DRESS


In the Bible

The biblical terms for clothing (Heb. בֶּגֶד, beged; כְּסוּת, kesut; לְבוּשׁ, levush) and the corresponding verbs are employed in connection with the cover of the body for warmth or reasons of modesty. Extensive use is also made of the terms in figures of speech: "Put on thy beautiful garments" (Isa. 52:1), as an emblem of greatness; "He put on garments of vengeance for clothing" (Isa. 59:17), as a symbol of revenge; "For he dressed me in clothes of triumph," as a metaphor for victory and good fortune (Isa. 61:10); "They shall wear shame" (Ps. 35:26), as a metaphor for failure and defeat; and "Let your priest be clothed with triumph" (Ps. 132:9), as a metaphor for success and prestige; and so forth. On many occasions, clothing emphasizes a person's status, position, clothing, or particular situation or task: "Royal apparel (levush malkhut)… which the king is accustomed to wear" (Esth. 6:8), with which another man (Mordecai) would be honored or favored. A hairy cloak was probably a hallmark of Nazirites and ascetics: "Neither shall they wear a hairy mantle (adderet se'ar) to deceive" (Zech. 13:4). During the period of mourning widows wore a characteristic garment: "She put off from her garments of widowhood" (Gen. 38:14). Prisoners apparently also had special clothing: "He changed his prison garments" (II Kings 25:29). The official uniform (holy garments) worn by priests in the service of God was of great importance: "And Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron" (Ex. 28:2). Just as the beauty of a garment symbolized a man's greatness, tearing the clothing or wearing poor and dirty clothing or sackcloth indicated a lowered station or mourning.

The Bible mentions articles of clothing appropriate to specific parts of the body: a cloth miter or turban (ẓenif, miẓnefet) to cover the head (Ex. 29:6; Zech. 3:5); metal or leather helmets (kovaʿ), and head coverings used in warfare for protection (I Sam. 17:5; II Chron. 26:14); a dress-like garment (simlah), apparently with closed seams used by both men and women to cover the entire body from the shoulders to the ankles (I Kings 11:30; Ex. 12:34; Y. Yadin, et al., Hazor, 3–4 (1961), pl. cccxxxix: 1, 2); the tunic (ketonet), a short, closed garment, covering the top part of the body, worn by both men and women (Gen. 37:3; Lev. 16:14; Song 5:3); the coat (meʿil), a long outer garment open at the front (I Sam. 15:27; 24:5; II Sam. 13:18); breeches (mikhnasayim), covering the loins, worn by the priests (Ex. 28:42; Ezek. 44:18); the girdle (ʾavnet), a belt for fastening the coat or dress around the waist (Ex. 29:9; Lev. 8:7); and the shoe, made of skin and attached with laces, strings, or straps (Gen. 14:23; Isa. 5:27).

Clothes, particularly the dress-like garment and the tunic, were considered essential though expensive articles, both because of their value, which of course was related to the work that went into producing them, and by reason of their importance in indicating a man's status, position, character, and living style. It is for this reason that the Bible and royal documents frequently list the quantities of clothing given as gifts (Gen. 45:22) or taken in war (Judg. 14:12). Kings had keepers of the wardrobe (II Kings 22:14), and the Temple in Jerusalem had a special wardrobe room.

