Woman’s Embroidered Vest (Baju Mesirat)
early 20th century
length: 42cm, width: 40cm
This vest of calico cotton is finely and densely embroidered with green, pink, and cream stitching with applied dyed red cotton bands. Such embroidery, known as tabour work, was done by Gayo men of central and highlands Aceh in the early part of the twentieth century using old, foot-pedalled sewing machines imported by the Dutch.
The vest is similarly embroidered front and back and with a central panel of spidery embroidery motifs against a dark blue background. The pastel colours, the fineness of the work and the dark blue background all point to a particularly early twentieth century provenance (Leigh, 1989, p, 135). Certainly, the embroidery on this vest is the densest and finest that we have seen.
The vest is in particularly good condition particularly given its age. There is minor fraying here and there, but no holes, no repairs, and the condition remains robust and stable.
A very similar example is illustrated in Maxwell (2003, p. 404).
From a Belgium private collection; acquired by the family of the previous owners directly from Sumatra during the 1920s.
Leigh, B., Hands of Time: The Crafts of Aceh, Penerbit Djambatan, 1989.
Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation, Periplus, 2003.
Inventory no.: 1499