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Assuit Art Deco Shawl Antique 1920s

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1920s Art Deco period, beautiful, genuine assuit shawl is typical of the style, with its geometric patterns. It has a large central diamond motif from which zigzag lines emanate to a pyramid border pattern. This shawl has a beautiful drape to it and really catches the light. The ‘silver’ has tarnished to a pale gold with hints of copper in places that adds to the beauty of this piece. The base net has faded from what would have once been black to a very dark brown/black. You could always dye it again if you wished, but I like its naturally faded elegance. It is generally in good vintage condition apart from the two holes shown in the last photo above. I have not attempted to mend this but a good seamstress/restorer could easily do this for you, as they are quite small. Even without mending it is still very wearable as the damage is not noticeable when the shawl is draped. However I would advise getting it mended if you intend to use it regularly to avoid any more serious damage.

I purchased this shawl in a local antique shop with the intention of using it for costuming. However, I just haven’t had the heart to cut it up as the antique ones are getting harder to come by. Sadly I have not used it. It has been stored carefully rolled in acid free tissue paper by me, now it is time to let it go to someone who will appreciate its history and beauty and hopefully either wear it or keep it for display...

96 inches long
23-24 inches wide
These measurements vary slightly as there is some stretch widthways.

Returns will not be accepted as this is an antique item and is sold "as is", so please check the listing carefully. Please feel free to ask any questions.

Payment plan is available(50% payable as 1st installment ). Sorry no swaps or exchanges.



"Tulle-bi-telli, also known as Assuit after the region where it is made, is a textile marrying cotton or linen mesh with small strips of metal, with its origins dating back to Ancient Egypt. The name translates roughly as "net with metal"

Thin strips of metal, such as copper wire, silver, pot metal, brass, chrome-plated base metals, or even 14-carat gold, are threaded onto a flat, wide needle with a flat, wide eye. Each strip is approximately 1/8" wide and 18" to 24" long. The strips are threaded into the mesh, criss-crossed, flattened with the fingernails, and cut. The fabric is then stamped down, and when the designs are finished, the fabric is passed through a roller to flatten the metal even more.

Textiles similar in concept to assuit date back to ancient times. Metal thread embroidery was used extensively throughout the Middle East, Asia, and parts of Europe. References are made to its use with Egyptian linen in the Bible. 3,000 year old specimens of netting made with flax are preserved in the Museum of Montbijou, Berlin. The hand-made net is of intricate design; each net composed of some 365 individual fibers. The dye techniques used were equally sophisticated; metallic salts to improve the fastness of dyes has been found in textiles in tombs dating from before 1500 BC. These early embroideries were done with the application of precious metals, especially gold. The pure metal was beaten into thin plates, divided into small slips which were rounded by a hammer, and then filed to form wire. Few remains of ancient wire work have been found. This net would certainly have qualified as "transparent", as shown on the tomb pictures.
In 1893, Orientalism was very popular. "Belly dance" was introduced to the American public at the Chicago World Fair, and so was assuit. The fabric was sold as souvenirs on the Midway.
In 1922, King Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered, triggering another wave of Orientalism. All of a sudden, pretty much everything Egyptian was highly desirable. It influenced fashion, dance, and film.

Assuit has been used in Hollywood productions, such as the lost Cecil B. DeMille opus Cleopatra. It was draped on Hedy Lamarr in Samson and Delilah. It is used extensively for dresses in old Egyptian musicals. It was also worn draped over the head, as wraps, and as wedding gowns. It can also be used for decoration: Piano shawls were extremely popular, and specimens can still be found on occasion in antique shops.
Shawls come in different sizes: most are long and narrow, and the designs vary, ranging from the simple to the elaborate. Some people believe designs have been passed down through families, as with weaving and embroidery work. Some designs appear to be intentionally left incomplete. Coptic Christian designs often have animal and human figures, whereas Muslim shawls rely on geometric designs. In some places, assuit shawls are known as Coptic shawls. The geometric designs were popular with the Art Deco movement, beginning around 1925.
The modern fabric seems to have first appeared in the late 19th century. The invention of the bobinet machine in Tulle, France in the early 19th century increased the popularity of a hexagonal mesh fabric and it became commonly known as tulle. A French entrepreneur built a small net factory in Upper Egypt to help stimulate depressed economy of the area, hoping to create a cottage industry relying on the specialist embroidery skills of those who lived in this region."
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Assuit Art Deco Shawl Antique 1920s


  • Vintage item from the 1920s
  • Materials: Cotton, Metal, Assuit
  • Ships worldwide from United Kingdom
  • Feedback: 54 reviews
  • Favorited by: 21 people