Monday, August 11, 2014

Historical Head-Coverings: The Sarma, Algerian Jewish Women's Head-Covering

The Sarma was made of a metal piece with a tall front that could project up to a meter tall, with pieces that fit the sides and the top of head.  Accounts of it date back to 1730.  It was made out of metal lace, which I read was made by cutting away pieces of metal, which made it somewhat cooler and lighter-weight than solid metal pieces would be.  Other images certainly seem to suggest that the metal was shaped into lacework, rather than being made of cut-outs.

It was fastened to head with scarves and strips of fabric.  A woman would place the first one over her forehead and she would tie it at the back of her head.  The second would be placed under the chin, and the ends would be brought up and tied over her head.  A third scarf,  long and narrow, would wing around the base before hanging in two ribbons down the back.  These tails or ribbons would hang all the way to the feet.

At home it was worn uncovered (as much as having three scarves wrapped around your head in various directions qualifies as uncovered), but women would put another shawl over all of this for outdoors.  The illustrations that I've seen show that shawl as a thin, even translucent piece of fabric with what looks like embroidery on it.  It looks gorgeous.  Some women, believe it or not, even slept in their sarma.  It doesn't sound comfortable to me.

Some accounts say that at least in the early 20th century,- unmarried girls, once mature, would also wear the sarma, only with some sort of flower-shaped "tremblers" added to indicate their available status.  I haven't found any pictures of those yet.

I'd love to know how this style developed, but again, no information there yet.  One of the odd things about this research is that there is very little that I can find available online, as of yet.  As usual, as I find more information, I'll definitely be sharing it here.

Information in this post comes primarily from The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, ed. Esther Juhasz and A History of Jewish Costume, by Alfred Rubens.