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Woman’s coatdress
Tbilisi, Georgia
Mid-19th to early 20th century
Moiré silk, indigo-dyed cotton lining; quilted, cotton padding; handsewn, couched and twisted silk cord trimming
L: 125; W: 204 cm
Purchased through the gift of Baroness Alix de Rothschild, Paris
Accession number: B67.0483

In Georgia, Jewish women dressed like their neighbors. Until the early twentieth century, traditional attire was the norm, though fabrics and colors differed from one region to another. With the gradual penetration of European influences, traditional garments began to reflect Western styles. Since the early twentieth century, traditional outfits have been primarily reserved for ceremonial occasions and worn mostly by older women.

Three main types of ceremonial coatdresses worn by Georgian Jewish women at the turn of the twentieth century are known to us. These front-fastening dresses were always worn over a long chemise-like gown. The chemise was fashioned of silk and trimmed around the neck-opening with a gilt metal thread ribbon that showed through the outer dress. The first was a coatdress typical of the capital, Tbilisi. These tended to be made of exquisite silk fabrics, finely worked and densely quilted. Red and green, as in the outfit shown here, are a very common color combination seen all over Central Asia and the Middle East. The second type was the Ottoman-influenced brocaded silk coatdress (called okrus kaba, “the golden dress”), which originated in Akhaltsikhe, a Georgian town near the Turkish border. The typical cut of these dresses, contrasting a thin waist with widening hips, emphasized by additional inner padding, was common throughout Central Asia. The third style, worn in winter, was a felted woolen coatdress with a fur inner lining that adorned the full length of the dress’s opening. The trimmed slits and cuffs of the roomy sleeves, decorated with black silk or gilt cord couched embroidery, are a prominent and characteristic feature in all three types of coatdresses.

Two typical accessories accompanying the Georgian outfit are the headdress and the ribbon waistband. The headdress includes sidelocks made of human hair (luknebi) held by an embroidered velvet forehead band (chikhticopi) covered with a tulle kerchief. The waistband (sartkeli), a rare early-nineteenth-century object, consists of two satin silk ribbons embroidered with gilt metal thread and was worn over the dress, looking like a slit apron.

The bright, colorful coatdresses were worn by younger women on ceremonial occasions. As women grew older, they were likely to choose coatdresses of darker, more sober colors, such as blue, brown, and black.

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

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