012 - 03/02/2013]

Materials

Silk thread; Cotton yarn

Techniques

Embroidering; Weaving; Sewing

Subjects depicted

Geometric; Chevrons

Categories

Black History; Clothing; Embroidery; Africa

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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