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Turks weave fabrics differently, use different materials and have different designs that reflect Turkish taste. Approximately six hundred and fifty names have been identified, including Kadife, Atlas, Gezi, Canfes, Selimiye, Hatayi, Catma, Seraser, Sevayi, etc.

The main material was silk with gold and silver threads, rich in motifs such as flowers (tulips, carnations, roses, spring blossom and hyacinth), tress (apple, date palm, cypress), animals (peacock, deer), crescent moon, star motifs, fruit (pomegranate, apple, date, artichoke and pineapple) etc.

Geographical Situation

As a natural trade route between the East and West, Ottoman territory has always been a popular trading and commerce center since the very beginning, and Bursa continues to be an active trading or trading center today.

During the Ottoman court, textiles held great value and were deemed part of the Treasury. As a result of the court members' demands for luxury fabrics, production and quality increased. Art was oriented and governed from the Palace by one central authority.

Regulatory legislation on Bursa, Edirne, and Istanbul (Ihtisab kanunameleri) states the principles to be observed by all tradesmen. These laws cover weaving, and specifically silk weavers.

A detailed description of how the raw materials should be obtained, how to spin the thread, and how to dye the material was provided. There was a clear distinction between thread count and thread weight, as these are the biggest factors determining fabric quality. Those who failed to adhere to the standards were subject to punishment.

Further, gold and silver threads were developed in state-controlled workshops (simikeshanelers) and had a stamp of approval from Ismail Pasha. Once the cloth had been removed from the loom, it had to be pressed by the state. Finally, the cloth was measured, marked and permitted for sale.

This was all handled by state officials (mutesip). The guilds also contributed to the state's work through their control over their own members. Clearly, these various controls played a major role in 16th-century fabrics' excellence.

Textile Categories

Traditionally, textiles were categorized as cotton, wool and silk.

Cotton & Wool

Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.In Anatolia, there was a substantial amount of cotton produced, but it was insufficient to meet demand, so cotton was also imported from the East, including from India. Wool supplies followed the same pattern.

Salonica began manufacturing broadcloth in the 15th century, but since the fabric was used in both civilian clothing and military uniforms, local supplies were never enough and the cloth had to be imported from western countries.

Meanwhile, mohair, a type of cloth in high demand throughout the Ankara region starting from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not only satisfied local demand, but it was also exported in tremendous quantities.

Among the common people, serge is a rather cheap, inferior type of fabric with affinities to European serge.



Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.Fabrics made from silk are expensive, require much labor, and are difficult to obtain in their raw form. Silkworm cultivation was well established in Bursa and the surrounding countryside centuries before the Ottoman empire arrived.

Thus, Bursa was an important commercial center with both the production of silk threads and the weaving of it, so as to be able to satisfy market needs on two fronts - the domestic and foreign. All the silk-weaving centers being most important was Bursa, including Istanbul.

You can differentiate silk fabrics by taffetas, satin velvets, brocades, kemhas, dibas and seraser. Aside from canfes, other types of more lightly woven silk include burumcuk (a type of silk crepe) and taffeta (fine taffeta).

Turks woven silk fabrics of incredible beauty, exhibiting beautiful colors, motifs, and compositions. The favorite color was a dark crimson called guvezi. Colors such as this were used mostly as a ground to complement other colors in the weaving, such as blues, creams, greens, and blacks. Strongly contrasting colors came together in incredible harmony.

The most prominent difference between Turkish and Iranian designs is their sharp contours and ornaments around the motifs. Tulips, carnations, hyacinths, roses, Hatayi, pomegranate blossoms, spring blossoms, pine cones, the moon, clouds and stars are naturalistically rendered, creating a lively and attractive composition.   

A cushion cover made from brocade, dating from the 16th to 17th century, and an embroidered cushion with the same designs as well as a cushion cover made of velvet, both display the same designs and attract the attention of their viewers.