Types of Garment Shown on Monuments

A common garment worn by men, which is often depicted on monuments in Egypt and Mesopotamia, was a piece of cloth covering from the waist to the knees or below (N. de Garis Davies, The Tomb of Puyemrê at Thebes, 1 (1922), pl. xxxiii, A), gathered around the waist and held in place by a belt fastened either in front or at the back or tied near the navel (L. Borchardt, Das Grabdenkmal des Koenigs Sahu-Re, 2 (1913), pl. 6; M.G. Lefébure, Le tombeau de Séti I, 4 (1886), pl. V). Occasionally this garment was patterned and multicolored, but more often it was a solid color, usually white. It was sometimes held in place by a leather or cloth suspender, passing diagonally over one shoulder from the upper part of the garment (Y. Yadin, et al., Hazor, 3–4 (1961), pl. ccxxvi). A more complex garment, made of a wide piece of cloth, covered the body from shoulder to ankle; it was worn by both men and women and was most common in Mesopotamia, though in other places it was worn as a festive garment (N. de Garis Davies and A.H. Gardiner, The Tomb of Ḥuy, 1926). This garment could be both in single color or in multicolored patterns. While it usually covered only one shoulder, it was occasionally worn covering both. In addition to the patterns woven into the cloth, a decorative border was common (W. Wreszinski, Atlas zur altaegyptisehen Kulturgeschichte, 2 (1935), pl. 46).

A garment more characteristic of the lower classes consisted of two shrunken cloths which were suspended from the waist in front and back by a belt or string, thus covering the loins (P.A.A. Boeser, Die Denkmaeler des Neuen Reiches (1911)). A sewn dress-like garment with sleeves covered the entire body; it had a large opening for the head, somewhat resembling a collar. The pictures on several monuments show that the stitches were prominent, serving also as a kind of decoration. The more elegant classes wore two garments: a sewn, short- or long-sleeved dress over which was worn a sheath covering the shoulder or sometimes the entire dress (E.F. Schmidt, Persepolis, 1 (1953, pls. 31, 32). Another such two-piece ensemble in the luxury category was made up of a length of cloth extending from the waist to the knees or trousers over which was worn a wide decorated cloth covering the body from shoulder to ankles. Typical of the colder, northern countries was a sleeved coat fastened all the way down (F. Thureau-Dangin, Arslan Tash (1931), 111–2, pl. 33:43; N. de Garis Davies, The Tombs of Menkheperrasonb… (1933), pl. iv). Pieces of cloth were frequently added to the basic garment in order to cover the shoulders (Boeser, op. cit., pl. xxiv). The tunic was a short, sewn garment, usually with short sleeves. It was made of one piece of cloth specially woven for this purpose with an opening for the head in the center. The cloth was folded along the shoulder line and sewn along the edges, thus making a garment which covered the upper part of the body. The tunic was often made with a woven decoration or later embroidered.

The clothing shown on early Mesopotamian and Egypt monuments emphasizes ethnic differences. Most apparent are the shorter lengths, relatively lighter weights of the materials (including translucent cloth) – especially in the case of women's wear – and the head coverings worn in Egypt, while the northern countries used longer and heavier clothing. The materials from which the garments were made also show ethnological differences. The garments depicted on a number of Mesopotamian monuments of the third millennium B.C.E. are made of heavy wool strands, fastened with large laces, or sewn with strips of animal skin. Noticeable ethnological differences also appear in head coverings. Wigs seem to have been widely worn by both men and women. A common style was a band circling the hair, tied at the back or side. On the majority of the Egyptian monuments feathers worn on the head depict Ethiopian captives. Headgear crowned with feathers is characteristic of the Sea Peoples (T. Dothan, Ha-Pelishtim ve-Tarbutam ha-Ḥomrit (1967), figs 1–7). Skullcaps resembling cones and cylinders decorated with ribbons and lacing were common in Babylonia and Assyria. Covering the head with a kerchief was customary in Egypt and Canaan. The most common sandal had a leather sole held in place by straps. Sandals could be partly closed, covering half the foot, or completely enclosed. However, the figures on monuments are usually shown barefoot.

[Ze'ev Yeivin]

Talmudic Times

Talmudic and midrashic literature is replete with information on matters of dress and clothing, usually supplied incidentally as part of a comment on biblical themes or in connection with religious law and custom which often concern matters of dress.

