Sound, smell & feel
Apart from the arthistorical approach to heritage and social aspects that can be discussed, more senses may be ‘intrigued’ by these objects as well. Such as the sound, smell and feel of wearable heritage.
Veils and costumes jingle; the coins, the tassels, beads and other decorative elements on dress, hats, head covers, etcetera may each produce a very characteristic sound. Movement of the body or wind may increase the distinctiveness of these sounds. In fact, this characteristic of coins and tassels is specifically used for diverting evil. This uniqueness of sound is one of the elements very little described in literature and to my knowledge no study at all has been done in that field. It is for that reason that I would like to draw attention to the sound of wearable heritage. In the desert wind the sound of a woman carrying her personal veil with bells and coins, tassels of beadwork colliding with eachother, may be recognized by her relatives based on sound alone. In my collection of veils, no two veils sound alike.
Smell is also a very little known field of study, although smell of costume or other wearable heritage is sometimes described circumstantially when perfuming of dress or jewelry is pointed out. In Oman for instance, perfuming dress with incense is a well-known custom. Here, women place incense burners under their clothes in order to saturate the dress with smell. Since this is done in an overwhelming amount, there is little chance that the smell of dress can be ignored here. More than one scent is 'piled on top of the other', so that different layers of scent can be appreciated. In certain areas in North Africa, jewelry is also deliberately perfumed. For instance, a metal container worn in the hair, filled with perfumed sheep’s wool from Morocco (click here for an example. For more information please use this link to the website Bedouin Silver). In Nubia (Egypt and Sudan) many leather objects are rubbed with perfumed fat, spreading a very distinctive smell.
The ‘feel’ of costume is described in literature in the same manner. An interesting subject I have worked on is the weight of face veils. Some face veils worn by Rashaidah women in East Africa for instance, weigh almost 1 kilogram and are quite a burden. Also, black textile often used in female dress in the WANA region is an interesting aspect of the ‘feel’ of dress. Does the black color for instance increase the heat of these body covers, or not? The research magazine Nature has an interesting article on the subject. In this article it is argued that wide black dress does not increase the body temperature, but rather optimizes Bedouin solutions for desert survival. Another theme I am focusing on in my research is the manner in which face veils are tied to the body and kept in place (see also on the page of (re) arranging cloth). This of course has implications for the feel of this garment.
Top image from unknown photographer