Zabid decorative dresses (Yemen)

Festive dress from the Zabid region, Yemen. Second half 20th century. Festive dress from the Zabid region, Yemen. Second half 20th century. Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden, acc. no. TRC 2015.0002.

The town of Zabid lies to the south of Bayt al-Faqih, along pilgrimage and trade routes across the coastal Tihamah plain, about 50 km south of al-Hudaydah and 150 km southwest of the Yemeni capital of Sana`a. Traditionally, women from the Zabid region have worn two styles of embroidered dresses: daily and festive versions.

The daily form has a minimum amount of embroidery, around the neck opening and in a similarly decorated panel down the back of the garment. The festive Zabid dress is in the more voluminous thob style with large sleeves. It is normally heavily embroidered using cotton and metal thread bands that are couched down onto the ground material of the dress (form of passementerie).

The Zabid festive dress is comparable in appearance to the festive dresses from the al-Hudaydah area. The Zabid garment, however, does not have the striped satin (atlas) edging on the sleeves or around the lower edge, and the ‘skirt’ section is longer than that from Al-Hudaydah.


  • MAURIÈRES, Arnaud, Philippe CHAMBON, and Éric OSSART (2003). Reines de Saba: Itinéraires Textiles au Yémen, Aix-en Provence: Édisud.
  • RANSOM, Marjorie and Gillian VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD (2016). 'Embroidery from Yemen,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 520-559, esp. p. 550.
  • STONE, Francine (1985). Studies on the Tihamah: The Report of the Tihamah Expedition 1982 and Related Papers, London: Longman.

TRC online catalogue (retrieved 17 April 2017).


Last modified on Thursday, 13 May 2021 17:58