Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tzniut Meme

A Mother in Israel recently started a great set of questions for discussion among the she-bloggers. I'm going to try to address them in this post.

1. For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married?

We've been married for 5 and a half years. I think that my standards for dress have remained pretty much the same during that time. However, I do think that in the last couple of years, I have come to a place of greater comfort with my own standards, rather than feel like I am falling short of others' standards, or worrying that I ought to be pushing myself to adopt stricter standards. I think this has more to do with becoming more confident in my decisions as I get older than it does with spirituality.

2. Also for married women, do you and your husband conflict about this issue?

RaggedyDad is pretty easygoing about these issues, and I get the sense that if I wanted to make changes in one direction or another, he'd likely be fine with it. I do get (negative) input from him if what I wear looks like an overly dowdy attempt to cover, cover, cover. But, I try not to take fashion advice overly seriously from a man who wears socks with sandals.

3. Have your standards changed from when you were growing up, and why?

Yes. I wore pants and short sleeves (though not sleeveless - not sure why) until some point during college. Covering my hair is not something I really thought I'd ever consider. As I started to take on more in terms of observance, I waited until I really felt ready to tackle my dress. When I felt more comfortable in skirts, and later, with covered elbows, than not, I was ready. But without any immediate, absolute decision or public proclamation.

4. Do you often feel uncomfortable when you are in the company of a group keeping higher or lower standards than you?

Being around those with looser standards in tzniut is usually totally comfortable for me. Many of my family members, and some friends, hold to looser standards, and I wouldn't say that this is a concern for me (or my kids as they get older - that's just another challenge of comprehensive chinuch).

If I'm not looking particularly put-together or am in a large crowd of women dressed in looser standards of tzniut, I do sometimes feel a little self-conscious. I'm not focused on being the most fashion-forward, and I think that it's sometimes easier to look 'cute' in pants for a casual look than a casual skirt-outfit. Or, rather, harder to look frumpy in the pants.

If I'm surrounded by many women holding to stricter standards of tzniut, I'm also a little uncomfortable, more so than among those with looser standards. If I know I'm going to be in such a situation, I often won't wear something "borderline" and will try to conform for that occasion. In that regard, I like that my neighborhood and chevra is rather mixed in this regard.

5. If you have ever suddenly changed your standard of dress, did people treat you differently or make approving/disapproving remarks?

I haven't made many sudden changes, though covering my hair was an obvious exception - before my wedding and after! - but that was anticipated. It's interesting, I have one sister-in-law, "S," who covers every strand of hair, and holds to a very strict, chassidish interpretation in all aspects of tznius. I have another sister-in-law, "L," who wears pants, sleeveless, and uncovered hair.

A family acquaintance once approached my mother in a pizza shop (I was there with my daughter, and I was in earshot) and said, "What did you do wrong with [RaggedyMom] and what about "S"?? The only one who turned out normal [vis a vis dressing style] was "L"!" Ouch. But I have gotten some positive feedback from a more right-wing member of the family.

6. How accepting is your community of women who "deviate" from the generally accepted mode of dress?

It's difficult to speak for an entire community. In my experience, within the more traditional bounds of Orthodoxy and tznius, this community (KGH) is a diverse and open one. It has moved more to the right a significant amount over the last couple of decades. But there are really all kinds of people here, and I think they all fit in.

There are women who are sheiteled and very dressed up (though not that many). There are women who are sheiteled and more 'heimish'. There are women who totally cover or partially cover their hair with all range of hat, tichel, bandana, or snood. Or not at all. I see pants with covered hair on occasion, and quite a few skirts with uncovered hair. Lots of Israelis live here, and they run the gamut vis a vis tzniut. I see bare toes, socks, stockings, thick stockings.

I'm glad that I don't feel self-conscious about my clothes, both in terms of tzniut and style, living here and going out to grocery shop or pick up Ann from preschool.

7. If you have a daughter, has tzniut become an issue yet?

Ann is turning 4 this summer. As of now, I don't have an immediate plan as to when she'll wear just skirts. In some ways, since my own decision about this was so pressure-free and up to me, it feels awkward to think of setting this guideline for her. However, I realize that her upbringing is quite different from my own.

Some moms have told me not to shop too heavily for pants in advance at this point, since the girls themselves sometimes say they don't want to wear pants if that's the way most of their friends are dressing. We'll see. I do find that girls' clothes (and even shoes!) these days are sometimes way too sexy or suggestive for our very young girls, and that bothers me. Even if I were not religiously observant, I would not feel comfortable with tight, very short, or revealing clothes for Ann.