The importance of clothing in adding to the confidence and dignity of man is stressed in the Talmud: "fine garments" are among the things which "enlarge man's mind" (Ber. 57b), and "a man's dignity is seen in his costume" (Ex. R. 18:5). Apart from the special and distinctive garments which characterized the scholar, he was enjoined to be spotless and neat in his dress: "A scholar on whose garments a stain is found is worthy of death" (Shab. 114a), and he should not go out in patched shoes (Ber. 43b). An incident related in the Midrash is based upon the fact that *Yannai mistook an ignorant man for a scholar because he was elegantly dressed (Lev. R. 9:3).

As many as 90 different articles of clothing are listed by Krauss, but the Talmud enumerates the 18 articles of clothing which were regarded as indispensable and which could therefore be rescued from a fire on the Sabbath. The lists given both in the Babylonian (Shab. 120a) and the Jerusalem (Shab. 16:5, 15d) Talmuds, apart from some differences in spelling, are practically identical, affording a picture of a man's complete apparel. On the upper part of the body, next to the skin, he wore a sleeveless tunic which was covered by a shirt (ḥalluk). Over this came an outer tunic, and the top garment was a cloak. A hollow money belt was worn. The lower part of the body was covered by breeches, over which trousers were worn; on the feet were socks and shoes. A girdle was tied round the waist and an apron was also worn. A felt cap covered the head and a hat was worn over this. A scarf completed the attire. Even the order of donning the clothes was laid down (DER 10). Apart from the shirt and the girdle, all these garments were worn by the Greeks, and this raises the question of whether there was a distinctive Jewish dress in talmudic times.

There is evidence that there was. With regard to men, the Midrash states that Moses was called an Egyptian (Ex. 2:19) because he was dressed as such and not as a Jew. In one version of a well-known Midrash, one of the reasons given for the redemption of the children of Israel from bondage is "that they did not change or substitute their [distinctive Jewish] dress" and on the verse "Lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone," a Yalkut (Num. 768) states, "they are distinguished from the other peoples in everything, in their dress…" Generally speaking, however, it would appear that apart from the * ẓiẓit enjoined by the Bible, the dress of the ordinary people was similar to that of non-Jews. The scholar however wore distinctive garments. The scarf worn by ordinary people, which was probably fringed, became the * tallit of the scholar. The Talmud indicates its severe displeasure of the common person who wore the tallit of the scholar (BB 98a). The scholar's shirt covered his whole body, so that his skin was invisible, and his tallit completely covered the shirt (BB 57b), so that "the scholar was recognized by the manner in which he wrapped himself in his tallit" (DEZ 5). He wore a distinctive hat, a kind of turban (Pes. 111b). Judah b. Ilai used to wrap himself in his fringed shawl and he looked like an angel of the Lord (Shab. 25b).

It was regarded as immodest and against Jewish custom for a married woman to wear her hair loose. The difference between the costume of women in Ereẓ Israel and Babylon is noted; in Babylon the women wore colored garments, while in Ereẓ Israel they wore starched white linen garments (Pes. 109a). Black clothing was worn as a sign of mourning, trouble, or distress (Ḥag. 16a), or when appearing as a defendant in a lawsuit (TJ, RH 1:3, 57b). When R. *Akiva had to break to R. Eliezer b. Hyrcanus the news of his excommunication he "clothed himself in black" (BM 59b). A complete change of garments was enjoined for the Sabbath, and this was regarded as so important that biblical sanction was found for it (Shab. 113a, 114a).

Hellenistic and Persian Periods

The frescoes of the third-century synagogue at *Dura-Europos, depicting a number of biblical scenes, portray costumes reflecting the Hellenistic and Persian cultures, both of which influenced this frontier city. The more common type of dress-tunic or gown (chiton, colobium, or dalmatica) with purple stripes (clavi), shawl (himation orpallium), and sandals – is assigned to prophets, elders, civilian leaders, and laymen. In certain cases, the pallium has ẓiẓit attached to the corners. The Persian costume, which includes a short belted tunic, trousers, and soft white boots, is assigned to royalty, courtiers, and Temple personnel. The high priest wears a long cloak; he alone has a head covering. Women wear a plain chiton with elbow-length sleeves and a shawl, one end of which is fastened over the shoulder and the other draped over the head. The two distinct traditions in Jewish dress, Hellenistic and Persian, are represented by a group of Jews portrayed in the sixth-century mosaics in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, and by the sixth-century wall painting from Wadi Sarga, Egypt, of the "Three Children in the Furnace," now in the British Museum. These two works are probably based on much earlier types. The pronged ornaments known as gams shown on many of the costumes at Dura-Europos are similar to those found on garments discovered in the Judean Desert caves used as refuge by Bar Kokhba's followers in the second century.

