Archive for the ‘Tznius’ Category


Outfit of the day:

MOnday outfit Tichel

I’m making kissy faces at my dog, I didn’t just bite into a lemon. Seriously.

I adore this outfit. It is very cool and airy. The shirt (which could use ironing) is from April Cornell, the skirt is from Shukr (both were acquired during their summer sales) and the headband is from evagodeva on Etsy. Tichel is from Coveryourhair.com. This is probably my favorite way to wear a tichel if I’m going full coverage. I like the bun, how it looks and how well it stays on my head.

Synagogue was really fantastic. I enjoyed it so much and I met some really wonderfully nice people. I didn’t know a lot of what was going on, but the Hebrew sounded right. The cadence and the sound is what I grew up on at least, and I knew the kiddush and the Shema, so didn’t feel like too much of an idiot. I’m definitely going back to this shul a few times to see if it feels like a good fit. So far, so good.

I won’t be going this Saturday as I’m having a biopsy and will be laid up for the weekend (I’m so smart, I timed it so that I would have a full 3 days off of school to recover before having to shlep to a full day of class, post-procedure) but I’m looking forward to going week after next at least. It would appear that Offspring #2 would like to attend as well, which is kind of nifty.


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Is modesty subjective?

I really think that the answer to this one is, “Depends.”

If you are coming at modesty from the standpoint of strictly following say, the laws of tznius, or hijab, then no I don’t think it is. You’re following a law. There are guidelines. I guess there are probably areas where those guidelines are going to be a little different depending on if you are say, Conservative vs. Orthodox vs Chasid, or if you’re a Muslim living in a secular country vs. one that stipulates that women need to be in a burqa when they’re outside. But still, some hard and fast boundaries exist. Ditto if you’re Amish (and even there, different groups have different standards), and I know there are Christian sects that also dictate a certain standard of modesty to the women who belong.

If you are going from a purely personal interpretation of what is modest, then sure, it’s fairly subjective. You can pretty much figure out what it means to you.

I would have to say, I fall into the latter camp. “Modest” does not necessarily mean “covered from ankle to neck to wrist.” in my book. While I do go for some of the guidelines laid out by Jewish law, I don’t follow all of them. For example, while I prefer a 3/4 sleeve, I have no issues with wearing a short sleeve if the neckline is modest. Everything I’ve read on the subject is pretty clear that to be tznius you have to cover to the elbow, so, I’m not exactly in lock step there. I’m not going to worry if my clavicles are showing, I’m more worried about cleavage. I probably would not wear a tank top in public, that would feel immodest, but I wear them around the house and yard all the time. It’s hot here. Sue me.

I cover my hair in public, but that varies from bandannas, headbands, knit caps, hats or a tichel, depending on my mood and the outfit. Sometimes I don’t bundle it up so you can see my hair falling under the covering. S’fine. There’s something on my head. I’m not showing off my uncovered, unbound hair. That’s the point. I like long skirts, anything between the lower calf and the ankles is my preferred length. I also occasionally wear jeans and capri pants. Generally if I’m wearing jeans, they’re a really relaxed fit and if I’m taking them out of the house into public, I compensate for the fact that I’m wearing pants by putting a very modest, longer tunic length top over them. No high heels. If I’m dressing up, I’ll wear some pretty flats.

So there ya go. I know when I feel appropriately covered up. I have to say that I am sometimes a little flummoxed when I am looking for clothing on a modest clothing site, and I see some slinky jersey dress or skirt that accentuates every curve. Sure it’s technically covering. But it doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. I’m a curvy girl and I know how jersey drapes on me. It may be long, but it ain’t modest! That wearever stuff does the same thing. I can’t wear it. It is cheek defining and I am not talking about my face. Maybe it’s different if you’re a size 2 and have no tuchus.

I have to say that in doing some reading around various frummie sites, I’ve been a little appalled at the hostility. Women getting called sluts because they showed their knees while sitting??? Women referred to as whores for not being totally tznius according to the standards of the individuals viewing them? WOW. That is so not a segment of the Jewish population I would ever want to associate myself with. How about a little less hating and obsession with the bodies of others, and a little more focus on your own soul? If you are so het up that the sight of a woman’s knees or elbows fills you with this horrible burning desire and all you can think about is sex, then there’s really a problem. I would offer that the problem is not on the part of the woman who exposed her knees.

