Costumes from the Silk Road

It is not a coincidence that the oldest needles, made of bone and ivory around 40,000 – 50.000 BCE, were found in Altai Mountains – south Siberia. Herders in Central Asia used sheep’s wool to make striped cloaks and skirts. They also made costumes out of hemp, a wild plant which grows all over Central Asia.

As trade routes between China and Europe developed, small cities were established along the Silk Road. These cities were usually located near oases where their inhabitants could supply themselves with enough water to survive. These oases towns functioned as shopping places along the Silk Road. Merchants would stay in these towns and prepare their long journeys. The Silk Road brought great wealth to Central Asia. Silk was introduced into this region from China. Ikat weaving skills, although it is uncertain where exactly they came from, were brought into the region. Along with riches, culture, religion and technology were also transported along the Silk Road. Such cultural influences were greater in oasis cities than in nomadic societies, mainly because oasis cities had more contact with the merchants who traveled along the Silk Road.

Oasis dwellers had more decorative textiles than nomads. Urban populations developed more ornamented textiles because the upper class in these societies needed indicators of rank and wealth. The general idea was that the more decorative a person’s clothes were, the higher his or her social standing was. Those who were in the upper class of the society required clothes which were ever more decorative. Finally, the making of clothes reached a level where an individual artisan could not make prestige textiles without the help of others. At this point specialized groups of textile makers emerged to make it easier to produce prestige textiles.

In this category, we try to provide surviving latest clothing samples of the Silk Road from China up to the Middle East.

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