The Post-Talmudic Era

In the post-talmudic period Jewish costume was greatly influenced by various halakhic, moral, and social principles laid down in rabbinic literature. The prohibition against following the custom of the Gentiles in the manner of dress and mode of cutting hair (Lev. 18:3; 20:23; Deut. 12:30; Zeph. 1:8) became an important factor behind many of the communal dress regulations and *sumptuary laws. The garb of a Jew should reflect propriety and humility and he should therefore avoid wearing expensive clothes. He must observe the laws regarding ẓiẓit and sha'atnez (see *mixed species) and decency requires him to wear a belt. Women must be modest in their attire, and married women should always cover their hair. Fine clothes should be worn on the Sabbath and even finer ones on the festivals. These rabbinical regulations served to keep Jewish dress conservative and outmoded. Discriminatory laws passed against the Jews had a similar effect. The earliest example of these, decreed in Egypt in 849 by the caliph al-Mutawakkil, required Jews and Christians to wear a yellow Persian mantle (tailasan) and a cord belt (zunnar). If they wore the Persian hat (kalansuwa) they were restricted to certain colors, and if they wore a turban it had to be yellow. Later, they also had to wear a *badge of the same color. In the Christian world, the first legislation of this kind was enacted in 1215 by the Fourth Lateran Council, which ordered Jews to wear a distinct type of dress on the grounds that in some regions they could no longer be distinguished from Christians. All these different influences combined to create a specifically Jewish dress, which, however, varied from one country to another.

Early Middle Ages

Little is known of Jewish costume in the early Middle Ages. Certain pottery figures of peddlers with Semitic features discovered in some of the Chinese T'ang Dynasty tombs (618–907) are believed to represent Jews, particularly those with pointed Persian hats, caftans, and girdles. There are no paintings or descriptions of European Jews from this period, and only two obscure references to their attire. In 839, when *Bodo became a convert to Judaism he allowed his hair and beard to grow, and also put on a military belt. This may be an early reference to the practice of wearing a girdle, later laid down in the Shulḥan Arukh. In the ninth century, Pope Nicholas I (858–67) attacked Arsenius, bishop of Orta, for introducing Jewish furred garments (judaicae peluciae).

The Orient

In many Muslim countries, Jews were restricted to black clothing, in North Africa practically up to our times. During the 16th century in Turkey, a native Jew wore a yellow turban, while the Sephardi Jew wore a red hat, shaped like a sugar loaf. The ḥakhamim of the Spanish expulsion wore the capos ("cape") on the Sabbath, which had been the distinctive dress of the Jews in Spain. In spite of the strict ruling of R. Elijah *Mizraḥi the capos was used as a festive garb. By the 18th century, the common dress for all Jews in Turkey was a violet kaveze ("turban"), a black or violet habit, mest ("socks"), and violet slippers. The same dress was worn in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Ereẓ Israel. Women developed various regional styles of dress with marked Jewish distinctions. During the 19th century, in Smyrna and Salonika, a woman's costume included full Turkish trousers, over which two or three gowns slit open from the hips to hem were worn. The different cloths had wide contrasting stripes with flower patterns printed over them. Outdoors, a woman wore a long, dark red pelisse, lined and trimmed with fur, and she covered her head with a fine white Turkish towel with fringed ends. In Constantinople, a short, loose jacket replaced the red pelisse. The Turkish Jewish woman's head-wear included a hotoz, an enormous cushion-like headdress covered by a white muslin veil; this reached such fashionable extravagances at Constantinople that the chief rabbi banned it at the request of the grand vizier. The feradje ("cloak") worn by Jewish women was distinctive in color and shape. Peculiar to Aleppo was a high-domed cap of striped silk, from which hung a quantity of false hair.