Reading the responses of others, and posting my own, has been thought provoking. Thanks, Mother in Israel!



I forgot about tagging - SWFM, Baleboosteh, TorontoPearl, and Orieyenta - I'd be interested to hear your thoughts if you'd like! Sort of a cross-world geographical weigh-in.

8 comments:

mother in israel said...

Thanks for posting! Now that you mention it I do feel very frumpy in skirts. Esp. since I also wear orthopedic shoes, though I have found some nice styles lately. Not shopping often doesn't help either.
On Sunday be"H I'll post links to all the responses.

triLcat said...

I completely agree, btw. My sister wears pants, and she finds it hard to find clothes that aren't "prostitute-in-training" style for her daughters...
I think tzniut come from more than just skirts vs pants. I certainly didn't look like the teens I see around here when I wore a t-shirt and jeans...(even back when I was thin). I never let my belly show, never wore jeans that were in my privates, and always wore shirts that left something to the imagination.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Interesting meme. Good questions to think about.

frumhouse said...

Great answers! Does your acronym for your neighborhood mean Kew Garden Hills? There are some lovely people who live there - namely my husband's aunt/uncle/kids and now my BIL! We have been to visit there several times. It is a neighborhood not that unlike West Rogers Park in its diverse orthodox culture. If I lived in New York, it seems like the kind of neighborhood my family would gravitate toward.

torontopearl said...

1. For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married?

Pretty much the same.But I rarely wear pants.

2. Also for married women, do you and your husband conflict about this issue?

...only when it comes to head coverings. I don't cover my hair unless I'm at shul or in certain other circumstances. Many times when we're going to an evening simcha, my husband will ask, "Are you going to wear a hat?" Usually my answer is no because it's not who I am. But I will wear a hat at a yeshivish/Agudah/Lubavitch simcha/wedding...more out of respect than anything else.


3. Have your standards changed from when you were growing up, and why?

I mostly wear skirts/dresses, but do wear short sleeves. I rarely wear pants or shorts, at least not anywhere where I'll be seen by peers -- perhaps on vacation, though.

Growing up, I wore pants, shorts, sleeveless tops.

These days I do things out of respect and sometimes because it would feel wrong otherwise not to be dressed a certain way.

4. Do you often feel uncomfortable when you are in the company of a group keeping higher or lower standards than you?

It's usually with those having higher standards that I feel uncomfortable and often inadequate...like I don't measure up.


5. If you have ever suddenly changed your standard of dress, did people treat you differently or make approving/disapproving remarks?

People just question that I don't wear pants anymore... I usually say because I don't fit into them anymore, and that it's not for religious reasons.


6. How accepting is your community of women who "deviate" from the generally accepted mode of dress?

I am part of a modern Orthodox community and my children attend a modern Orthodox zionist day school. Many women are like me and then there are those who cover their hair, wear stockings all the time and 3/4 or long sleeves.
The school has had a policy to have parents pick up their kids and wear skirts, so you see moms with jeans and skirts on top...and unfortunately, lately there've been a new slew of parents who davka come to the schoolyard and into the school office in pants. I don't find that respectful, and that disturbs me to see it.


7. If you have a daughter, has tzniut become an issue yet?

My daughter (9 1/2) has a definite independent fashion style, but I still try to keep it in check...and often hear myself say, "That doesn't look tsniusdik."
She does wear pants at home and in public, as well as shorts, but again, there's the right time and place to wear these and I monitor that.

All in all, it probably looks as if I have some double standards, doesn't it? BUt I'm pretty comfortable in this lifestyle look and who knows, give me this questionnaire in ten years and my answers might be very different -- maybe I'll cover my hair by then and wear long sleeves...who knows?

SephardiLady said...

We really are like blogging sisters. I also had to get comfortable with the idea of covering hair, but never announced I would do x, y, or z.

I also can't believe some of the clothing marketed to young girls. When I was a little girl I wore ruffles and flowers. Even the frum world has gone the way of making little girls into little women with the suits for 5 year olds and the grown up dresses.

And this year when I hit the end of year sales I totally hit the jackpot on clothing for many years to come. But I skipped the pants past size 2T since I can't predict the future, although I did pick up one Nike warm up suit for less than $5, so I happily took the pants although I bought it for the windbreaker jacket.

orieyenta said...

Better late than never :-)

Here it is.

Anonymous said...

Hanna Anderson has good clothes for little girls.