Jumlo, from Indus Kohistan, Pakistan, c1950

This woman’s dress or jumlo is made from a woven black cotton fabric and is finely embroidered with silk threads. It is constructed from three main parts: a bodice, long wide sleeves and a full skirt comprised of numerous triangular inserts of cloth, known as godets. Symmetry is an important element in the design and jumlos are elaborately adorned with buttons, beads and coins. This particular example features beadwork, mother-of-pearl buttons, metal amulets, chains and Pakistani coins dating from 1948 and 1949. Some jumlo are further embellished with zips, lead weights, key and bath chains, padlocks and brass buttons.

Close up detail – note the tiny cross stitch embroidery

Jumlos are made and worn by women from the Shin community. The Shin are semi-nomadic shepherds, who live mainly in the upper valleys of Indus Kohistan, in north west Pakistan, where farming is difficult due to the dry, mountainous landscape. The Shin people move their livestock to higher or lower ground in accordance with the seasons, leaving their village homes during the summer months.

Shin family on the move, Babusar Pass, August 1979

The women from the communities of this remote region are renowned for the quality and intricacy of their embroidery, most often applied to clothing such as the jumlo or shawl but also to children’s coats and hats. When worn, the knee-length jumlo would be accompanied by a shalwar (jodhpur-like trousers) with paincha (embroidered cuffs) adorned with lead weights and zips and a chuprai (shawl) embroidered and decorated in a similar style to the jumlo.

Indus Kohistan

This jumlo is currently on display in the Permanent Collection Gallery at the South Asia Collection, Norwich. The South Asia Collection houses a large number of textile pieces, many of which are items of clothing. Alongside the jumlo, other costume pieces from Balochistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan are also on display.

Textiles on display in the Permanent Collection Gallery
The South Asia Collection, Norwich