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    Yemen Woman’s Indigo-Dyed Cotton Bib or Dress Front with Silver Embellishments

    Raymah Governorate, Central Western Yemen
    early-mid 20th century

    length: 52cm, width: 25cm, weight: 518g



    private collection, US

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This fine example of a hand-loomed, indigo-dyed cotton bib is from the Raymah Governorate in the middle of Yemen’s western mountain range, where the locals mostly speak the Himyarite dialect version of Arabic.

    It is lined with un-dyed cotton and embellished with dozens of recycled elements such as silver buttons, bells, broken pieces of silver jewellery, old amulets set with coral, mother-of-pearl buttons, red glass trade beads, chains, and even a white metal button cast with the letters ‘CD’ on the front and below a crown. This stands not for Christian Dior but Civil Defence. (The Civil Defence Service (CD) was a civilian volunteer organisation in Great Britain established by the British government in 1935 as an air raid precaution  service ahead of World War Two. Initially known as the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) it was renamed the Civil Defence Service  in 1941). Included also are several provincial Ottoman coins with legible dates that approximate to 1859 and 1909.

    The reverse shows that many of the heavier items have been sewn through the bib and secured by having the thread tied around a small wooden stick or twig segment, helping to support the weight of the embellishment.

    Such decorative bibs were worn by women in Raymah which also was home to a significant community of Jewish silversmiths, so recycled and re-purposed silver ornaments were in ready supply. But equally, should the owner need to quickly raise money, items from the bib could be removed and sold for cash by taking them to the silversmiths.

    Ransom (2014, p. 101) illustrates a similar, though less laden, example.


    Ransom, M., Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry, AUC Press, 2014.

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