Though no stranger to the streets of Jerusalem, traditional garb is frequently only a passerby amidst our vision, slipping by more or less unnoticed. Within every nook and cranny of the ever modernizing city are time tunnels woven throughout the textiles, hues, and embroidery of its ancient roots.

Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe
March 11, 2014-October 25, 2014
Location: The Israel Museum, Bella and Harry Wexner Gallery, Jerusalem

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Jerusalem in itself is a daily exhibit of style through the ages. Islamic women are adorned in delicate floral stitching reminiscent of Bedouin patterns, Indian-sari-esque habesha kemis clothe the frames of Ethiopian women, and seas of Eastern European originating Hasidim are swathe of monochrome black. Even when straying far from classic religious garb- the motifs, fabrics, stitching patterns, and shapes of traditional Jewish attire permeate throughout our modern trends.

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So what better way to celebrate the evolution of traditional styles into modern trends than a “Live Fashion Exhibit” at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. With the help of Stylit founder, Maya Kramer, the museum’s newest temporary exhibit Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe– came to life. Kramer asked 6 of Israel’s most talented designers to choose one traditional outfit from the exhibit as inspiration for a modern piece they would design just for the show. The options to choose from were endless as the exhibit featured women’s and some children’s clothing worn across the Middle East in the 19th and 20th century. The results however, were nothing short of exemplary. So lets take a look…

Yaniv Persy

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Well, there had to be at least one LBD (Little Black Dress) to crown this a fashion event. And, who am I kidding… I was not expecting the dress to have a cape. Persy, went for a very avant garde look in comparison to the face-covered, burqa-esque cloak he selected as inspiration from the exhibit. But lets get back to that cape for a minute. This seemingly minor detail transformed the entire look from ordinary LBD drab to ultra-mod with a hint of modesty.

Ilana Efrati

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After choosing a floor length, linen Ikat jacket, Efrati couldn’t help designing a violet/indigo version for herself. Yet, when it came to the ‘live exhibit,’ the eye popping robe inspired the designer to lean towards a neutral palette of off-white linen, khaki, and muted brown.

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Frau Blau

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What a pair these two make, and a vibrant one for sure. The designers, Helena and Phillip of who have deemed their brand as ‘quality fashion with a humorous twist,’ can always be counted on to show their eccentric streak. And last week when boasting a slinky, sky blue maxi dress, they upped the ante yet again. Curving around the torso was a bodice style overlay screenprinted to look like a patchwork of woven gemstones. All I can say is that the kaleidoscope-style, optical illusion effect was…. wow!

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Maskit

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Interestingly enough, the 1954 Ruth Dayan launched brand actually utilize the same embroidery technique that was used in the early 20th century Ottoman Chief Rabbi’s robe they eyed for inspiration. This robe also happens to be the current getup for Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi as well. The filigree-like needlework flowing off the shoulders, like that of a Turkish Rabbi’s tallit or prayer shawl, is a gilt metal thread couched embroidery. The original piece is made from weighted broadcloth, while brand revivalist, Sharon Tal, envisioned the garment in silk crepe for a modern, airy light.

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Lee Grebenau

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Grebenau truly outdid herself by reinventing what she called a ‘fusion dress’ or garment that was heavily influenced by both eastern and western styles. She chose a 20th century Ottoman wedding robe that would be worn again for other life events, such as the birth of a child, bar or bat mitzvah, and eventually the burial shroud. For Grebenau’s design, the original shape of the robe was kept but sewn out of silk, lace, and embellished by hand sewn Swarovski crystal embroidery in rosy peach tones. The dress demurely floated over the models body and simply, took my breathe away.

Medusa

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The accessory designing duo also choose what I am now deeming a convertible piece, something worn during both life and death. Their inspiration piece was a jet black kaftan with a single strip of gold to silver embroidery along the breastbone. They mimicked this embroidery by designing a necklace reminiscent of a breastplate in their signature heat-stamped plastic, and of course threw in a killer, pearl studded matching clutch.

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Since both Adi and Gili are young mothers, white seemed like the color to portray the innocence and fresh feelings of childbirth. The motifs in their stamped necklace and clutch were also inspired by the ‘evan-shochan’ or breastplate worn by Rabbi’s around their necks.

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The Israel Museum in Jerusalem showcases traditional Jewish clothing from the past 200 years from Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Morocco and around the world which you can visit.

Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe
March 11, 2014-October 25, 2014
Location: The Israel Museum, Bella and Harry Wexner Gallery, Jerusalem

Photo credit: Daniel Tchetchik

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