Dress Codes: The Jewish Wardrobe - special edition

We are delighted to present the special edition of the newsletter on Dress Codes: The Jewish Wardrobe!

"Even 200-year-old clothing can truly inspire."

Exhibition curator Efrat Assaf-Shapira discusses the enormous task of collecting Jewish clothing and its unique meaning | Interview

The exhibition Dress Codes: The Jewish Wardrobe unveils an exceptional range of clothing worn by Jews in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from around the world; offering a multi-cultural and breathtaking glimpse into fashion and its sources of inspiration.
The variety of clothing on display – festive dresses, daily wear, suits, wedding outfits, undergarments, children's clothing, coverings, scarves, robes and more – were carefully selected from the vast collection, and meticulously curated from the rich holdings assembled since the Israel Museum was established.

On the occasion of the exhibition opening curator, Efrat Assaf-Shapira, discusses the unique work of gathering the collection, and how these garments inspire contemporary fashion. "When the Israel Museum was established, in 1965, it received the Jewish clothing collection from the Bezalel National Museum," says Assaf-Shapira. "Aviva Muller-Lancet, founder of the Ethnography Department at the Museum (now the Wing for Jewish Art and Life) understood the crucial significance of expanding the collection, as well as saving the material culture of the Jewish communities by sending many members of staff into the homes of new immigrants who had arrived from all over the world. Over the years the substantial collection was built. In addition, archival photographs were collected which contextualized how and when the clothing was worn. In some cases curators travelled to the countries of origin to visit the Jewish communities there. Consequently special exhibitions were held featuring specific communities defined geographically.
The exhibition, Dress Codes: The Jewish Wardrobe
Exhibition curator, Efrat Assaf- Shapira. "What does clothing say about its wearer?" 

How was the exhibition conceived to bring together the comprehensive Jewish dress collection?
"It was Daisy Raccah-Djivre's idea, the Chief Curator for the Jewish Art and Life Wing, and curator responsible for the exhibition who realized the critical importance of the collection. She understood its tremendous value and saw fit to continue the expansion and its more comprehensive presentation. In contrast to the exhibitions that had focused on items of dress from a single country, for the exhibition Dress Codes, we sought to express the universal, international, and cultural dimensions of the collection, and to examine them from a generically human perspective.

"There is such an enormous range of costumes from so many places in the world, many of which were not only worn by Jews, but by the entire local population. This offers us a base of comparison, from social, political as well as economic perspectives, with the possibility to further examine – what do these clothes say about the people who wore them? In what way were they expressing themselves or presenting themselves through their dress?" The only place this can happen is here at the Israel Museum, in an exhibition that presents more than 100 items of clothing from over 23 countries.


How are the garments displayed in the exhibition?
"The garments are divided into five groups, each of them examining the dress code from a different angle. The display areas are divided by transparent screens in the spirit of the exhibition which deals mainly with the revealed and the hidden in clothing. The exhibition, designed by Lilach Chitayat is pristine and airy, creating a unique atmosphere. I would like to mention that Alia Ben-Ami, a senior curator of many years in the Jewish Art and Life Wing, served as the advisor for the exhibition and its installation. I feel that whoever sees the exhibit will be surprised by its relevance and modernity. Even 200-year-old clothing can truly inspire."

Dress stories
Personal stories are hidden within the clothing: with cultural, political and social threads all woven into the fiber.





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The Museum gratefully acknowledges the generosity of those who contributed the exhibition:
Aaron Beare Foundation, Durban, South Africa
Donors to the 2014 Exhibition Fund
Claudia Davidoff, Cambridge, MA, in memory of Ruth and Leon Davidoff
Hanno D. Mott, New York The Nash Family Foundation, New York
Yad Hanadiv, the Rothschild Foundation in Israel;

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