“Caftans” and “tallitot” — Who wore what at the Clinton/Mezvinsky wedding and what it means

The nuptials of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky focus attention on the surprising history of some great words and attire: fuchsia, tuxedo, yarmulke, and more.

The groom, who is Jewish, wore a tallit and a yarmulke. A tallit is a shawl-like garment usually made from wool or silk. It has fringes, called zizith, at the four corners. It is worn during religious services or special occasions.

During traditional Jewish ceremonies, a tallit is sometimes used as a canopy over the couple. This doesn’t seem to be the case at Saturday night’s interfaith ceremony.

A yarmulke is a skullcap worn by Jewish men during religious services, study, prayer, and special occasions. Although the etymology of the word is debated, it is likely that it came from Yiddish, which adopted the word from the Ukranian and Polish yarmulka, meaning “cap.” Ultimately it may have had Turkish origins. The Turkish word yaǧmurluk means “raincoat.” The Hebrew-language equivalent kippah  means “dome.”

Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey designed the groom’s tuxedo. Tuxedo got its name from the country club in Tuxedo Park, N.Y. where the suit was first worn in the late nineteenth century.

The mother of the bride wore a striking fuchsia dress. This bright, crimson color shares its name with a plant of the evening primrose family and was named after a Leonhard Fuchs, a German botanist.

At the Friday evening rehearsal dinner, Hillary Clinton wore a glamorous, turquoise caftan, or kaftan. While this style has been popular with Western women for decades, it is also the name of the long-sleeved garment worn under a coat in the Middle East. The word has Turkish, Arabic, and Persian roots.

Last but hardly least, the bride wore a strapless silk organza gown with a draped tulle bodice and an embellished belt. As suspected, the wedding dress was designed by Vera Wang.

The couple is expected to honeymoon soon. The history of the word, however, is not as sweet as it sounds. Read more here.

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