Gold Embroidered and Couched Ceremonial Skirts
from Lampung, South Sumatra
Location: Library Administration Office and McDermott Suite

The ceremonial skirts assembled in the McDermott Library Administration office and McDermott Suite were once regarded as prized heirlooms and handed down from mother to daughter through successive generations.

Worn for weddings, occasions of State, and during rite of passage ceremonies, "Tapis" or decorated skirts were a symbol of prestige and power wielded by aristocratic women in a highly stratified court society. The skirts on display date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The tradition for making these skirts originated in the Gujawat region of South India. The first historical reference regarding the technique employed in these skirts was observed in Gujawat by Marco Polo (1271–1295). He wrote that their fabrics were "stitched in silver and gold with wire" and this this "embroidery is performed with more delicacy than in any other place in the world."

The metal thread used in these skirts was made from extruded gold that has not lost its luster after a century or more. In addition to their skirts, women wore abundant jewelry and gold crowns that represented "soul ships" or boats, a symbol of one’s unbroken connection with the ancestors.

The skirts exhibited here are a glowing testimonial to both an ancient tradition of textile making and to courtly displays of ceremonial pomp that no longer exists, but are now handsomely preserved for both posterity and our pleasure in the Eugene McDermott Library at The University of Texas at Dallas.

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