The Traje de Berberisca: an Encoded Dress

by Dr. Yaëlle Azagury

An Ethnological Study of the Bridal Dress of Moroccan Jews also called Keswa el K’bira (Arabic)  or Traje de Berberisca (Spanish), this article first appeared in  It is an exploration of Moroccan Jewish bridal customs and of the signs and symbols of this traditional dress.

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As a little girl, I often asked my mother in Spanish – I grew up in Tangier where Jews spoke a Spanish meshed with Judeo Spanish -“Que me pongo hoy mama?” Invariably she gave me an enigmatic answer: “El traje de oro y de plata.” This threw me each time into the agonies of an elaborate speculation. What did she really mean by “the gold and silver gown”?  I was an avid reader of fairy tales, so one came to mind.  In Grimm’s the Ass’s Skin, the princess asks her father for three dresses: one the color of Time, the second one the color of the Moon, and the third the color of the Sun. Neither request is meant to be fulfilled.  How can one make a moon-color dress?  Or a sun-color dress?  Or for that matter, how could one even fathom a dress of gold and silver? I was invariably puzzled. One day, though, I found out the “traje de oro y de plata” existed not merely as an imaginary riddle for inquisitive little girls. It was the traje de berberisca, or keswa-el ­kbira (grandcostume), as it is called in Arabic.  Click here to read the rest of the article.

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