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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.