The characteristic costume of Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, and Tripolitanian Jews was black; it consisted of a skull cap, a tunic, drawers, a burnous ("cloak"), and slippers. In Morocco, for ceremonial occasions, the women wore the keswa el-kbira, a costume that had elaborate gold embroidery for which the Jewish needlewomen of Tetuan were renowned. They also wore characteristic wigs which had many regional variations. In Algeria and Tunisia, the tall headdress, known as the çâma, was retained by Jewish women as part of their ceremonial dress, after it had ceased to be fashionable during the 19th century. In Tunisia women's ordinary dress consisted of a baggy chemise reaching down to the hips, a small gold-embroidered velvet jacket, a pair of white, very tight pantaloons, and a velvet kufia, shaped like a sugar loaf, worn on the head. No information is available on the Jewish dress in Turkestan, Kurdistan, South Arabia, or India prior to the 19th century. In recent times, some elaborate Jewish costumes have emerged from Bukhara, Yemen, and Aden, most of which reflect local influence. (See also *Bukhara.)

In India, the distinctive feature of the Bene Israel was their pe'ot (side curls). They wore Hindu-style turbans and shoes, and Muslim-style trousers. The Iraqi Jews of India retained Turkish dress; for festive occasions their women wore a long, silk brocade gown with a white plastron, probably also Turkish in origin. In the middle of the 19th century, the White Jews of Cochin wore a white cotton skullcap, a jacket, a waistcoat with 12 silver buttons, and trousers. The synagogue dress included a turban and a djubba ("Turkish gown"). The distinctive feature of the dress of the Black Jews of Cochin was a round embroidered cap.

Western Europe

In medieval Spain, Jews were obliged at times to wear a full length black gown with a cape and a pointed hood. They were also forbidden to shave their beards. Other distinctive features were the badge and the pointed Jewish hat. By the 13th century, in Germany, France, England, and other parts of Europe, the pointed hat, known as the Judenhut, had become distinctly Jewish; it was worn voluntarily and was accepted as a Jewish symbol. Later, however, the Judenhut, like the *badge, was also sometimes imposed by law. The hat was not worn after the 15th century, by which time a new type of hat with a tassel on its crown was prescribed by the laws of Frankfurt; other garments also acquired a distinctively Jewish significance. The medieval chaperon ("hood") known in Germany as the matran, gugel, or kappe as well as the liripipe ("tailed hood") was still being worn among the Jews of Nuremberg in 1755. Elsewhere in Germany and many parts of Central Europe, it had been replaced by a barrette (a black round hat made of felt or wool). Together with the Judenkragen (the 16th-century ruff), it became a distinctive feature of Jewish costume.

In the Papal States and elsewhere in Italy, the church canon requiring Jews to wear a yellow hat remained in effect until the French Revolution. Elsewhere in Western Europe, most Jewish distinctive dress had by then disappeared, except for synagogue and ceremonial occasions. The Jew, however, could still be identified by his beard and until the beginning of the 19th century even in England and Holland it remained a distinctive feature among Ashkenazi Jews.

The Sabbath barrette, known as schabbes deckel, and the schulmantel ("synagogue cloak") worn with a ruff, remained the accepted synagogue attire until the end of the 18th century; the whole costume was black. The schulmantel, or Sabbath sarbal, was a long cloak closed on the right side to prevent anything being carried on the Sabbath. During the 19th century, a new style for synagogue wear became the accepted garb: a three-cornered hat, a tail coat, knee breeches, and buckled shoes.

