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Student Showcase Archive

Ayelet Shats

MA work

MA work

Native Style: Ethnographic Dress Collections, Khaki Clothes and the Omnipresence of Fashion in Mandatory Palestine and Israel 1917-1967

The dissertation traces the creation of ethnographic dress collections in mandatory Palestine and Israel between 1917-1967. This turbulent time period saw the establishment of ethnographic museums in Palestine by British government officials and Zionist immigrants. European collectors aimed to create a comprehensive collection of what they deemed ‘authentic’ costumes. During the mandate curators used garments to construct two ‘native types’ - Palestinian peasant woman and Yemenite Jew. Following the design trajectory of both types and analyzing the scientific episteme at the core of ethnographic displays reveals the role Zionist ethnographic displays played in replacing the ‘oriental’ native with a new European-Jewish native; marking Muslim, Christian and Jewish Arabs as the ‘others’ within Israeli society. Palestinian and Yemenite dress was handmade with unique and intricate craft techniques. Palestinian women used embroidery to express their social standing, marital status and regional affiliation, in addition to personal style and design choices. Yemenite women similarly used embroidery and filigree jewelry to assert their identity in Yemen and later in Israel. Both dress cultures developed over centuries and had complex social meaning for women throughout their life cycle. In the ethnographic museum personal garments became artefacts and dress became a-historical costume. Disputing the definition of fashion as a strictly Western phenomenon the dissertation challenges the essentialist approach to dress taken by ethnographers in order to broaden the scope of fashion research in the region, and blur the boundaries between East and West, traditional and modern, native and diasporic.



  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2018

  • Ayelet Shats is a second-year History of Design student at the V&A/RCA. Graduating from Bezalel Academy of Art, she worked as a fashion designer before continuing her studies. Her current research interests are gender, nationality and ethnicity in the study of dress and fashion, as well as histories of museums and exhibition design.

  • Degrees

  • BA Fashion Design, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem 2015
  • Experience

  • Textile Graphic Designer, "Tamnoon Textile”, Jerusalem 2015-2016
  • Exhibitions

  • SMOG, Arthill Gallery, 2018; Toolkit for Provocative Practice, Hockney Gallery, RCA, 2017; Nylon, Tower of David Museum, 2016; Bezalel Graduate Exhibition, 2015
  • Conferences

  • Scottish Caps of Kashmir Wool: A Look into the History of Two Hybrid Embroidered Caps in the V&A Collection, Association of Dress Historians, October 2017