The permanent and temporary exhibitions at Topkapi Saray display as many types of silk fabrics as possible. Exhibitions include silk, velvet, seraser, seranks, satins, velvets, kutnus, canfeses, and burumcuks.


Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.It is made from velvet with a raised design on its double ground. Bursa catma gained fame well beyond the Empire in the 16th century. In spite of its high cost, the fabric was highly demanded on foreign markets.

Furthermore, it was a popular gift on the domestic market and played an important role in the gifts given by embassies and ambassadors to foreign heads of state. Because of this, there are so many catma cushion covers in American and European museums.






Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.Westerners called its fabrics "brocades", thanks to its Ottoman origins. This fabric was usually silk with a double ground containing wire threads. These types of fabrics were used in papal robes and the ceremonial apparel worn by the imperial entourage from the early 16th century.

The treasuries of churches and museums contain papal costumes crafted from Ottoman brocade. Both Istanbul and Bursa had many kemha and catma weaving workshops, and an archive found in the palace records shows a plan for one working exclusively on these particular fabrics.

On the other hand, Ottoman art began to reflect the influence of the West around the 17th century. During this period, large and small fan-shaped carnations were arranged in sprays and covered the entire surface.

Textiles & Ceremonies at The Ottoman Court

As costumes, banners, wall hangings, curtains and ground coverings, fabrics played a crucial part in Ottoman ceremonial. They also served as 'robes of honor' (hil'at) for court servants and foreign diplomats.

As after death as they were when alive, clothing of sultans and some imperial family members was revered, packed in tombs or stacked in the palace for future generations.

At state functions, kaftans and other ceremonial clothing have undoubtedly left a striking impression, as the dresses kept in the Topkapi Palace Museum were many kept there since the deaths of their owners.

The documentation of Ottoman court ceremony is sporadic and, while it often provides some insight into the overall effect, it is not always reliable in terms of details, even though there are numerous accounts by local observers and foreign observers.

Ottoman empire's wealth and power were made apparent by vividly colored and intricately patterned textiles. There are countless ceremonies whose timing marked the key events in the career of each Ottoman sultan and which illustrate the function of cloth and costume.

Sultans Being Crowned

Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.In most cases, the succession to the Ottoman throne took place simultaneous with the funeral of his predecessor (usually his father). In order to avoid confusion or uncertainty, he had to take possession of the throne as soon as possible. Therefore, both ceremonies were held on the same day.

Even in death, textiles maintained the status of the sultan and his family. For storage, the deceased's clothing is usually wrapped in cloth and tagged so that it can be identified. In addition to the clothing marked for burial, there will be a few items reserved for his tomb.

To avoid disturbing the body of the deceased, the sultan's clothes were cut away after he died. On top of the sarcophagus (sanduka), the turban and a kaftan would be located. In addition to these mementos, it was an Ottoman tradition for his belt and dagger to be engraved as well.

Topkapi collections preserve clothing and accessories that were worn by sultans at funerals for their predecessors, previously preserved in satin fabric (atlas) or mohair (sof). A funeral used to be marked by plain garments in black, purple, or deep blue.

Miniature paintings, which since the Ottoman rule have remained constant, except for occasional adjustments, clearly show that the ceremony was staged in an impressive, theatrical manner, regardless of how quickly it was happening.

There are few details available about the clothes worn on such an important occasion: writings typically mention that the new sovereign's turban was decorated with an aigrette, but don't describe his robe.

There is a possibility that the clothes worn by the Ottoman sultans during their accession ceremony were made of a dark, unadorned fabric.

As soon as he became Sultan, he was girting with the imperial sword. Afterward, it was tradition to hold a ceremony commemorating subsequent Ottoman sultans at this spot. The Golden Horn harbor is near the suburb of Eyüp.

In a ceremony that was attended by dignitaries in ceremonial attire and included an imperial procession, the new sultan first appeared in front of his subjects. Royal parades were covered with textiles. At this event, the sultan's clothing appeared to be primarily white.

