New Look, Photograph, 2021

New Look

This is a staged photo by artists Marcelle Bitton and Aniam Deri in the studio, recreating an iconic photo of Willy Rizzo from 1953 in which Christian Dior is seen measuring the a skirt length of the model's dress, for the female model "The New Look" he created after World War II - a model that changed the face of the fashion world. The photo caused a great stir when it was published as the front page of the French magazine Paris Match.

The artists received a copy of the original photo (in the magazine the photo was cut at the top) and restored the placing, composition, lighting and film photography technique. In the background is a graphite drawing of Deri, simulating the Tanura waterfall - the Tanura (skirt in Arabic) instead of the cloth panel that appears in Dior's studio, and a clock based on the mythical Kabbalistic story of “Baba Sally's redemption clock”, whose hands operate at a different time and progress towards 12 o'clock- instead of Dior’s set for 16:25. The white dress was covered by Bitton in ink drawings of flowers (from Dior's flowers collection) and the designer atelier restored as the artists' studio.

The artists draw a self-portrait that touches cultural aspects of the society in which they grew up, alongside an examination of haute couture and dress codes customary in the ultra-Orthodox and Sephardic sectors (*Manye-Mechubadtey). Dior's iconic luxury haute couture dresses are converted into a decent and dignified, yet femme fatale model of modest fashion.

*Manye-Mechubadtey- In the Talmud (Shabbat 113, p. 2), Rabbi Yochanan calls his clothes “Mechubadtey”- dignified. In the ultra-Orthodox Hassidic community, inspired by the manners of European aristocratic families, the Hassidic rabbis formulated an aesthetic concept that was expressed in a spectacular fashion of rabbi’s  robes made of expensive fabrics and furs. The ultra-Orthodox sector  in Eastern Europe, adopted the practical style that dominated the bourgeois society around them. A figure who influenced this move was Rabbi Natan Zvi Finkel of Salvodka, who made sure that the students in his yeshiva would dress like the local Christian students, to give them a dignified appearance (Manye-Mechubadtey) despite protests from conservative sectors in the ultra-Orthodox society.

Other reasons for the clothing styles that have developed are respect and cleanliness - the man stands before God and therefore he must wear respectable and clean clothes.  Apparently there is a contradiction between education to modesty as a supreme value, along with the elegance in the variety of styles that have developed in Orthodox society. The compilation in dressing considered as "compilation of god commandment" and as long as it stands within the limits of Halakhah - it is fine, worthy and required.

In the Speparadic Jewish community in North Africa, however, the influences and the changes in the local traditional style of dress (jalbie and kftans) depended on the French and the English authorities that ruled these countries at different periods of time in the 18th and 19th centuries. The conservative Sephardic jewish society in Israel has adopted the Orthodox-european Jewish dress code in order to study in their educational institutions.

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