V&A Dundee

Queen of Queens by Shane Strachan

In a specially commissioned poem for V&A Dundee, writer Shane Strachan takes inspiration from Bill Gibb's Tana dress and its cross-cultural roots.

Written by: Shane Strachan

Find out more about the historical threads that run through Gibb's designs, and the stories that captured Strachan's imagination here.

I am the Shahbanu,

Queen of Queens,

my teardrops are caught

on my Paisley-pattern sleeves.

I am not your puppet –

I pull my own strings:

long leather streamers

with bright clacking beads

ensure I’m always heard

before I’m ever seen,

sheathed in this lattice

of terracotta leaves.

I am the Shahbanu,

Queen of Queens,

my teardrops are caught

on my Paisley-pattern sleeves.

My eyebrows are full,

my lip hairs are preened,

the pleats in my peplum

are pressed and steamed;

the squares at my neckline

stream down to my feet,

every stitch an ellipsis

that echoes through the weave…

I am the Shahbanu,

Queen of Queens,

my teardrops are caught

on my Paisley-pattern sleeves.

Veiled in nimbus voile

of peaches and cream,

you may think that my life’s

a dream of Liberty,

but my flesh is sealed up

by all these hidden seams –

my countrymen’s desires

to reign supreme.

I am the Shahbanu,

Queen of Queens,

my teardrops are caught

on my Paisley-pattern sleeves.