The Best Kept Secret in Fashion

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Woman’s coat with a richly decorated lining Bukhara, Uzbekistan, late 19th century Brocaded silk, lining: silk and cotton, ikat-dyed, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

The Israel Museum’s costume collection is the best-kept secret in fashion.

I spent a glorious day at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem last summer. Their costume collection is so fantastic it could be a separate museum all of its own.

 If I were Anna Wintour, I’d forget about the MET Gala and instead throw my big fancy party with all my celebrity BFFs at the Israel Museum among this beautiful collection. And if I were an up-and-coming designer, this is where I’d go for inspiration.

The collection took decades to assemble and contains close to 10,000 pieces dating back 200 years. James Snyder, The Anne and Jerome Fischer Director, says the museum’s collection of Jewish dress “holds a special place of pride, as a tangible and often beautiful testimony to Jewish life and the exemplary traditions of Jewish creativity.”

 The current exhibit, Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe brings together a selection from the archives of the more traditional apparel of Jewish dress from the 18th through the 20th centuries. It features a spectacular range of Jewish garments from around the world and offers a multi-cultural view of dress, its significance, and its influences on the styles of today. “We are delighted to be able to present so comprehensive a display reflecting the incredible depth and diversity of our costume holdings as a vivid illustration of the myriad ways in which the history of Jewish dress informs and is informed by the broader history of world fashion,” said Snyder.

You can see some highlights from the exhibit along with a few garments from the archives in the photos here. There’s also a gorgeous coffee table book, The Jewish Wardrobe. It makes a great Chanukah gift!

Women's upper cloak ('abay), Baghdad, Iraq, early 20th century

Woman’s outer cloak (‘abay) Baghdad, Iraq, early 20th century Silk, gilt metal thread, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Women's under-trousers, Uzbekistan, early 20th century - detail

Women’s under-trousers Uzbekistan, early 20th century Silk, plangi and ikat printed cotton, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Woman's attire, Mashhad, Iran, early 20th century

Women’s attire influenced by the outfit of the Parisian ballet dancers Mashhad, Iran, early 20th century Silk, silk velvet and cotton satin, gilt metal cord embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Women's skirts, Isfahan, Teheran and Mashhad, Iran, late19th century

Women’s skirts influenced by Parisian ballerina skirts Isfahan, Teheran and Mashhad, Iran, late19th century Silk, gilt metal thread and tinsel embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Woman's dress, Sweden (originally Germany), 1850s

Women’s dress Germany, 1850s Silk taffeta, silk velvet, cotton lace, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

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Wedding sari Bene Israel Community, India, mid-20th century Brocaded silk, silver and silk thread, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

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Detail, “Great Dress” (berberisca or al kesswa l’kebira ) Fez, Morocco, early 20th century Silk velvet, gilt metal cords and braided ribbons, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Women's ceremonial outfit, Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th century - detail

Detail, Women’s outfit Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th century Dress: brocaded silk, chemise: cotton, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Women's bodices, Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th century - detail

Women’s bodice Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th century Silk, cotton, gilt metal thread ribbon, sequins and silk threads embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Leggings, Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930's

Leggings Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930’s Silver cord embroidery on cotton, mother-of-pearl, sequins, kauri shells, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Leggings, Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930's - detail

Detail, Leggings Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930’s Silver cord embroidery on cotton, mother-of-pearl, sequins, kauri shells, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Men's coat with a hamsa in its lining, Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th  century

Men’s coat with a hamsa in its lining Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th century Brocaded silk, gilt cords embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Men's coat with a hamsa in its lining, Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th  century - detail

Detail, Men’s coat with a hamsa in its lining Baghdadi Jews, Calcutta, India, late 19th century Brocaded silk, gilt cords embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Baby Clothes for Post-Natal Ceremonies, Baghdad, Iraq, 1920s

Baby clothes for post-natal ceremonies Baghdad, Iraq, 1920s Silk, gilt metal thread and tinsel embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Boy's or Girl's amuletic dress, Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930s

Girl’s amuletic dress Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930’s Cotton, indigo dyed, cotton thread embroidery, kauri shells; © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Boy's or Girl's amuletic dress, Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930s - detail

Detail, Girl’s amuletic dress Sana‛a, Yemen, 1930’s Cotton, indigo dyed, cotton thread embroidery, kauri shells; © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Torah ark curtain, Izmir, Turkey, dedicated 1929

Torah ark curtain made from a women’s dress Izmir, Turkey, dedicated 1929 Silk velvet, cotton satin, gilt metal thread and embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Wedding dress, Edirne, Turkey, early 20th century

Wedding dress Edirne, Turkey, early 20th century Velvet, gilt metal threads embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Women's kerchiefs, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, early 20th century

Women’s kerchiefs from the type donated to the synagogue Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, early 20th century Silk and brocaded silk, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Women's kerchiefs, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, early 20th c. - detail

Detail, Women’s kerchiefs from the type donated to the synagogue Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, early 20th century Silk and brocaded silk, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

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Bukharan man’s outfit Overcoat Silk velvet; couched gilt-, silver-, and silk-thread embroidery Undercoat Ikat-dyed silk, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

Clothes of chief rabbi, Turkey, early 20th century

Clothes of Rabbi Hayyim Moshe Bejerano Efendi, Chief Rabbi of Turkey (1920-1931) Turkey, early 20th century Broadcloth, gilt metal thread couched embroidery, © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Mauro Magliani

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jpeg-11Also, be sure to check out this fun video and this short news feature on Jewish News One.

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5 Comments on The Best Kept Secret in Fashion

  1. Lillie Bryen
    October 19, 2014 at 10:25 pm (3 years ago)

    Great title – grabbed me right away and was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t about trendy fashion but something much richer…..

    Reply
    • Julie Levine
      October 20, 2014 at 12:21 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks so much! Glad you liked it. XO

      Reply
  2. David
    October 20, 2014 at 2:59 am (3 years ago)

    Beautiful!!!!!!

    Reply
  3. helene edelman
    December 1, 2015 at 4:44 am (2 years ago)

    I must have missed this one. But WOW. I love those fashions. As a matter of fact, my older sister was born in Uzbekistan and she loves those bright, vibrant fabrics. I have photos of my sister with those fabrics when we visited Uzbekistan about 20 years ago. Great summary here. Thanks.
    helene

    Reply
    • Julie Levine
      December 5, 2015 at 3:38 pm (2 years ago)

      I’d love to see the photos sometime of you and your sister in Uzbekistan.

      Reply

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