18th Century Female and Male Ottoman Clothing from the Pen of a Female Traveller: Acknowledging a Culture


GÜNDÜZ N.

MILLI FOLKLOR, no.124, pp.121-135, 2019 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index, Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.121-135
  • Keywords: Mary Montagu, travelogues, Ottoman clothing, Turquerie, yashmak

Abstract

Travelling to the Ottoman / Turkish lands, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is an English noble woman who is the wife of the British ambassador appointed to Istanbul in the early 18th century. She pays various visits to the households of Ottoman court members, the palace, Turkish baths and mosques in Edirne and Istanbul. She is aware of travelogues written about distant lands in Europe and keeps her own diaries. In dozens of letters, she writes about what she has seen and experienced during her visits with the finest details and rich descriptions to relatives and friends in Great Britain. When she returns to her country, she rearranges these diaries and letters and shares them with her friends in social meetings and gains popularity with her knowledge about Ottoman / Turkish culture. Hosted as a guest in the houses of senior court members, she shows admiration to the rich and impressive clothing of Ottoman / Turkish culture and later wears these outfits personally, and has her portraits and paintings made in them. During the 18th century, due to the fash-ionable phenomenon Turquerie vogue among European nobles, it was popular to have paintings made in Ottoman/Turkish clothing. In this study, Lady Montague's The Turkish Embassy Letters, chosen and compiled from the letters she has written, will be examined in detail to reflect how she depicts and reflects to the reader the male and female clothing specific to Ottoman Palace members, the yashmak (veil), hair ornaments, priceless jewels, fabrics and their materials, as well as colours. In addition, she writes that by using the advantage of being a woman, she not only visits the palace and harem in Istanbul, but she also wears the yashmak of the Ottoman/Turkish woman to wander in the streets of Istanbul and make detailed observations like a real traveller. In this way, in the focus of this work, the reader closely witnesses the elite clothing culture of the palace which constitutes the identity of this society and its difference. Contrary to the later Orientalist discourse, according to Lady Montagu the yashmak gives the eastern woman some kind of freedom by allowing her to wander freely in the streets. Therefore, in this article, it is concluded that Lady Montagu's rich descriptions of Ottoman / Turkish culture exhibit a different and generally non-marginalizing attitude from that of other western travelers. In addition, in some of her letters, we encounter dervish garments and headdresses which she depicts in detail adding their colour, as well. With The Turkish Embassy Letters, Montagu records the concrete features of the Ottoman / Turkish community in the historical process that produces tangible cultural properties transferred from generation to generation as a historical document. This study tries to analyze The Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in the light of text-based method to shed light on male and female clothing culture in the court of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.