Syrian Costumes

Athwab Bilad El Sham

Embroidery, patchwork, appliqué and dyeing make one of the most important home craft industries for town, peasant, semi nomadic and even Bedouin women living in small towns, villages or in the desert of Bilad El Sham. The tradition of embroidery in the Middle East goes back hundreds of years where women passed on their skills from one generation to the next.

Embroidery with its different motifs and colors served to emphasize the identity of women living in different villages within a region and different regions within the same country, or the characteristics of particular ethnic groups such as those living in the Qalamoun, Horan, Tel Mnin, es Suchne, Saraqeb, Khan Sheikhun, or other regions within Syria.

The various types of stitches used in Syrian embroidery are cross stitch, satin stitch, couching or inlay stitch, running stitch, fishbone stitch, featherstitch, chain stitch, herringbone stitch and others.

Women’s Costumes

The garment of women in Syria (Thob) is made of dark cotton with triangular sleeves. Such dresses are embroidered round the neck, at the chest and the sides. They can also be decorated with a patchwork materials in various colors and embroideries. Another dress has straight sleeves and is made of black sateen. As the dress is very long it is held together by a belt woven from red and black wool or cotton. The woven belt is wound around the waist several times and is particularly popular for enhancing the black dress.


Women’s coat is made of materials in dark colors with wide sleeves and side slits. The neckline down to the chest is ornamented with colorful appliqué work. These coats are bought in the suq. The silk kaftan is worn by wealthy women over the dress. This coat was replaced by a short jacket with tight sleeves reaching to the waist and made of blue woolen cloth and decorated on the inside with colored appliqué work.


On the head women wrap a large silk head cloth Shambar that is held in place by a headband consisting of a smaller and thinner scarf called Asbeh or Mandil that is folded diagonally. The veil is about 3 meters long and about 40 cm wide and made of fine transparent silk or cotton crepe fabrics.

Some of the veils are in two colors. The scarf is made of a red silk fabric about 40 cm wide. Two red strips are sewn together with decorative stitching and dyed black. The ends of the scarf are decorated with fringes and tassels, and simple embroidery. Veils of real red silk (Shambar ahmar) were owned by rich women and were often embroidered with spangles and glass beads and decorated with woven fringes and silk tassels.

Men’s Costume

Men wore a white, shirt like garment made of cotton. A festive garment is usually ornamented with blue, red and black embroidery round the neck and at the chest. Underneath the shirt men usually wore a pant (shirwal) made of colored or undyed cotton fabric. Pants are almost always bought ready made in the suq.


Coats are important garment for men and are usually ready made. Coats are open at the front, it is wide, straight half sleeves are split so that the wing sleeves of the shirt can be pulled through. The coat is worn over the shirt and is made of various light weight fabrics. The sleeves, neck opening and front are decorated with cord couching.

Cloak (abaye)

The cloak is man’s most important garment. It is made of various light-weight silk, artificial silk or mixed silk or cotton fabrics. The cloak is made of two straight widths fabric sewn together. It is open at the front and can be fastened with two cords. The neck and shoulder seams have narrow embroidery or cord couching. Another type of abaye is made of wool with brown and white vertical stripes.

A light weight abaye, made of light colors for the summer is called bisht. It is made of coarse undyed sheep’s wool, goat or camel hair with white-brown or white-black vertical stripes with wool embroidery at the neck and seams.

The winter coat (farwa) is made of sheep skin lining and of dark, mostly black coarse cotton or cloth, and decorated with colored appliqué work or cord couching.


Scarf (hatta)

The headdress of the men varies from a pure white scarf of fine cotton to a scarf of silk with long fringe, often with little tassels wrapped around the head to a headscarf of brownish yellow wool. very popular are scarves made of blue or violet silk with red threads worked into it.

The Head rope (agal)

The agal is usually placed on the headdress (hatta) to hold it in place. Under the hatta, men usually wear a hat or taqiyye


Hats (taqiyye)

Under the hatta men usually wear a hat (taqiyye) to hold the hatta in place.

The Druze

The Druzes of Syria and Lebanon are a very homogeneous population. Their costumes are of particular attention due to their seclusion in villages in the mountains. To this day the Druzes have very largely retained the characteristics of their costume, although the canon of dress has been subject to change in urban areas. The following is elements of men and women’s costumes:

Woman’s costume include long shirt (kamis), coat-like over-garment (kumbaz), baggy breeches (shintyan), waistcoat with wide split sleeves (damir), veil (futa), hat (tarbush), belt (hizam), veil (shambar), skirt (tannura)

Men’s costumes include short shirt (kamis), waistcoat (jubbe), waistcoat without sleeves (sidriyye), fabric belt (hizam), coat-like over garment (kumbaz), wide cloak (abaye), winter coat with fur lining (farwa), little cap (takiyye), head cloth (kufiyye or hatta), head rope (agal), and turban (laffe).

The so called Druze hat (tarbush) is made of felt and trimmed with gold coins, and is similar to the hats of other villages in the surrounding area. Formerly a tall conical tube shaped headpiece made of silver or copper called tantur was worn. In Lebanon the tantur had a long tradition of being worn by Druze and Maronite women. It was worn by the bride as a sign of her married status.


Men’s and women’s coats made of Ikat fabric woven in Aleppo. The ikat fabric was also woven in Homs until the 1950s. Silk satin used for appliqué’ on women’s coats in Qalaat Samaan was also woven in Aleppo


Dress and veil from Hama. The patterns are very geometrical and executed in different techniques


The dresses from Saraqeb are characterized by their large surfaces of red embroidery on black cotton fabric with finely worked seems. The motifs are geometrical and resemble the embroidery motifs in the villages of Chan Scheichun and Magharet en-Numaan.

Es Suchne

Is famous for its festive dresses made of black silk satin fabric embroidered with red silk thread. The embroidery is dense and in cross stitch. The motifs embroidered on these dresses of palms, cypresses, trees of life and amulet triangles reflects the natural surroundings in the oasis of es Suchne. Due to the marriage links between the villages of es Suchne and Sfire, the tradition of embroidery and motifs is also used in Sfire.


Festive dresses from the Qalamoun area.

Women’s coats from the Qalamoun (Tell Mnin and Quteife) are characterized by a wide variety of different type of dress. The motifs embroidered on these dresses consists of free flowing floral patterns on the sleeves and skirt forming stylized trees of life, cypresses, vases of flowers and geometric patterns. The embroidery is with bright silk thread and gold and silver lame that show up effectively against the dark brown, fiery red or dark green fabric used for dresses and against the black cotton material used for coats and jackets.

The embroidery stitches on the dresses of this area include chain stitch, couching stitch, satin stitch, hem stitch, herringbone stitch, cross stitch and half-cross stitch.

Although the cut of the coats in this area is traditional, the fabric and embroidery might be different, using different techniques depending on the preferences of the particular village.

Qalaat Samaan

A woman’s coat with cross stitch embroidery emphasized on the chest and sleeves with decorated seams. The inner facing is decorated with appliqué work in contrasting atlas silks. The silk satin used for the appliqué is woven in Aleppo. Like other areas, women of Qalaat Samaan find their inspiration for patterns from their surroundings. The embroidery on these coats is in cross stitch with colored silk thread.

Kafr Tacharim

Women’s coats from this area differ from other areas by being considerably wider at the bottom. The embroidery decorations of the coats are concentrated on the upper opening and the facings. The whole surface of the triangular patterned areas of the two facings is covered with embroidery.