Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tznius complications

To wear short sleeves? Or to not wear short sleeves?
That is the question plaguing me this summer.
Now, although I grew up in your average ModOrth family (growing up, I should say - I still live with the 'rents!), I also grew up wearing pants, shorts, tank tops and even low-cut shirts (I know.... I better not put that in my shidduch resumé).
So when I decided to flip out during my year in Israel, not only were my parents shocked and appalled, but I also shockingly and appallingly began to tznius-ify my wardrobe.
Have you ever seen What Not to Wear on TLC? You know how the first part of the show is all about the hosts throwing out the fashion-disaster-of-the-day's fashion disasters? And you know how the second part is where they turn the fashion disaster into a fashion diva with a whole closet full of trendy clothes?
Let's just say that my own closet makeover had the first part but skipped the second. It was BARE. (but now, I wasn't!)
I remember hopping off the plane in the summer and making my mom take me to the nearest department store to look for clothes that my seminary Rabbis would be proud of. What I didn't expect was how hard shopping would now be!
If you're a guy reading this, please stop here. This will bore you. Actually, I'm sure you read the first sentence of my blog and went to bed.
Girls - you know what I'm talking about, right?
You go into a cute, new store you've just discovered.... only to find that they're all about capris and halter tops. The only three-quarter-length top in the entire store has a scooped back or a scooped front, and although you could probably pull it off wearing a tank top underneath it, who really wants to sweat under all that fabric in the summer??
I think as the years have passed I've become pretty good at skipping past the skimpy racks and heading for the skirts at my favorite stores. But just the other day, there I was, at the mall, looking at this gorgeous silk designer top that had just been marked down from over a hundred to more than half off. But, da da da dum, it was short-sleeved!
I actually had a conversation with myself at that moment (those convos are the best I ever have) where I asked myself whether or not I should continue my "say no to elbows" style or maybe change course and embrace the knees and elbows - you know, show off what I've got. (I realize that we all have elbows and knees, but pre-flip out, I really liked mine).
Then it got me thinking - what did my ancestors do?
Did frum Jews even exist in Miami, LA, or Phoenix in the pre-air conditioning era? What about when the Tribes had to walk around the dessert for 40 years? Did those clouds come with a/c or did the Jews maybe have a reason to complain all those times they did?
Then..... I remembered being at a bus stop in Bnai Braq during the month of August, waiting next to a young Chassidish guy (sorry girls, I dont know if he was single - those guys dont wear wedding rings!). It was pre-flip out. I was wearing a skirt, but it was short, and so were my sleeves, bare legs, flip flops. He was wearing the usual Chassidish guy garb, a heavy wool coat, heavy wool hat, knee-high socks, probably his entire wardrobe all at once. I was sweating, he was as cool as cucumber.
It was pretty much a pivotal moment for me, where I realized that being tznius isn't totally ridiculous, and for those who keep it, Hashem makes it worthwhile. That's because tznius isn't as much about the outside as it is the inside. Tznius is about letting other people see a reflection of who you really are as a person, as a Jew, as a special and holy individual. And that's why I decided to put down the cute silk designer top and move on to the winter sales rack.
Tznius is important, but, it can definitely make a frustrating shopping experience!
PS - my apologies to Hashem that we're a nation of complainers, and that I probably contribute to about 75% of all our complaining - I know that there are wars going on and people starving in the world, and that my issues are pretty frivolous in comparison. But, "she'asani kirtzono", right?


hesh said...

Well I hope you didn't do it whacky BT style and have a party/bonfire where you burned all your untznius stuff, secular music and New Kids on the Block Posters.

Maidel said...

New Kids on the Block??? I grew up with the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync, Hesh!

Dont tell anyone, but I actually still have some drawers full of my goyish garb... you never know when you're gonna go horse-back riding or hiking and a skirt just wont cut it!

I did stop listening to gangsta rap though. Shweky is whats playin in my ride these days...

chanie said...

you-horse back riding in this lifetime? i don't think so ;)More like, you never know when you're going to want to put on your very own fashion show.

the thing that bugs me most about the whole tznius deal is NECKLINES. firs of all, wearing a tank top in order to tznius-up a v-neck not only makes you sweat more, it completely destroys the look of the outfit. and i have yet to find a fashionable, tznius neckline.

HumanitiesGirl said...

I know exactly what you're going through! With regular t-shirts, or other short-sleeved tops, I wear a 3/4 under it, or else put on sleevies. Check out Funky Frum for clothing (tops+skirts), but they also have sleevies, hats, and headbands.

yaacov said...

as a women's fashion designer i can tell you that while not everything in high fashion is modest, there is more than enough to work with. many of the classier styles have high necklines and do so in a way that adds length to the neck giving an overall slimmer look to the body.
and i can tell you that as a designer nothing would upset me more than walking down the street and seeing a woman in one of my dresses with a t-shirt underneath it.

Maidel said...

yaacov - where can a girl get your tznius designs? please take me shopping with you!

i agree - i hate the t-shirt under clothes look, but what else is a frum girl to do? they just dont make dresses with sleeves these days...

The Babysitter said...

Maidel: that's a good point, department stores usually don't have a lot to choose from that are tznius. If you want to get tznius clothes you usually have to go to these small Jewish stores with sales ladies that bug you and recommend you clothing that you don't like. I like the feeling of browsing through clothes at department stores rather than a lady looking me up and down and judging what kinda clothes I should wear. But then again I never wore non tznius clothes so I don't really know what its like to come from one way and change to another.

I'm not that much of a fashion person, so I actually like the layered look.

la said...

For moments like that have you tried "sleevies"? ( They might be able to make a top like that more tznius.