Sunday, August 12, 2012

What is a Shterntikhl? Historical Head Coverings, Part 1

We're off to a wedding this afternoon.  In honor of it, I thought I'd share this piece about fancy head coverings from the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe.

The fanciest headdress of Polish Jewish women was the shterntikhl and its variation inLithuania known as the binda. Worn only on special occasions, this was an expensive article, decorated with precious stones that emphasized the owner’s status. It was first used during the late eighteenth century and became popular in the nineteenth; some families possessed one (though it was no longer worn) until the interwar period. Yisroel Aksenfeld’s short novel Dos shterntikhl (1862) notes that “on Simḥat Torah, when wealthy women go to kiss the Torah, they wear shterntikhlekh.” The shterntikhl was composed of two bands with precious stones and pearls sewn onto them, encircling the head. Both bands were stiff and sewn above the forehead. The upper part was usually simple and formed a diadem, while the lower part, with a zigzag edge, encircled the face closely and reached beyond the ears. Long earrings accompanied this type of headdress. A more modest version was worn as late as the early twentieth century—a stiff diadem placed over the forehead. This was a band of material lavishly decorated with embroidery and pearls, which used ribbons to tie it in the back. 
From (If you check out the link, there's a great picture of a shterntikhl- it's the first picture in the entry.)

The  article describes a variety of different sorts of head coverings from different eras, and for different occasions.  I look forward to sharing some more snippets from this article, as well as finding some more information to share about the way that some of our ancestors dressed.  This one certainly seems festive, and involves less fuss (but also less creativity) than what I will put together for a head covering, when going to a wedding...

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