How Medieval Jewish Sages Felt About Push-up Bras

Historian Merav Schnitzer talks about the medieval clothing revolution, a bra described by 11th-century scholar Rashi and how Jewish women managed to take their house keys with them to synagogue on Shabbat

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Criss-crossed breast bands on a 4th-century bronze statue of the goddess Artemis, displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus.
Criss-crossed breast bands on a 4th-century bronze statue of the goddess Artemis, displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus.Credit: Giovanni Dall'Orto.
Ayelett Shani
Ayelett Shani

Tell me what you do.

I am a historian, a researcher of material culture in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Basically, what I did for most of my career was to read medieval texts relating to halakha (Jewish law) and use them to write the period’s social history. In practice I was taught to sit in an archive, read various sources and extract the historical material from them. The texts were my tool. But a few years ago, while doing my post-doc, something surprising happened to me. I was conducting a comparison between a text and an object, a piece of jewelry, and suddenly a new and exciting world opened up to me.

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