How Israel’s vintage shops saved The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem

Israel’s first major period drama series, “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,”When the pandemic struck I was ready to shoot in Kiev.

It was a crushing blow that ended one of the most ambitious local productions with a high budget.

The lockdown brought unexpected benefits. The streets of Jerusalem, Acre and Safed were liberated from their usual bustle and transformed into ideal film locations.

Filming was permitted in the elegant courtyard and bar of the American Colony Hotel. This historic hotel would normally have been closed to guests. Another scene was shot at a museum that was closed because of the pandemic.

A dance party at “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.”Photo by Nati LEVY

Internationally-respected Israeli actor Michael Aloni also appears in the film (“Shtisel”), Hila Saada (“Beauty and the Baker”) and Itzik Cohen (“Fauda”Suddenly, ) had more flexibility when it came to their work schedules.

Liron Cohen, the costume designer for the sprawling family story, didn’t initially see local filming in the first place as an advantage.

She had to frantically scout new sources for the wardrobe of the multigenerational characters, living in the time Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire, through the British Mandate and Israel’s War of Independence.

“In Kiev it was all arranged that I would have access to a well-established, enormous costume archive to replicate fashions from 1919 to the 1940s. The studio there also had the advantage of a storage facility to keep the thousands of sets of clothes needed to dress 40 main characters and many, many extras.”

Photo from “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem”Nati Levi

A graduate in fashion design from WIZO School of Design in Haifa, with 10 years’ experience working in TV and movie productions, Cohen discovered during her historical research what a melting pot Jerusalem was in the first half of the 20th century.

“It was a society made up of a wide range of ethnic and social groups speaking many languages — Hebrew, Ladino, Arabic, English and Turkish. Each group had its own distinct style of dress, made of different fabrics and with a variety of accessories,”She said.

“Some immigrants also transformed themselves in their new homeland, modifying heavy, woolen clothing to match the hot climate they now found themselves in.”

A fascinating discovery

“The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,”Based on the 2015 international bestseller written by Sarit Yaishai–Levy. It includes all of these groups.

The central family is composed of the Spanish-Judeo Erazozas. Rochel (Yuval Schef), the unattainable love interest of Gabriel Ermoza (Michael Aloni), hails originally from the Orthodox Ashkenazi congregation.

There are also Irgun fighters (the Zionist paramilitary organisation), Arabs, and whoever’s in power at that time, Turkish, British.

The characters in “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem”They are a melting pot of cultures. Photo by Nati LEVY

Cohen said that even though it seemed overwhelming, it was actually a fascinating discovery.

“The magic really began when I found the vintage community in Israel. There are many people here of all ages, men and women, who collect and preserve vintage clothing. We started going from place to place and person to person collecting and buying.”

Nearly all the clothing and shoes in the series are original items from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Cohen stated that she was lucky to find vintage shops like By Kilo in Tel Aviv, Golda in Herzliya and Betty In Vintage Land.

A few cast members “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.”Photo by Nati LEVY

She also mentions other finds she has made at estate sales, or from private collectors. Cohen is also excited by the unique item. wedding dressWith 19th century embroidery she found for Rosa (Hila Saada), her studio of designer duo Yoel & Reuma, who collect vintage fabric to incorporate into creations.

Hasidim, British officers

It was not necessary that you look hard to find the costumes worn Ashkenazi characters wore. Toldot Aharon Members still wear the same black-andwhite stripe outfits as they were up until today.

You could also purchase costumes of British Mandate officers as an English company specializes is historically accurate reproductions military uniforms.

Besides using costumes to emphasize the timeframe, they are also important to build the character’s persona, and for this Cohen had to work strictly according to the brief of director, Oded Davidoff and screenwriters Shlomo Mashiach and Esther Namdar Tamam.

Filming “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.”Photo by Rami Katsav

Luna Ermoza is a young, sensual beauty played by Swell Ariel or. “we put her in revealing outfits showing her cleavage so that her liberated, sexy, flirty personality would be emphasized.”

Characters can also show the passing of time. “I chose the character of Rosa to show how women’s fashions evolve. For example, in the episodes which take place in the 1920s her dresses have low waists and are quite shapeless. In the 30s, her dresses have a more defined waistline and skirts are to the knees.”

Exotic and silky

Liron Cohen, costumer designer for “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.”Photo courtesy Liron Cohen

Of all the characters, Lebanese belly dancer Aishi (Luna Mansour) is Cohen’s favorite.

“I love Aisha for her feminist views. She uses her strong intuition and intelligence to navigate the male environment she inhabits. She knows how to play the game,” Cohen says.

“Her garments come from a wider world than Rosa Ermoza, who is a housewife, and her neighbor, Victoria Franco [Mali Levy], who takes in people’s laundry. Aisha wears bold jewelry from India and fabrics that are more exotic and silky.”

Cohen, the son of a Polish mother, and a Moroccan father is not the only one who has fallen for the characters and been drawn into the past.

“All of the cast and crew related closely to one or other of the communities portrayed in the series. Everyone had a moment where they said it reminded them of their grandparents, their history or of something nostalgic,”She tells ISRAEL21c.

“For me though, it’s the clothing that was like a beating heart, bringing it all to life,”This is what a talented costume designer said.

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