From the 13th century onward, in many parts of Europe, Jewish women were obliged to have two blue stripes in their veil (oralia or orales). The oralia was replaced by a pointed veil (cornalia or cornu) and, in the middle of the 18th century, it, together with the Jewish ruff and a special synagogue cloak, was still part of the Jewish woman's synagogue apparel. Other distinctive clothes worn by Jewish women were the sivlonot ("marriage belt") and the kuerse (a kind of blouse worn by brides). The sheitel ("wig") worn by Jewish women is a relatively recent custom (see Covering of the *Head).

Rabbinical Dress

There is no traditional rabbinical dress but among the Ashkenazim the distinctive features of Jewish lay dress were retained much longer by the rabbis. In 1705, at Fuerth, the rabbi wore a plain collar, a long tunic buttoned down the front, and a barrette. In 1755 the Judenmeister of Nuremberg wore the medieval kappe (hood) with a deep fringed collar and a long sleeveless gown. By the 19th century, the typical European Ashkenazi rabbi had a heavy beard and wore a Polish-style costume which included a fur-trimmed gown and a fur-trimmed hat; the latter was exchanged for a streimel (a wide-brimmed hat made of fur) on the Sabbath. The rabbinical streimel was made of 13 sable-tails. In the middle of the 19th century at Mattersdorf, Hungary, the rabbi wore a streimel on the Sabbath and a boat-shaped hat on weekdays. In England and America, Christian dress was adopted much earlier and in the 18th century Isaac Polack, ḥazzan of London's Great Synagogue, was clean-shaven, wore a three-cornered hat, a wig, and clerical robes with white bands.

The European Sephardi rabbis were even less subject to traditional influences. In the 15th-century painting by Nuno Goncalves, in the Lisbon National Museum, the rabbi wears a tall, black circular hat and a black gown with the Jewish badge shaped as a red six-pointed star. By the 17th century, the Sephardi rabbis of Holland and England, with their stiletto beards, skullcaps, wigs, and clerical gowns with white bands, were indistinguishable from the Christian clergy. In Oriental countries, a few instances of distinctive dress can be cited. In 1781, in Morocco, the rabbi's habit had very large sleeves and he usually had a blue kerchief around his cap. In the 1860s in Constantinople, the rabbis wore a dark blue felt cap, bound around the base with a white kerchief or turban with fine blue stripes. In 1873, at Smyrna, the rabbi wore a bonneto, a type of turban reserved for doctors and priests. At the present time, there are no distinctive features in rabbinical dress either in Eastern countries or in the West.

[Alfred Rubens]

Eastern Europe

The earliest Jewish costume from Poland, depicted on a 12th-century miniature, is an exact copy of the Byzantine tunic and paludamentum ("cloak") worn by men, though usually the Jews of Eastern Europe were less influenced by Christian fashions in dress than in the West. The first intervention of the authorities occurred as early as the 13th century; a church council held in Breslau in 1266 ordered the Jews in the bishopric of Gnesen in western Poland to wear a special hat. Soon the Council of Ofen (1279) specified the distinction to a greater extent by requiring the Jews to wear a red badge. Late medieval costumes seem to have been influenced by Central European gentile and Jewish garb, like the dress cut like a kimono, called a cotte, worn by men and women, the female kerchief, and the Jewish conical hat worn by men. Later the Jews adopted from the East their most characteristic garment – the caftan, which is still in use in certain extreme Orthodox circles. This Persian coat, cut open in the front, was so widely worn throughout the Turkish Empire that it was found in Yemen and Morocco under the same name. In the eastern areas of Poland and Russia the caftan was girdled by a wide Oriental sash and in the western regions by a cord.

