Jeanne II’s costume is composed primarily of the fabric mousseline, named after its place of origin, Mosul, Iraq. This part of the world, Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent, was a birthplace of civilization but today its global relevance is in light of the disastrous ongoing warfare in Iraq. In particular, Mosul has a long history of religious and ethnic diversity. It has long been a center for various church denominations, a site of graves of Old Testament prophets, and a predominantly Sunni Muslim community.
The making of Jeanne II’s dress involved twenty-four women collaborators, particularly refugees from Iraq—relative newcomers in Saint-Denis—as well as from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Congo, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Belarus, and Romania. The women all traveled together with Lamyne M. to a fabric shop in Sarcelle to choose the material, and they agreed on the selection of mousseline to honor Mosul, which fell to ISIS in 2014 and immediately suffered dire oppression, particularly of and against women.
Lamyne M.’s engagement with these women is an act of empowerment and elevation of the women. He insisted that every woman voice an opinion in the process. A Pakistani woman who joined the project last was asked to express her cultural knowledge in the design of the neckline, which in pre-Muslim times would have exposed the breastbone but with more conservative Muslim influences crept upward toward the neck. The puffed sleeve of the upper arm is in some respects a traditional Bangladeshi feature, but it was also used in the costume of French noblemen, before it devolved into an element of female costume.
The pendant frontal belt is inspired by Kurdish wedding belts, positioned around the waist and ornamented with precious stones to symbolize fertility, and ornamented with beads and pearls. This pays tribute to Kurdish refugees displaced first by Saddam Hussein’s genocidal attack, known as the Anfal (1986-89), and more recently by ISIS. Jeanne II’s ornamental belt also recalls French courtly traditions, but her belt is shorter that those of other costumes in this series, because she was not highly respected historically, although renowned for her extravagant dress, and particularly her love of long trains. In this dress for Jeanne II, her train expands across the ground: an act of delimitation, taking possession of space—not unlike destitute refugees who lack respect yet take their place, and find position, and pride.