Harmony & Synergy

From My Life to Yours ~ Let's Build Some Bridges!

1. Let’s talk about… Tzniut!

There is so much to say about this subject, so I thought I’d start the conversation!  I’m looking forward to making more videos about this in the future, since so many of you have asked.  Obviously, tzniut is about so much more than the clothes that we wear, but since a lot of the people on this site come here to learn how to cover one’s hair beautifully, I thought it would be nice to add some thoughts on why I love dressing modestly.  Enjoy!

**Tell us about your experiences with dressing modestly.  Why (or why not) do you chose to do it?  What do you love about it and what inspires you?**

23 Comments

  1. Vicki

    What lovely videos Andrea! I enjoyed watching them both! Perhaps in the future you could have someone model what types of clothing one could put together to not only achieve a modest look, but also what looks good. You have a beautiful soul!

    Vicki

    • Vicki, that is a wonderful idea! I would love to do something like that… thank you for suggesting it!

  2. molly

    Thank you. I’m definitely not on that level but that was thought provoking. (I love the tidbit about your dad asking if you’re sneezing. Very cute.)

  3. Elizabeth

    First off, let me say that if my question is in any way rude or improper I did not mean to offend. Feel free to tell me to mind my own business.

    While I am a Noahic Gentile, and not a Jew, I have been working toward a more modest wardrobe and have a question. Do the rules of modesty generally extend into the home? That is to say, does one also choose modest night clothes? Would a person practicing modesty ever wear shorts or pants around the house? That sort of thing?

    What does one wear for exercise? Do the rules change if someone wants to go for a bike ride or a run or do yoga?

    • Hi Elizabeth! This is a very commonly asked question, and there is no ‘right’ answer. The laws of tzniut apply stringently (in the way I describe in the video) only when a woman is going to be around men that are not in her immediate family. Anything other than that is the woman’s own choice, and is often based on her sensitivities and community norms. I know lots of women that follow the laws of tzniut in front of everyone (except her husband), and I also know lots of women who uncover their hair and wear shorts around their girlfriends. Many women choose to cover in front of their young children consistently so the kids don’t get confused… but this also varies. There are women that wear full skirts to bed (what if there’s a fire drill?!) and others who wear bathing suits at the women’s only pool. Of course, I am showing you two ends of the spectrum… and most women I know fall somewhere in the middle. As I mentioned before… the laws of dressing in a tznua way are here to help us develop sensitivity. A woman should always be very honest with herself about why she is dressing modestly, and ask herself if she is doing it in the best way to help her bring as much light into the world as possible. The answer will probably change for her at different stages of life and growth.

      In terms of exercise… you can apply what I said above. If a Jewish woman is exercising in public, or in a place where men are going to be, she will be covered in the way I mentioned in the video (there are lots of exercise skirts out there!) I personally run by the lake and am always in a long skirt, long sleeves and tichel. In terms of a women’s gym, some ladies will choose to continue dressing as they would outside, while others will wear less. And if a woman is exercising in the privacy of her own home, then the choice is hers!

      I hope this answers your questions! I really appreciate your sensitivity and am glad you felt comfortable enough to ask.

      • Angela Joy

        I am a Christian who embraces modesty and it is so helpful to hear the Judaic viewpoint. It really helps me to have that as a guide. I dress differently inside the home than I do outside and reading this helps confirm my convictions. Thank you.

  4. Sari

    “In life and design, we must accept that immutable rules will not apply, and instead be prepared to be guided on our continuing exploration by flexible principles and directives…
    Principle differ from dogmas in that there are no penalties for error, but only learning from error, which leads to new evolution. Dogmas are rules which intend to force centralized control (often by guilt) and it is obvious that every such rule or law represents a failure of the social system”. – Bill Mollison (father of the permaculture movement) in “Permaculture – a Designer’s Manual”.

    My problem with modesty is that it seems to have shifted from being a principle to becoming a dogma. What may have originally started as something women chose to do of their own free will (as seems to be in the case of the tichel – it’s not “pure halacha”, it is described in the Talmud as a minhag of Bnot Yisrael, a custom, or fashion of the women of Israel, or “Dat Yehudit”, Jewish tradition) has become a means of categorizing people and failure to live up to whatever happened to be your community’s expectations of modesty became punishable (for example, by denying a woman her ketubah – the money her husband owes her in the case of divorce, or being gossiped about and ostracized by your community).

