Last week I was able to acquire some really wonderful 1920’s beaded dresses. So exciting! More on that later.
Lets talk about another amazing piece I was able to get with the flapper dresses, a woven metal shawl in geometric patterns. It’s flexible, sinuously draping over the body in a sexy and exotic way. So what is it?
It’s a mesh fabric that’s been hand embroidered with thin strips of metal threaded into a pattern.
Called “tulle bi telli” which means net with metal in Arabic, it’s also known as “Assuit”, after the town in Egypt where it was made.
After King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1922, there was a craze for all things Egyptian. The geometric designs echoed an Art Deco aesthetic while evoking a mythological otherness. Westerners loved their fantasy of an exotic Middle East filled with harems, hashish and sheiks. This was a common theme in silent movies.
In film, Assiut cloth represented luxury and symbolized a bohemian lifestyle. The cloth is not ancient; it dates back to the British Occupation of Egypt in the 1880’s. It reached a peak in the 1920’s, when starlets evoked unbridled, foreign sensuality in Assiut get ups.
Once again evoking exoticism, tulle bi telli was worn by performers in the late 20th century:
Modern designers periodically rediscover the sexy drape of assuit fabric like these runway lovelies: