There’s a widespread mentality in certain Jewish circles that being on the cutting edge of fashion and style is not in the confines of tznius– the Jewish dictates of modesty. In my years in bais yaakov teachers went so far as to tell us that being on the cutting edge of fashion was clearly against the laws of tznius. That a girl who was dressed extremely attractive was drawing unnecessary attention to herself. I was told that this rule also applied to sweatshirts or t-shirts with chest logos and even dark nail polish. All of these things fell under the guise of what is know as prust or improper for the Jewish girl/woman.
I’ve veered pretty far away from that line of thinking and most of those people today would definitely call me a shiksa in my jeans and tichels/hats/occasionally sheitel and they really would have run the other way if they met me in my non-hair covering phase. Although I’m certainly no halachic authority, I went to bais yaakov after all(where they teach you just enough to get your MRS) and I certainly hope no takes this as any psak or halachic ruling I would like to speculate on this further, especially as this seems to a topic on many of my fellow j-bloggers minds……
A Jewish woman is considered a princess in Hebrew, a bas melech. The daughter of a king would only be kitted in the finest of fashions and of course would set the fashion tone for the entire country. She of course would never be dressed in any way that would disrespect her father the king but she certainly would always be expected to look more beautiful and put together than anyone else in the kingdom. The same goes true for the Jewish princess.
I honestly feel that an orthodox Jewish women should always be as fashionable and as classy as possible. There are many ways to look fantastic without baring it all. In general the women I find the most elegant are those who choose to cover it up rather than let it all hang out. Obviously just because you wear a skirt doesn’t mean that you are classy, or elegant I have seen many pants that are more modest that certain skirts. I’m also not here to get into debates on pants, short sleeves, how you cover your hair or any of that sort thing, in my opinion each person must do what they feel comfortable doing and it is between them and God.
Yet I think that each Jewish woman and all women should think of themselves as a princess and therefore there is nothing wrong with wearing stylish fashionable clothes so long as they aren’t thigh high and cut down to the belly button. I think that if you dress stylishly but elegantly you are still tzanua and in no way breaking any tznius code. I think that when people tell you otherwise they are steering you away from looking and feeling your best.
As a Jewish princess you should buy the best clothes you can afford, the best head coverings and conduct yourself with grace and class. There is no one in the world that will argue with you that you are not tznius if you follow those rules.
In a related albeit different topic I see many ads and in store displays showing head covering styles popular among Jewish women. In this month’s Vogue there is a Ralph Lauren ad showing a woman wearing a chasidic style turban, but Ralph’s real surname is Lipschitz after all and he grew up in the 50’s in the Bronx he probably saw plenty of those. I was also recently in Zara and I saw a mitpachat style tichel on a mannequin’s head, this could also be due to all the Muslims in Spain but I’d rather think that this is the influence of the stylish Brooklyn and Israeli chicas rocking the mitpachat.
I think that it’s important to remember that what narrow minded people tell you isn’t always halacha, and that tznius and fashion forward can go hand in hand, and not only not be polar opposites, but heighten the honor and grace of the Jewish woman.