VIDEO - Racheli Zylberlicht, a fashion designer and stylist from Israel's
ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, is used to clients emailing her a picture, asking her to "find me a suit similar to what Kate Middleton is wearing in the attached file".
Millions of women worldwide, who follow every single garment worn by the duchess of Cambridge, are being joined by the religious Jewish women in Israel and abroad, who have finally found the perfect fashion model: A real, beautiful princess who happens to wear suits and dresses that would be warmly welcomed in any synagogue.
"Anything that has to do with Kate Middleton's clothing becomes a huge hit in our sector," says Zylberlicht. "I like her style too. It's conservative yet fashionable, and most importantly – modest. Her popularity is a phenomenon I haven’t seen in years."
The addicts follow the British princess' wardrobe in magazines and on the Internet, and some have gone as far as creating a photo archive which helps inspire them on Jewish holidays and religious events such as "Sheva Brachot" – the seven wedding blessings that are recited for a bride and her groom and require seven different festive outfits.
Hasidic boy's coat inspired Kate Middleton's clothes / Liron Nagler-Cohen
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These women are not just crazy about the long, chic skirts and modest tops, but are also very fond of the hair accessories.
"It's insane," says Zylberlicht. "Women from the national-religious sector wear elegant hats to synagogue, and haredi women place flowers and ribbons on their wigs. Young girls go to events wearing half hats with large flowers, all inspired by Kate. There are even those who look for Kate Middleton earrings – the ones which used to belong to Princess Diana and were refurbished."
Middleton is very thin. Isn't it difficult for religious women, who have given birth quite a few times, to imitate her appearance?
"Each woman makes the required adjustments according to her own figure."
Clothes suitable for Shabbat and Jewish holidays (Photo: Getty Images)
Ruthie Berg, a respected makeup artist and hair stylist in the Jewish Orthodox world, attempts to analyze the secret of Middleton's success among haredi women.
"She wears exactly what the religious sector is looking for: Short coats that can be combined with any basic top and classic gowns. These are clothes that are mostly suitable for Shabbat, Jewish holidays and special events and not for every day. Her wisdom is in covering herself up yet remaining glowing and fashionable."
Following in Princess Diana's footsteps
It appears Middleton was first marked as a style icon among Israel's religious women at her wedding, a year and a half ago. "Since then, many brides have been looking for a dress similar to the one she wore, combining delicate lace and vintage-style fabric, without all that volume of the past.
"Her makeup style is inspiring too. After all, she did her own makeup on her wedding day, using a soft and clean touch. Brides seeking to appear gentle and natural tell me, 'Just like Kate,' and there's nothing else to add."
And yet, one cannot be one-hundred-percent Kate. First of all, the knee issue: Middleton is fond of dresses that end just above the knee line. Women belonging to the religious sector must look for longer skirts and dresses, which cover the knees.
Is it possible that haredi women are short of suitable fashionable models, and are therefore so enthused with the new British princess?
"I don't think religious and haredi women are experiencing fashion troubles," says Dr. Tsuriel Rashi of the School of Communication at Bar-Ilan University. "One can always take an immodest dress and turn it into a modest one.
"The religious world's access to the Internet, and women's access in particular, has soared by hundreds of percentage points, so the era in which women look for inspiration in conservative shop windows is over. Today they look for inspiration from abroad online."
Perhaps it's easier for them to adopt a distant European model?
"It’s not the geographical distance which creates the identification, but rather the understanding that has yet to penetrate this country – that modest can also be elegant."
Rashi believes that the princess herself is also inspired by Jewish fashion. "We've seen pictures of her wearing a coat inspired by a Hasidic boy's coat bought in a second-hand Jerusalem store."
He further notes that this is not the first time a member of the British royal family influences the Jewish religious sector.
"A very modest long-sleeved shirt, worn by Princess Diana, served as a role model at the time. Her hairdo was a source of inspiration as well, leading to the design of the 'Diana Wig', which was one of the best selling models in Bnei Brak for years. Now her eldest son's wife is following in her footsteps."