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Groom's outfit
Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan
Early 20th century
Indigo-dyed goat hair, brocaded weave, floss silk embroidery joining and hemming stitch, satin stitch, stem stitch, and chain stitch
Jacket: L: 65; W: 116 cm
Trousers: L: 95; W: 98 cm
Accession number: B80.0996

A high-quality and prestigious suit like this one, consisting of wide trousers (shalla) and a short jacket (shappiktha), was sewn from a fine goat-hair fabric (mar‘az) prior to the wedding, and used thereafter on festive and ceremonial occasions.

This suit is typical of the Zakho region, whose Armenian weavers were renowned for the superior quality of their geometrically-brocaded patterned goat-hair fabrics. In other areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, such as Sandor and Aqra, Jewish weavers acquired a reputation as experts at making goat-hair suits in solid colors or stripes in the natural shades of the animals’ hair.

Weaving, indeed, was one of the principal occupations of Kurdish Jews, especially in Iraq, and the profession was passed down from father to son. Using pit-treadle looms, seated in holes dug in the floor of their workshops, these weavers produced magnificent fabrics from hair and wool.

Before weaving could begin, the long, fine, silky hair of local Angora goats was first dyed by specialists, then expertly spun by women. The heddles of the 30-centimeter-wide double-treadle loom were threaded with some 800 threads to ensure that the resulting fabric would be fine and delicate. After weaving, the fabric was finished by being dipped in a form of starch that gave it a surface shine, prevented creasing and imparted a marbled appearance (moiré). The weaver’s wife was usually responsible for cutting out the suit, sewing it and decorating it with embroidery that strengthened the seams.
Both jacket and trousers were of simple straight cut. The jacket was made from six lengths of material, with the addition of silk-embroidered lapels and cuffs. The trousers were sewn from four lengths of material with embroidered cuffs and triangular inserts at the crotch. Under the short jacket the bridegroom usually wore a white shirt with long pointed sleeves, which he turned back over the cuffs of his jacket. To this he added a vest and a long cummerbund that was sometimes twined in a complex knot. His headgear was a skullcap with a turban wound round it.

Jews’ dress was similar in every way to that of their Kurdish Muslim neighbors. The only occasional difference was the style of turban—the Muslim turban was longer and more voluminous.

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

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