The Moors who came to rule most of Iberia during the 8th century were originally people of Arab-Berber origins. Once in Iberia, they embraced several aspects of the local Christian Visigoth population’s culture as well as elements from the Western European culture in general.
The result was an eclectic yet harmonious mix which was highly colourful in outlook and highly intricate in detail. This was also reflected in the clothing prevalent in the Moorish society.
When Moors began their conquest of Iberia in early 8th century, their clothing reflected the basic dress sense of the Arabs in the East and the Berbers of North Africa. It was further dictated by the hot climes of the southern Iberian Peninsula.
Consequently, the dress most common worn by Moorish men of the period comprised of a long, straight and sleeveless tunic called gandura. On top of the gandura, another tunic called a burnous was worn which was fuller and had long sleeves attached to it.
The burnous was held by a girdle at the waist, shortening it. A Turban was also a common part of the early male Moorish attire and was usually worn under an additional hood or occasionally without it.
Once the Moors were firmly established in Iberia, they began embellishing their original attire with influences from farther East, such as the Abbasid courts in Baghdad and Persian trends in general. The adoption of the slim Persian coats with narrow sleeves was an instance of this.
The influence of Abbasids on Moorish clothing reached its peak in the 9th century when the djubba from Iraq was widely adopted in Moorish aristocracy. Djubba was essentially a tunic with narrow sleeves.
Headgears other than turbans also came to be adopted in this period. These included woollen caps called ghifara which were usually dyed with bright colours. Moorish soldiers adopted the scarlet cape from their Christian neighbours to the north.
Women in Moorish Iberia dressed conservatively in the early centuries of Moorish rule. However, their dresses also reflected the many cultural influences absorbed by the Moors. Like men, women also adopted the long Persian coat with narrow sleeves as the outer garment.
Trousers worn by women were made in different styles. They could be straight, flaring or constrained together at the ankles. Although the Moorish religious authorities emphasised on conservative dressing for women, women had significant latitude in adopting the fashions of the day.
They usually wore a large enveloping mantle when going out in the public which was the extent of their conservative outfit on the street. Although veil was also recommended, it was less common and many women of royal and noble families chose not to wear it.
Given the affluence, cultural diversity and widespread literacy of Moorish urban centres, dressing for both men and women comprised of a wide range of accessories apart from the essential clothing. Sandals, slippers and high-quality soft boots made from rich materials were common for both men and women.
Shoes were often embroidered to give them a brighter outlook. Henna was used by Moorish women to decorate their hands and arms. Eye makeup was also common among women while perfumes was a regular part of the dressing inventory of men and women. Men draped a long piece of fabric over their shoulders, apart from the turban, which was called almaizar.