Blue Embroidery

Blue Embroidery

Usually associated with unmarried and sexually immature women, blue seemed to refer to a state of sexual inactivity. A colour found in dresses worn by widowed women, young girls and older post-menstrual women, blue was seen and treated as an opposite to red. In the case of widows in mourning, it was believed that when a red motif appeared in the dress it was signalling the end of the mourning period and that the wearer was no longer abstinent and willing to remarry. Such was the case with unmarried girls, whom expressed their maturity and readiness to marry by embroidering a few red motifs into their dresses. The red motifs sprinkled on the blue or plain dress could be taken as a metaphor for drops of blood.

It  is not clear why blue as a colour was particularly chosen to reference death, mourning and sexuality. According to Weir (Palestinian Costume, 1989), the tradition possibly came from Egypt, which up to the mid twentieth century had open borders with Palestine allowing more freedom of movement and interaction. Balfour-Paul, in her book Indigo 1998, does in fact state that in Egypt, funeral and mourning rites included the dying of all fabric articles in the bereaved household with indigo. The use of indigo, could further explain how black as the colour of mourning came to be, since deep indigo fabrics were usually taken for black.