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Open Access How to dress up in Eretz Israel, 1880s–1948: A visual approach to clothing, fashion and nation building

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This article provides a methodological approach to the integration of Zionist photographs into research on the pre-state Jewish community in Eretz Israel from the end of the nineteenth century until the foundation of the Jewish state in 1948. By focusing on dress, and drawing on visual culture and fashion studies, the article highlights the role of the individual in nation building and foregrounds the influence of various migrant groups in the emergence of a national project. While scholarship has largely ignored the role of dress, and especially male dress, in pre-state settings, the article takes the example of Eretz Israel to show how examining dress in Zionist photographs sheds light on the experimental and transnational character in search of a new Hebrew culture. By examining three photographs of socialist Zionist groups of the second Aliyah, the article shows how male Zionist settlers integrated transnational dressing habits and fantasies about their imagined homeland. They created a new way of dressing as an expression of political agendas that were interconnected with the reinvention of a new image of the male Jew. Looking beyond the case study of Eretz Israel, the article stresses the broader relevance of dress in the negotiations and power struggles at the micro level of a pre-state community and the emergence of national clothing ideals. It concludes by outlining ways of refining the methodological approach, and suggesting future research avenues at the intersection of fashion studies and nation building by shifting the focus towards case studies prior to the existence of national fashion systems.

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Keywords: Eretz Israel; Jewish migration; Yishuv; Zionism; male dress; nation building; photography; visual culture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Leicester, United Kingdom

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • The International Journal of Fashion Studies is a scientific peer-reviewed journal that fosters the worldwide diffusion of Fashion Studies. Fashion Studies is an interdisciplinary field of research that has been producing an extensive repertoire of theories, analyses and enquiries.
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