Like other European regional costumes, the characteristic Jewish dress evolved during the 16th century, incorporating some features of the attire no longer worn by the Polish nobility or upper classes. The authorities in several parts of Eastern Europe reacted independently but with the same aim: to restrict the splendor of Jewish costume and to preserve some form of distinction. Thus the Piotrkow diet of 1538 reproved the Jews for adopting Christian attire and compelled them to wear a yellow hat. The Lithuanian statute of 1566, as well as the southern Polish statutes of 1595, laid down minute specifications restricting the sumptuousness of female dress and jewelry. The Lithuanian statute ordered yellow hats to be worn by men and yellow kerchiefs by women. On the other hand in times of special calamity, like the *Chmielnicki massacres (1648–49), the Jewish communities themselves imposed sober dress on their members. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Jews in Eastern Europe clung to their distinctive wear. Local differences continued paramount; in Russia and Lithuania clothes revealed an Oriental influence shown in the multicolored silks of the women, the halfmoons printed on materials, and an immense turban with three tails made of white starched linen.

The most widely known garments worn by Jewish men in Poland were the bekeshe and the kapote. The latter, both in name and shape, was derived from the Persian caftan. The kapote was generally made of very expensive cloth, such as velvet or atlas (a glossy silk or satin). Besides a shirt, knee-length trousers, and white stockings, the men also wore velvet waistcoats (Yid. vestel or speneer), a black silk belt with tassels called a gartel, and a small prayer shawl. Special headcoverings were the skullcaps (Yid. keppel, yarmulke), the fur hats (soibel-heet and streimel), the immense sable kolpak, adopted from the Gentiles, and the fur-trimmed spodek ("saucer") with a plush base. Most of these types of clothing, as well as female costumes, appear in the pictures and engravings of Polish types drawn by several artists (Norblin, Le Prince, Dave, Piwarski, Kilisinski, Kruszewski, Andrioli, and Debucourt).

The most important item of clothing was the white woolen prayer shawl, the tallit. Its central neckpiece (atarah) was decorated with an appliqué of knit embroidery, executed in flat, silver threads, in a style called by Polish Jews spanier ("Spanish style") or shikh, which was probably brought to Poland by Jewish craftsmen from Spain during the reign of King Sigismund Augustus. A similar type of Spanish embroidery was also used on Torah curtains and Torah mantles.

WOMEN'S COSTUME FROM THE 18TH TO THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY

Although the woman's dress was more colorful, her finery was not meant to be displayed out-of-doors, for it is written: "In all glorious things the king's daughter is within" (Ps. 45:14). However, the sumptuary decrees regulating women's clothing made an exception for the Sabbath. The dress of the Jewish woman was generally in the fashion of the period, but rather more subdued. The Jewish woman of the late 18th and 19th centuries wore on top of her dress a kind of bodice, the vestel or kamisol, usually made of brocade with black passementerie trimmings. At a later stage these trimmings were sewn on to the dresses themselves, or even on to separate plastrons, called brust-tukh, brist-tikhel, or bristekh. The brust-tukh was initially a wide strip of brocade adorned with silver stitching and occasionally ornamented with semiprecious stones. Later, this rectangular strip was almost covered with silver stitching, but in the 20th century it lost its regular shape and was made of velvet and adorned with various trimmings. The very Orthodox woman always wore an apron (Yid. fartekh or fartukh), usually trimmed with lace, embroidery, and ribbons, and serving no practical purpose.

WOMEN'S HEADDRESS

A distinctive form of headcovering for Jewish women did not emerge until the 17th century. At first the forms of headgear varied through the different regions of the area. In western Poland during the 18th century, it was customary to wear on the Sabbath a bonnet made of brocade trimmed with lace and silver stitching. On the other hand, in the east – Lithuania and parts of Russia – the earliest form of headcovering consisted of lace trimmed with colored ribbons, glass baubles, and beads. In time pearls and diamonds gradually replaced the simpler popular ornaments, and not only among rich women. In central Poland, Galicia, and Hungary the headcovering was made up of three separate parts: the harband, which covered the hair above the forehead; the grint, which served as the background; and the kupke, made of cloth or lace. Floral trimmings or ribbons were placed over all three. The headdress for very Orthodox women had to be made up from seven different parts assembled in strict order (in an implicit reference to the seven species of crops). The elaborate trimmings for these headcoverings were made by an expert hat-trimmer called pitzikel (derived from putz, "adornment").

