(Re)arranging cloth

 

In antiquity, no prefabricated fitting costume existed. Pieces of textile with a certain length and made of a certain material were draped around the body and tied or fixed with pins. Some of these pins became part of costume and jewelry in Roman times (fibulae) and are still used today in the Maghreb. Since knots slip, and dress is never permanently kept in place this way, rearranging your ‘clothes’ was thus an all-day activity and very much part of life. This restricted movement in a way, but also brought new opportunities.
 
The rearranging of garments also became part of the conduct of the wearer. Loose ends of cloth may be played with to give confidence, used to cover your face or mouth with on certain social occasions. In a desert storm this piece of textile may be used to keep the sand out of one’s eyes. Garments were also used to tie certain things in. Nowadays for many areas where body veils are worn, such as the sari in India, all of this may still be observed. In Egypt I have seen women use their scarves for tying money into, for whipping their face with and easing the grip of a heavy load. These social aspects of dress and how draped costume feels is best described by a book on the sari by Mukulika Banerjee and Daniel Miller.
 
I have recently begun studying these aspect of face veils. In Egypt alone, the manner in which face veils are attached to the body is manifold. Sometimes ingenious rings are used through which strings are resourcefully pulled and tied, but also (elastic) bands are used over the head in order to keep the veil in place. Nevertheless these knots also slip, textile stretches and rearranging veils remains an all-day activity. 

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