    We shouldn’t judge people by their outer appearance – and that includes judging them by their apparel.

    My personal guidelines are to ask myself the following questions:
    1. Am I trying to draw attention to myself? Will my clothes make me stand out? I think you need to think “ecologically” when it comes to dressing – just like you wouldn’t want an exotic, invasive species in a certain ecosystem, when you dress you should be sensitive to the human ecosystem and not wear anything blatantly different.
    2. That is – unless the way you dress is a way of challenging the underlying assumptions of the dominant society. But you have to be careful with that – it may not be the best way to get your point across, and may actually be detrimental to your cause. I personally like to think that dressing modestly is a challenge to our insane society that’s obsessed with youth and consumerism. On the other hand, I also sympathize with women who bare their breasts at protests against rape and abuse (though I probably wouldn’t do it myself).
    3. Do I feel whole and at ease with myself? Am I dressing to make myself feel good, or to live up to what other people expect of me (this goes both ways – depending on the society you live in, there could be pressure to expose yourself, or vice versa). Am I trying to generate envy with what I wear? Do I feel beautiful, comfortable and dignified?
    4. How can I dress while minimizing my consumption? Can I wear organic, fair-trade clothes? 2nd hand clothes? Can I trade my clothes with someone or make my own from repurposed material? Can I fix old clothes before discarding them? It’s amazing how much waste our society generates when it comes to clothing. I’ll admit – I splurge on the occasional tichel, but otherwise almost all my clothes are 2nd hand.
    5. Are there other women who dress this way? I think tzniut is more of a sociological phenomena than “hard-core” halacha. In Israel you see the whole spectrum of women wearing sleeves of various lengths (though most are T-shirt length or longer), whole head coverings that leave no hair out, to small half-tichels that a let lot of the hair in the back show (there are actually several poskim who permit this), wide pants, short skirts, etc. Every way of dressing bears its labels with it – but it’s my choice which label I feel like wearing today. However, there are things that NOBODY who is remotely religious does, like wearing tank tops, shorts, belly shirts or low-cut collars.

    I usually do the long sleeves and skirt thing. I like being mysterious and not giving away every part of myself. Also, as a complete fantasy nerd, it makes me feel like I’m donning the archetype of the strong, wise warrior-princess-in-skirts (like Eowyn, Princess Leia, Aliena from “Pillars of the Earth” etc). :)
    However, I also feel that under certain circumstances, a plain old T-shirt, baggy cargo pants and a floppy hat are just as modest.

    • Beautifully said. I also (almost) only shop at second hand thrift shops :)

  5. Well you know who I am and what I’m trying to do and I’m truly blown away. I went to Bais Yaakove and NEVER in my life have I heard tzniut explained in such a complete, logical and beautiful way. It has always been something very negative in my life and I’ve always struggled with it and that was one of my reasons for starting my blog…to overcome my struggle and inspire others who also love fashion and looking beautiful. Thank you so much for this and may you be zoche to inspire others. I hope you get to also give talks in seminaries…girls need to hear you speak!

    Shana tova!
    xo
    Sharon
    http://www.fashion-isha.com

    • Sharon, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much and amen to everything that you said. Shana tova and all the sweetness in the world to you and yours!

  6. Roisin

    I’ve only just dropped in here – I was sent your way by a friend who shares my enthusiasm for hair coverings – but I wanted to thank you for your wonderful videos. I really feel like you expanded my understanding of dressing modestly, but also some of the philosophy of judaism. Some of it is very beautiful, and all of it is sensible and well thought-out.

    I’m not a jew, obviously – I’m not really anything, except trying to be a good and useful human being – but the question of how to dress has always been on my mind, because I’ve always seen the western ideas of how women ought to dress as very time-consuming, judgemental, and oppressive. It’s amazing how much people judge each other’s appearance, making themselves and each other feel inadequate, when really it’s a person’s soul that we should be looking at the “colour and shape” of.

    I’ve found myself falling into ways of dressing that are not fashionable, but that are practical and comfortable and warm – and also, therefore, quite modest, at least by western standards – without really being able to think clearly about what I was doing. Thank you for giving me so much to think about. And thank you for making me feel much less ashamed of “failing” to live up to the standards of beauty expected of most women where I live (UK).