For the Sabbath a woman put on a sort of tiara, the binde, consisting of two strips of velvet (recalling the two tablets of the Law), decorated with gold chains, pearls, and diamonds. One such tiara, belonging to a Jewish woman of the late 18th or early 19th century, was acquired by the well-known Polish painter Jan Matejko, and he used it in several of his paintings as a headdress for Polish princesses. After the beginning of the 19th century the binde gradually disappeared and was replaced by the sterntikhel, sternbindel, or bindalikh worn on top of the kupkeh. The sterntikhel consisted of pearls and diamonds, strung on iron wire, set off against a cloth background, and later on with no background. Fixing the jewels on the sterntikhel was the job of an expert craftsman (which gave rise to the family names Perlherfter and Perlsticker ("pearl-fixer," "pearl-embroiderer"). From the sterntikhel (and other pieces of jewelry) a pearl or a segment was deliberately removed to indicate that there can be no complete joy as long as the Temple is in ruins. From the beginning of the 20th century the sterntikhel ceased to be worn almost entirely. In Lithuania where the sterntikhel was never worn, the headdress consisted of a white binde wound around the head like a turban, called a patshaile; it was often adorned with a decorative pin, the knopp.

Various forms of the harband and of the kupke continued to evolve in Poland throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, most of them trying to suggest a woman's hair (with a white line of parting, the kvishel). The wig or sheitel (made of natural hair) was never considered proper wear for the very Orthodox woman, but many imitations, made of brown satin, were in use. Eventually the kupke took on the shape of a hat, the hitel, topped by flowers, ribbons, peacock feathers, and a tsitenadel ("trembling pin"). Two pairs of earrings were sometimes attached to the kupke, one at the level of the temples, the other at the level of the earlobes. Exhibitions of Jewish clothing may be seen at the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), the Museum of Ethnography and Folklore (Tel Aviv), and the Ethnological and Folklore Museum (Haifa).

[Miriam Nick]

Modern

Distinctive Jewish costume largely disappeared from the early 20th century. Among the influences of ancient dress that have survived in synagogue wear is the Roman pallium, in the form of the tallit, and the *kitel (sargenes) worn by some on the Day of Atonement and for the seder. Distinctive features are still found in the everyday dress of Oriental Jews. In addition, the wearing of a headcovering at all times has become de rigueur as the external sign of the Orthodox Jew; among the modern element this has developed as the small embroidered kippah. The ultra-Orthodox groups, concentrated mostly in Jerusalem and Bene Berak in Israel, and in limited areas in other parts of the world, still wear the characteristic streimel on Sabbaths and festivals (including the intermediate days) and the long caftan, yellow and white striped, is sometimes still retained. The custom of married women covering their hair, obligatory according to the Mishnah, is no longer widely observed, except in Orthodox circles where the sheitel is also sometimes worn as a substitute.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

IN THE BIBLE: EM, 4 (1962), 1034–49 (incl. bibl.); IDB, S.V., cloth (incl. bibl.); A. Rosenzweig, Kleidung und Schmuck in Bibel und talmudischen Schrifttum (1905); H.F. Lutz, Textiles and Costumes… (1923), 40–72; C. Singer, et al. (eds.), A History of Technology, 1 (1955), 413ff.; W.F. Albright, in: AASOR, 21–22 (1941–43), 55–62, Pl. 53; Y. Yadin, in: Eretz Israel, 4 (1956), 68ff; idem, The Finds from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters (1963), 169ff. OTHER PERIODS: A. Rubens, A History of Jewish Costume (1967), includes bibliography; Krauss, Tal Arch, 1 (1910), 127ff.; M. Grunwald, in: JJV, 25 (1923); H. Munic, in: YIVO-Bleter, 12 (1937), 463–73; E. Fuchs, Die Juden in der Karikatur.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.