Parades and Receptions

Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.In addition to the five daily prayers on the Muslim Sabbath, the Sultan usually attended Friday noonday prayer at a mosque outside the royal residence. Turkish Sultans traditionally wore fur-lined seraser robes with jewel-decorated turbans.

Sometimes Sultans invited foreign ambassadors to observe the procession so that they could increase their understanding of the greatness of the Turkish Sultan and the splendor of the Ottoman ceremony. To adorn those attending private court ceremonies, Ottoman sultans also spend vast sums on textiles.

It was also common to present textiles as a gift to commemorate a prince's circumcision. Almost all of the prince’s gifts consisted of fabrics, of the finest quality.

Furthermore, the sultan presented hil’at robes and other textile gifts to the surgeon who circumcised the prince, the Chancery, lieutenant company commanders, infantry officers, and Janissary captains who participated in the celebration. The Imperial Treasury had prepared these garments ahead of time and stored them for presentation.

Sultan's War Outfit

Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.Apart from plate or mail armor that was concealed or integrated with the garments, there was little difference between the military attire of the sultan and his civilian wardrobe. In general, the chroniclers' treatment of military costume refers to the fur-lined, full collared sleeveless kapaniçe.

This visible cloth is also of the highest quality, likely to have been made of best quality sable or lynx fur, the most valued furs at that time. The armored kaftans were paired with armored shirts. Full trousers (salwar) were worn under kaftans and shirts.


Covering The Ground with Cloth

Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.It was common practice for royals, especially sultans, to spread fabrics on the ground on which they walked or rode to express their respect and loyalty.

Fabrics made by tribal women were the primary determinant of wealth, power, and social status among the nomadic Turkic peoples, in whose encampments silk textiles were used as ground coverings or payendaz (for the foot to step on).

In the Imperial Chancery, the new sultan rode his horse over the şal covered ground from the curtains (Perde Kapisi) of the Harem entrance to the Curtain Gate as the new sultan returned after receiving the imperial sword.




Hil'at: Robe of Honor

Turkish restaurant and art of Turkish textile.Symbolically, woven silks played a significant role in Ottoman court culture within the elaborate protocol surrounding garment awards. This form of favor-giving previously existed in a number of Islamic cultures before the Ottomans, and it may be compared to the awarding of medals by Western rulers.

During the 9th -12th centuries, badges or inscription bands (tiraz) bearing the ruler's name were placed on arms of robes made of different colored fabric and grades of fabric based on the level of honor of the recipient. Names on robes implied that the weaver accepted their donor's authority and protection.

In order to describe these garments, the Ottomans used the Arabic word hil’at for 'a robe of honor'. Neither woven nor printed inscriptions could be found on their robes. Fabrics that ranged in value, rather than the robes themselves, were what defined significance.

As a result, dress was either a gift from the sultan himself or from a high ranking official authorized by him to do so. The protocols established at the sultan's court served as a guide for provincial governors and lower officials. The sultan himself was said to wear what Ottoman officials called the robe of continuance of office while serving as head of state.

In the Ottoman court, Hil'at permeated every aspect of life: they were used to celebrate secular and religious occasions, and they could be awarded to anyone of any level, Turkish or foreign. Ordinarily, Grand Viziers were presented with a pair of robes of honor: one was lined with fur, the other was not.

Usually, sable was the fur and çuha or serâser was the fur on the outer face. Chief Judges were often given the same kind of robes, but they weren't always given as pairs.

For the many occasions on which Hil'at was involved, large stocks of robes were kept on hand. The custom of making Hil'at was taken care of by a special group of tailors in the court (hayyatîn-i hassa), who were called hayyatîn-i hil’at. An atelier of this group was outside the palace walls, near the Reviewing Pavilion, near the Iron Gate, as early as 1478.

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