Turban Chic in a variety of guises has long been a staple on the runways of Europe and the USA but the history of turban fashion goes back further than Sex and the City 2 believe it or not!
History of the Turban…
The historic origin of the turban is uncertain, however based on evidence gathered from archaeological sites, ancient civilisations in India, Mesopotamia, Sumeria and Babylon wore this form of headgear as part of their cultural and ceremonial costume for centuries.
A style of turban called a phakeolis was part of the uniform used by soldiers of the Byzantine army during the period 400-600AD and continued to be worn by the Byzantine people from the 10th Century in Cappadocia (modern Turkey) and their Greek speaking descendants right up to the early 20th century. The Islamic prophet, Muhammad (570-632AD) is also believed to have worn a traditional white turban to symbolise his purity. Shiah clerics today wear white turbans unless they are descendants of the prophet Muhammad or Sayyid, in which case they wear black. In modern context, Sikhs wear turbans in a variety of colours as a symbol of their religious belief, status and to bind their hair (which is never cut) as a testament to their faith. Many Muslim men also continue to choose a green turban because it represents paradise, whilst in parts of North Africa blue turbans are popular with the shade often signifying the tribe of the wearer. In many traditional African ceremonies such as weddings, women still wear a form of colourful patterned turbans to acknowledge their tribal origins.
The Origins of the Turban Fashion Trend…
The history of turban fashion for women began in the late 18th, early 19th century, when trade with India saw the dawn of the trend for turbans as a Western fashion accessory for society ladies. While earlier portraits show examples of the turban in women’s dress – notably Vermeer’s 1665 portrait Girl with a Pearl Earring – the draped turban is first recorded as a widespread fashion in Britain in the late 18th century, rising to even greater popularity during the Regency era; this was a fashion said to be inspired by increased trade with India for the import of cottons. The fashion may also have been partly inspired by growing interest in, and knowledge of, the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. The writings of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu on Turkey are also said to have been an influence. There are several portraits of her in turban style headgear and the turban was also sometimes known as the turk or chiffonet.
The style of turban was initially simple, in keeping with the drape of gowns of the time, but as its popularity developed it tended to follow the fashion in hair and became progressively larger as hairstyles became more elaborate. Turbans might be lavishly decorated with plumes for balls and functions, but also for daywear – as satirised in a 1796 James Gillray cartoon, High Change in Bond Street. The fashion remained during the early decades of the 19th century, with examples of Paris and London fashions from the 1830s showing ornate turban headdresses topped with tall plumes.
Turn of the Century Chic…
We have Paul Poiret to thank for the revival of turban fashion in the early 20th century. By 1910 the turban had made a complete revival and was a staple in evening wear and the ultimate high society fashion statement.
As any fashion trend, the turban has cycled its way through our modern era, making brief cameo’s of fabulousness. The history of turban fashion is very consistent with glamour. Whether it is a classic 1946 film noir, a 1970’s British Vogue feature, a 1980’s tribute to Joan Crawford played by Faye Dunaway, or Sarah Jessica Parker herself reviving the turban a la Carrie Bradshaw for the 21st century… what goes around comes around. And the truth is our Western civilization will always be swept away by the exotic elegance of the East with the turban.
Hat Couture Does tUrban Chic…
Inspired by many appearances on the catwalk this year in shows from Gucci to Marc Jacobs, Hat Couture has worked on a number of contemporary takes on tUrban Chic this year. We started with a special commission for the wedding of one of my good friend’s sons during early Summer 2018. This was Midnight at the Casbah, a silk abaca wrapped, raw silk creation that featured a vintage Dolce and Gabbana pendant brooch to perfectly match the client’s outfit. Pure Hollywood glamour!
For the same event we also developed a more youthful look as modelled by my daughter Tish. This was an Alice band based fascinator wrapped in a fabulous shade of Royal Blue with peachy pink hand made silk blossoms to compliment her Ted Baker ‘cold shoulder’ Harmony ensemble.
Next out of the workshop was Rock the Casbah which pays homage to the forties with its sinamay teardrop shaped percher covered in raw black silk again swathed in swirls of silk abaca. This piece is finished with a mount of oily green and black gloss plumes a vintage Art Deco pendant brooch in crystal and jet.
Last but by no means least we have a duet of two colourways for a similar design, Harnessing Peacocks (as shown as the featured photo above) and The Queen of Sheba. Both of these pieces are constructed with a hand blocked buntal asymetric fez base covered and fully lined in raw silk. The headpiece is then enrobed in swathes of silk abaca and finished with crystal antique pendant brooches.
tUrban Chic DIY…
Be sure to do your Fashion 101 homework by incorporating a turban into your own ensemble as the summer sun fades! Here is a great tutorial on how to make a turban from a fabulous head scarf (with thanks to Jessica on Pintrest). We look forward to seeing pictures of your own interpretations as you too Rock the Casbah,