The perfect fabric: Assuit, Asyut, Tulle bi telli…

The perfect fabric: Assuit, Asyut, Tulle bi telli…
11/24/2016 Alicia L.

How many times have you desired an old Assuit panel in your wardrobe? Today I’ll tell you a little bit about this soooo precious fabric.

assuit fabric

The name used in the West to refer to this fabric honors the city of Asyut in Egypt, where its production originally began.

Asyut was a textile center in the country.

However, there it is known as Tulle bi telli “metallic net” (Tulle is the French city where the machine to create French lace was developed  and introduced in Egypt in the early nineteenth century to revitalize the economy of the area).

assuit fabric

A zoom shot, this is how it works

It is a net-shaped lace adorned with small strips of metal set into the cotton net and pressed to give a uniform fabric texture.

The drawings are made in fabric – mainly geometrical and figurative forms.

Some assuit panels have more metal than others, and they were sold by weight if they were made of silver.

assuit panel

The golden era in the production of this fabric was between 1908 and 1912, as there was a great demand from foreign tourists (even during WW1  a fall in sales was noted).

Since it was exhibited at the World Fair in Chicago in 1893 interest grew, even more so when Tuntankhamon’s tomb was discovered in 1922.

The growing Orientalism at that time developed an interest in all Egyptian stuff.

It had a huge influence on fashion, movies, and painting.

The geometric patterns of assuit panels fitted very well with the Art Deco style.

assuit info

Stunning assuit panels and dress | Tribal fusion dancers, Mardi Love and Rachel Brice dancing in their assuit

This fabric became more popular with its foray into Hollywood blockbusters (Cleopatra, Samson and Delilah …), used by American actresses or by dancers in Egypt.

They were also used as dresses, shawls and even for home decoration (such piano shawls mainly).

They are rectangular panels and the most common colors are white, black and cream. You may find assuit in other colors but usually they have been dyed later.

Nowadays, tribal fusion dancers are inspired by the romantic fantasy of orientalists of the early nineteenth century, so the assuit fabric is part of the aesthetic and they include it in their dance costumes.

assuit tribal fusion


What happens today?

Today you can find antique assuit and new manufactured assuit.

Unfortunately, the pieces made today are light years from the cool texture and fall of the old panels which are significantly more expensive.

galliano 1997

Vogue US, 1997. Photographer: Steven Meisel. John Galliano for Christian Dior Fall 1997 Couture

So, where you can find antique assuit panels? In antique fabric stores and especially in the big market that is Ebay.

On this online platform, some collectors sell their panels. The price will depend on the year of manufacture and especially the amount of metal it takes.

Is it worth the investment? Absolutely yes, in addition to something that will enhance your wardrobe (there is not a similar fall), remember that you are buying history, an OOAK piece that will endure over time and if you get tired of it, you can always sell for a good price.

If you are lucky and already have one, don’t miss our post on how to take care of assuit.


Jean Paul Gaultier Haute couture SS 2013

If you are a fan of assuit fabric like us and you want to continue seeing pictures, follow our Pinterest board.

More info about assuit fabric:

  • The Mystery of Tulle bi Telli Copyright 1998-to current date by Gilded Serpent, LLC.
  • The Shining Cloth: Dress & Adornment That Glitters by V.Z. Rivers, Thames & Hudson, 1999
    Crafts and Craftsmen of the Middle East: Fashioning the Individual in the Muslim Mediterranean by Suraiya Faroqhi, Randi Deguilhem.

Comments (12)

  1. Star of the East 4 years ago

    These are amazing!
    In Turkey they still make this, but they use it mostly in the house, not for clothes, they take ages to make there are course for it :)!
    If you search for ‘tel kırma’ you’ll see that the technique is similar the shapes different.

    • Author
      Alicia L. 4 years ago

      Exactly! ´Tel kirma´ is the same process but different paterns. Assuits were the perfect mix between 1920’s Egypt and 1920’s Europe

  2. Anna 4 years ago

    Love to read about ancient techniques and fabrics! Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

  3. petitplat 4 years ago

    Way too shiny for me, but the story behind it is very interesting!

  4. millie 4 years ago

    wow! amazing! I did not know anything about this fabric! Thanks for sharing Alicia.
    I remember the Christian Dior Fall 1997, i was studing fashion design and used some pictures taken in this Vogue Issue!

  5. Tina 4 years ago

    Such an amazing fabric! It looks absolutely stunning!

  6. Katerina 4 years ago

    Very interesting read.

  7. Ildi 4 years ago

    These old panels with shiny metal are absolute beautiful!!!!

  8. Ruby 4 years ago

    Gorgeous, love the detail shot, makes you understand the real workmanship!

  9. ameba verde 4 years ago

    que bonita tela, muchas gracias porque no la conocia! ^___^

  10. PALOMILLA 4 years ago

    Qué post más interesante Alicia! Ese tejido siempre me ha parecido alucinante pero no sabía de donde venía 🙂

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *