Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

Art Deco Exotic: Egyptian Woven Metal Shawl

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?

1920s Egyptian Shawl

Fine metal shawl from the 1920s 

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.

Tulle bi telli shawl

Tulle bi telli goes to the 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:

Tulle bi telli shawl

Lauren Hutton, La Streisand, Bianca, Lenny Kravitz, Souxie  but no Banshees, and that guy from Queen who is not Freddy Mercury

Modern designers periodically rediscover the sexy drape of assuit fabric like these runway lovelies:

assiut in modern fashion

Drapey metal Assiut fabric in modern fashion

Author: Winters Past

I am a vintage clothing shop owner living and working in rural north Florida. I believe in adding a little vinegar and molasses to my greens, having my coffee outside whenever possible, and mixing something vintage into every room and every outfit.

Comments are closed.