"What should I wear?" Every culture has a different response to this seemingly casual question. Clothing is intended to cover our bodies, but what does it uncover? Does it reveal something that is more than a matter of individual taste, that may have been dictated by each society's dress codes? To what extent is our choice of dress freely made or determined by our surroundings?
The variety of costume displayed in this exhibition is as great as the number of Jewish communities around the globe. In many cases, the clothes worn by Jews were similar or even identical to those worn by their non-Jewish neighbors, although at times special features distinguished them from the dominant culture. Opening the doors to the splendid array of garments hanging in the Jewish wardrobe, the exhibition invites viewers to consider different facets of the language of clothing. Though this language can disclose gender, age, background, or custom, some important meanings may remain vague and fluid. It may accentuate, but it may also hide; it may be transitory, but it may also be ageless and universal.
Dating from the 19th and early 20th century, the garments seen here provide rare or unique testimony to forms of dress and craft that no longer exist. They testify not only to bygone communities, but also to the passion and skill of the maker in every culture and to a sense of beauty that still has the power to enthrall.