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Recalling the way we wear

Israel Museum exhibition- open till October 25, 2014

The Israel Museum owns more than 10,000 original items of clothing which it stores in climate controlled vaults. Curators have picked 100 of the best items for its current showcase exhibit Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe. Sure to attract crowds of the historically interested and the aesthetically curious, the exhibit displays life-sized mannequins dressed with painstaking precision in clothes appropriate to era and location. 

Frau Blau creation

Dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries, the majority of the clothes were worn by women from Jewish communities in Egypt and Tunisia on the west to Iran and India on the east. A smattering of clothes from Europe is also included, such as a taffeta and silk dress from mid-9th century Germany. The preponderance of non-European items mirrors the museum's collection. Few garments from Nazi occupied Europe survived the Holocaust, explained exhibit curator Efrat Asaf Shapira. 

Medusa creation

The local habitat strongly influenced Jewish wardrobes. A body length black cloak and face veil from 20th century Afghanistan hid the Jewish woman as completely as a modern day burka.

There is a constant tension between the question: Does costume reveal or blur our identity? Lavish holiday wear in silk, embroidery and lace often provided modest cover for the bodice and torso but were so exquisite that they drew the eye to the body parts they sought to obscure. Western influence came to bear upon designs in the East, as in a plush red velvet wedding dress embroidered with gold from early 20th century Turkey. 

India, the late 19th Century

The wedding dress followed the wearing in subsequent important dates in her life: childbirth celebrations, barmitzvahs, and offspring's weddings. After death, the dress may have been redesigned to become a Torah curtain in her memory. A pearl embroidered shawl from early 20th century Yemen, worn after giving birth and on Yom Kippur, became a burial shroud after death.

In an innovative twist, the museum invited six leading contemporary Israeli fashion designers to each craft an original piece of clothing inspired by one costume in the exhibit. In a festive happening, fashion models were brought on site to the exhibit, and the designers were invited to display their creations side by side with the pieces that inspired them. The designers were: Frau Blau (www.fraublau.com, 8 Hahashmal, Tel Aviv); Yaniv Persy (www.persy.co.uk), Ilana Efrati (266 Dizengoff, Tel Aviv); Lee Grebenau (www.leegrebenau.com); Medusa (www.me-dusa.com, 110 Dizengoff, Tel Aviv); and Maskit (www.maskit.com, 4 Auerbach, Tel Aviv).

The stunning creations highlighted the beauty and timelessness of the originals as well as the originality and talent of new designers on the local scene.

 

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