Called kaltachak or kalatcha by Bukharan Jews, this collarless coat gathered below the arms is similar to Persian and Anatolian models. The coat is constructed without shoulder or armhole seams, and is narrow across the back and wide at the hem. A definitely feminine garment, the kaltachak was worn in Bukhara in the second half of the nineteenth century by both Jewish and Muslim women. However, Muslim women wore the kaltachak for various holidays, celebrations, and rituals, while Jewish women reportedly wore it only during mourning.
This kaltachak was obviously owned by an affluent woman, eager to wear luxurious fabrics “made in Russia.” Floral-patterned silks brocaded with metallic yarns were factory-made, often in Moscow until the Bolshevik Revolution, when their production came to a halt.
The lining fabric of this kaltachak is warp-ikat, a labor-intensive technique for patterning textiles practiced throughout much of the world. In Bukhara, from at least the 1870s until the early twentieth century, the warp-ikat craft flourished. Soviet domination of Central Asia brought an end to the quality production of these colorful textiles.
The combination of local and Russian fabrics seen in this kaltachak is indicative of the political and social upheaval that took place in Bukhara from 1868 through the first quarter of the twentieth century with the Russian conquest of the region. Initially, Russian intervention in Bukhara was welcomed by Jews, who anticipated more liberal policies than those of the previous, conservative emirs. And, in fact, new legislation at first created opportunities that Jews took advantage of. Through trade and industry, unimagined wealth was accumulated in a short period of time by some Jews. These newly-rich entrepreneurs visited and immigrated to the land of Israel, where they established a quarter in Jerusalem that at the end of the nineteenth century was home to about 180 Bukharan Jewish families. Our kaltachak most likely was once owned by a woman from one of these first families.
From the Israel Museum publications:
Juhasz, Esther (ed.), The Jewish Wardrobe from the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 5 Continents Editions, Milan and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2012
Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Bella and Harry Wexner Gallery, 11/03/2014 - 07/03/2015
Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir