Jebel Sabir Embroidered Dresses (Yemen)

A Jebel Sabir festive dress, Yemen, 1980's A Jebel Sabir festive dress, Yemen, 1980's Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden, acc. no. TRC 2011.204.

The Jebel Sabir region just south of Ta'izz, in southwestern Yemen, is known for its heavily embroidered festive dresses worked predominantly in white cotton. Those worn for special occasions, notably weddings, tend to be narrow with wide sleeves. The neck opening is wide and rounded. The embroidery is normally concentrated on the sleeves, around the neck opening, at the front panel and around the whole of the skirt section.

There is a similar placement and quantity of embroidery on the back of the garment. The embroidery on these garments is dense on both sides and sometimes it can be hard to see which is the outside and which is the inside of the garment.

The dress sections are normally first embroidered and then sewn together. In general the embroidery is carried out in white cotton thread, with areas of the design highlighted in green, red, and yellow perlé cotton. The embroidery stitches used are chain stitchcouching over two rows, with overcast stitchesherringbone stitchRoumanian couchingstem stitch, detached diagonal filling stitches worked in groups of three; and diagonal filling stitches making a row of connecting V-shaped stitches.

The main patterns used for Jebel Sabir dresses are based on circles, diamonds and small dots of various forms, all of which are worked in lines of varying sizes. Often the sleeves of these garments are folded back. As a result the seams associated with the sleeves may be on the outside of the garment, rather than the inside. This seam placement is deliberate and not due to ‘sloppy’ sewing.


  • MAURIÈRES, Arnaud, Philippe CHAMBON, and Éric OSSART (2003). Reines de Saba: Itinéraires Textiles au Yémen, Aix-en Provence: Édisud.
  • RANSOM, Marjorie and Gillian VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD (2016). 'Embroidery from Yemen,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 520-559, esp. pp. 551-552.
  • STONE, Francine (1985). Studies on the Tihamah: The Report of the Tihamah Expedition 1982 and Related Papers, London: Longman.


Last modified on Thursday, 25 May 2017 15:56