What is the origin of this costume I keep seeing?
October 15, 2011 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Trying to find out where a particular ethnic (Muslim?) women's costume comes from. Too shy to take a photo. Does anyone recognise my description?

I live in Harrow, in the northwest suburbs of London, and we have a very diverse population. From time to time I see women wearing an unusual (to me) and rather attractive ethnic costume. I have not seen it elsewhere and am trying to figure out where it originally comes from.

I wish I had a photo, but I'm cautious about taking pictures of strangers, so I'll describe it as best I can. There's a headcovering/shawl that looks a bit like a short khimar, which is worn over a long dress made of the same print. It's that print which makes the costume unusual. It's quite colourful (generally pastel) and has eye-catching floral or geometric patterns. The fabric itself appears to be light, perhaps muslin (U.S.)/calico (UK). Also, both the headcovering and the dress are trimmed with wide lace.

I've been assuming, from the modesty of the outfit and the large Muslim population in this area, that it's probably Islamic, but I could be wrong about that. Women who wear it generally tend to be quite light-skinned. I thought it might be from the Balkans, but pictures I have seen of Balkan clothing don't match it at all.

My Google-Fu has failed utterly here. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be very glad to hear them!
posted by Perodicticus potto to Society & Culture (5 answers total)
It seems like the easiest solution would be to ask someone who is wearing the outfit.
posted by 256 at 2:08 PM on October 15, 2011

Response by poster: I've yet to meet anyone wearing this outfit in a situation where I could strike up a conversation. I'd have to literally stop someone in the street, which would seem quite rude (especially in the UK) and possibly be seen as intimidating.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 2:14 PM on October 15, 2011

In most instances, it can be difficult to determine a female Muslim's ethnicity from her head covering (unless it is a highly specific regional pattern or color). For example, this diagram is pretty simplistic. What is labeled as "Turkish" could easily be worn by a Syrian or Jordanian, etc. There are exceptions though.

That being said, I can picture what you're describing and I had a friend who was from Malaysia who wore a brightly patterned veil with a matching dress underneath. For process of elimination, that type of garment would not be widely-worn in a predominantly Arab country.
posted by Cwell at 2:17 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It very well may be a Bohra Rida. Each Rida is different and can have different patterns and designs. If you google around, you'll see a lot of examples.
posted by allen.spaulding at 2:42 PM on October 15, 2011

Response by poster: Yes, that looks very familiar - and it seems there are a lot of Dawoodi Bohras in Harrow. Thank you so much!
posted by Perodicticus potto at 3:09 PM on October 15, 2011

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