01 March 2009

Fashion, Tznius and Modesty, and Royalty

Being an old fashioned lady, I sometimes find myself surrounded with tasks of the "here and now", with little time taken for future planning. That is a subject unto itself, which I am working on, as I suppose many other women must also work on daily: how to balance all of these immediate calls with the calls to be ready for things to come.

However, I have come back to post an article that I found so interesting and helpful and encouraging for those ladies who desire to dress respectfully, modestly and beautifully. "The Fashion Conundrum: Does Being Fashionable Clash with being Tznius?", an article from "Bargain Jewess" at wordpress, enunciates so many of the thoughts that all modest, lovely ladies have had while figuring out what to wear. Do we dress frumpy? Wearing a sack dress and hiding our bodies as if we are ashamed? Aren't we to dress so that you can tell that we're women? Young women hear the term "modest dress" and immediately assume that we mean only prairie dresses from the last century or two, or even Middle Eastern garb pictured in our illustrated Bibles, and in the news. But is there truly a "happy medium?" Can we be modest and fashionable, and if so, why would we want to be? Doesn't being attractively attired draw attention to us and therefore contradict being modest, or in Jewish terms, tznius?

Some of this writer's opinion is stated thus:

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 princess, there are certainly some ways to dress and behave, because, as we all know, no matter how modest a royal may be, they will "stand out" in a crowd. Let us all hope to stand out with dignity, modesty, respect for our Father. There will be places where we must "draw the line," and in truth, those who are seeing things through spiritual eyes will be able to find where that line is for them and those with whom they come in contact. Obviously, this will be different for each lady, each family, each community, and even among various cultures. But there is one over-riding standard: that which is put forward by the One who designed us to be lovely, and chaste, and helpful (not destructive) to those around us, and especially our husbands.

1 Peter 3: 1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Don't let your "adorning" - the thing that makes you beautiful and attractive to others who see you - be an external style of fashion. But let your behaviour - which includes your words and how your dress and how you receive others, showing the True Light reflected through your behaviour - adorn you as a holy woman who hopes in God, a daughter of Sarah, the Princess and wife of Abraham.

The author of the above article concludes: "I think that it’s important to remember ... 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." I think that perhaps modesty and respectful fashion can heighten the honor and grace of us all, to the glory of God.
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