Thursday, December 26, 2013

Historical Head Covering: Mehdor

Since some of us have a little more time this week- I seem to be upping the blogging schedule.  Here's some pretty interesting information about the Mehdor, a Jewish women's head covering from Morocco.

The Mehdor was made out of silver wire and horsehair or cattlehair.  It was basically a combination of a wig and an ornament/hat combination.  The mehdor was the most elaborate of Moroccan women’s headdresses, but it was worn daily in one region of the country.  It would cover a woman's head from ear-to-ear in front, with two forelocks of "woven hair" visible.  Basically, it came with it's own bit of "wig" in the front.  These bands would then be gathered into braids (after/behind the visible part) which tied the mehdor onto the woman's head.

(In this image, you can see that the "hair" in front is part of the mehdor.)

On festive occasions, women would add a red silk scarf- called a feshtul- trailing down the back behind the mehdor.  Affluent women would then add pearl tiara- called a tasfift- over it.  (This tasfift is related to styles worn by Spanish Jews, and shows a connection and impact between the two Jewish cultures.)  Over it all a they might add another scarf, called a sebniyya- which would fully conceal the mehdor itself.

(This is an image of a woman wearing a tasfift.)

Creating a mehdor was a collaborative process.  First, a silversmith would arrange cattle-tail hair lengthwise, and bind bundles of it with silver wire.  He would then attach vertical silver tubular half-cylinders to this base, which were also decorated with enamel cloisonné and inlaid with colorful beads.  After that, seamstresses added a padded, layered cotton lining with a cylindrical thickened edge at top.  (This gave it shaping.)

Like a number of other historical head coverings (like the Shterntikhl in Eastern Europe, for example) it was used to display family’s wealth.

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