  7. vorvayne

    I’ve only just dropped in here – I was sent your way by a friend who shares my enthusiasm for hair coverings – but I wanted to thank you for your wonderful videos. I really feel like you expanded my understanding of dressing modestly, but also some of the philosophy of Judaism. Some of it is very beautiful, and all of it is sensible and well thought-out.

    I’m not a Jew, obviously – I’m not really anything, except trying to be a good and useful human being – but the question of how to dress has always been on my mind, because I’ve always seen the western ideas of how women ought to dress as very time-consuming, judgemental, and oppressive. It’s amazing how much people judge each other’s appearance, making themselves and each other feel inadequate, when really it’s a person’s soul that we should be looking at the “colour and shape” of.

    I’ve found myself falling into ways of dressing that are not fashionable, but that are practical and comfortable and warm – and also, therefore, quite modest, at least by western standards – without really being able to think clearly about what I was doing. Thank you for giving me so much to think about. And thank you for making me feel much less ashamed of “failing” to live up to the standards of beauty expected of most women where I live (UK).

    PS: sorry if this posts twice, my compute glitched a bit.

  8. The laws of tzniut are actually common sense. Clothes should not be tight, especially in the chest area, hips area, and upper arm area. Don’t show off your curves. Skirts should be wide enough to hide your thighs and long enough to not expose your knee when you are sitting, climbing, running. The neckline requirement comes from Das Moshe (transmitted to Moshe directly from Hashem) and not a Rabbinic-made ruling.

    Unfortunately, many clothing items have been marketed as tzanua when they are really not — the tight shells, the tight dresses, neckline exposing the shoulders, skirts sweeping the floor, pencil skirts, tight skirts, straight skirts even if they have no slits.

    Many skirts on the other hand are really tzanua, the A-line skirts that are at mid-calf that are not tight at the hips. These you can even get at places like Blair, Bedford Fair, etc.

    Keep up the good work, Andrea. You are right to focus on tzniut in this generation. We need more women to strengthen this mitzvah.

    • You are so right. Tzniut sometimes becomes about covering about elbows, collarbones, and knees, while squeezing into something much too revealing and flashy. I think that we need to remember the original reason why we should strive for modesty in our dress, and keep in mind that it is a chesed to ourselves and the rest of the world as well (and of course, to Gd). Thank you for your comments!

  9. Andrea, I know you mentioned that you bike to work a lot. I’m curious, how do you bike while wearing a long skirt? I’m afraid to wear a skirt on a bike because I don’t want it to fly up or have a bad accident because it got caught in the wheel or something.

    • Hi Kati – I wear a pair of loose jean pants under my skirts when biking. I find that especially if I’m wearing a cotton exercise skirt, the material will stick to the jeans and not ride up. I also sometimes wear tights when my skirt material is heavier. Usually I change when I get to work. I most often bunch the skirt up underneath me or tie the excess material with a hair elastic. Basically, the skirt needs to be loose enough so your legs can move but fitted so it doesn’t blow all over. Because I’m wearing loose pants underneath, I don’t worry about the skirt blowing up so I can concentrate on riding (it actually hasn’t yet, and I live in a super windy area). Let me know if you have an other questions!

  10. Great tip! I’ll have to try either jeans or tights under an exercise skirt once the weather warms up! Do you take your scarf off to put on a helmet? or are you able to get the helmet over an Israeli tichel? I will wear a helmet either way, having been in 2 serious bike accidents. But if there is some way to get a helmet over a scarf, I’d be up for trying it :)

    • I wear a light scarf under my helmet… usually an Israeli tichel!

  11. Sean Richard

    sorry to ask but i thought orthodox jewish woman did not believe in make up or jewellery. I go to a christian church that teaches against make up and jewellery using mostly the old testament. We teach that after the golden calf was made GOD later commended his people to remove all there jewels etc because they used it earlier to make and worship a calf instead of HIM. what do the orthodox teach on this?

  12. Yael

    Where do you go shopping?

  13. SapphireBlu 5

    I am “African-American” “Hats & Scarves” are a very integral part of our culture. My scarf collection has well over 600 scarves in it. l love finding new ways to wear them please send me videos on how to tie and arrange them, my email address which is listed below. It would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You,
    SapphireBlu 5

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