Exploration One: Ottoman Finery - Turkey

Early 1500’s - Mid 1800’s


For the Ottoman court, clothing was much more than just a personal luxury. It defined, not only you, not only your position, and not only your place in society, but societies financial situation as well. If you were a well dressed sultan, then it was automatically assumed that your region of domain, was a wealthy and prosperous place. This meant, that your clothing held your position with power, and publicity between you and your people.

Whenever a sultan, or high born person passed away, they’r clothing would be bundled and stored in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul. Because of the distance of time, some of the name labels have been lost, but because of this textile library, we have an excellent fashion guide to this lush and colorful clothing era.

An Ottoman Emperor

Men wore generally simply cut robes, layered, and made in lush colorful textiles, starting with a dignified ‘outer robe’. Ottoman silk copied many of the Italian designs from this time. An assortment of technicolor patterns, and flora and fauna was a popular look. Long billowing linen, or velvet trousers (as seen below) were all the rage. Ermine was a popular trim for their jackets, as well as squirrel fur. They also, generally wore turbans, which could be spiced up with anything from fur, pearls, and jewels, to even feathers, and expensive velvets and silks alike. Men accessorized with glamourous jewelry, belts, and dramatic bejeweled daggers.

During this era, hardly any attention was given to women’s clothing, as women did not have a public role in society. Because fashion played such a big role in mens lives, socially, politically, and economically, much money was spent on the males clothes. Otherwise, women spent their entire lives secluded, with family, and a few very close friends, this effected women’s fashion, because all of their clothes were casual. For a lot of the Ottoman era, women wore close to the same clothing as men, most of the pieces of clothing were even called by the same name, besides the quality of course. At this time, women were only expected to cover their heads, with casual headdresses. With the turn of the 18th century, it became public law for women to wear vail’s which covered their faces. They wore ankle length pants, which became baggier with time, and a variety of layers of wrist length robes.

It wasn’t unusual for people of this time to wear shoes with stilts on them. This was because the streets were so filthy that they’d need the height, in order to keep their costly silks clean.