This is probably why I am… not affiliated yet. Because while I feel more drawn to very observant levels of practice, I’m so afraid of being judged or negative people, it freezes me.

This is probably why I don’t worry about short sleeves. There’s a part of me that will always want to poke the bear. Just a little.

I am modest for myself, and not to protect some schmuck from the burning sensation* he has while looking at a woman’s elbows or the back of her knees. Because, guys, I can’t help but think – that’s not the point, ya know? The onus should not be on women to protect the helpless poor widdle mens from their own urges. Feh. Grow up, get a grip, get over it. The prevailing attitude sort of implies that women are at fault if men can’t control themselves, and I’m sorry, that falls under the heading of Bacon Double Chicken Fried Stoopid, with a hefty side of WTF?? If tznius is supposed to focus women so that we’re reflecting on and developing stellar qualities within, then aren’t we ultimately doing it for ourselves?

Well, I only know why I do it. And it ain’t because I think men need to be protected from my elbows.

*I would also like to say that if there’s a burning sensation? They make a cream for that. Call your doctor. If the cream doesn’t help? Try a blindfold.

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with a Ravelry community for knitters who cover. Ok, ok, I know, right? Crazy enough that us knitters have our own social networking site, but that there’s enough of us who also cover to merit a whole group? Wow. You gotta love the internet. I stumbled across it one day, looking for a hat pattern.

I have suffered for  years from a medical condition that intermittently causes noticeable hair loss. As a result, I’ve gone for the Humboldt Honey look ever since I was old enough to tie a bandanna.  This gets old, and unless you are living behind the Redwood Curtain (I moved away years ago) it isn’t very pretty . You can’t wear it out to dinner if you’re going somewhere nice.  I live in a hot climate which means knit caps only work a few months out of the year and I look like a total dork in a baseball hat. Find me at a Dodger’s game sometime, you’ll see. After checking out what my lovely Ravelry compatriots were saying, I began searching for alternatives that didn’t make me feel like Frumpzilla. Or, you know, look Amish. Hijab was out too, I’m not a Muslim and didn’t want to misrepresent another person’s faith.

“Aha.” thought I, “I have seen some attractive head coverings on Orthodox ladies in the Jewish neighborhoods.  I would not be a big Fakey MacFakersons for wearing them because (while not Orthodox) I am totally 100% Jewish!  Yay!”

This led me to a site about Israeli head coverings and that led me to other sites and somewhere along the line a couple of those sites introduced me to the concept of  Tzniut, which translates loosely to “modesty” (but is so much more!)  This is something I’ve done on my own for years, though not with religious intent.  Look, I certainly don’t think men are consumed with lust just by seeing my elbows, I give the opposite sex way more credit than that.  I just don’t like wondering if people are thinking that my arse is the size of a small planet. I hate being worried that people are making judgments about a bald spot or looking at me like we all look at every women, mentally sizing her up with a beauty scale that most women can’t help but fall short of.  I am tired of worrying about how I measure up.

I am also really tired of being judged and judging myself on external criteria.  The idea that this could be something to approach with intent, as part of a spiritual path was exciting.  I found a whole community of women who cover, they are of all faiths or no faith.  Muslim, Pagan, Jewish, Christian Orthodox, spiritual paths that would be marked Other, ‘just because I like it”, hair loss… the reasons are as varied as the women who do it.  Many see it as a reclaiming of their own power and self.  For some it is cultural or religious. Some see it as submitting to a higher authority. Personally, I tend towards the former. I look at non revealing dressing and headcovering as a sort of layer of insulation between me and the unwelcome scrutiny of a youth, BMI and beauty obsessed world.

Nobody external is telling me to do this and I am not some tool of the patriarchy – it is a reclaiming of myself, my body, my power, my beauty. For me. Which is a pretty feminist ideal.   In the weeks since I adopted this practice full time, of headcovering and wearing modest clothing, I’ve gained a new awareness and appreciation for the fact that I’m really quite a beautiful person under all the layers. Inside and out. When I take my scarf off at night and comb my hair, I am not so focused on the gray or that it is a little frizzy. Instead, I think that it feels soft (and given my history, I’m so happy to have it!)  I enjoy the tactile and visual pleasure of having it unbound around my face. When I choose to reveal my body, it’s with the knowledge that the person I am revealing it to is seeing something special, something that no one else gets to see.  I hold my body in higher esteem, my self in higher esteem.

While ultimately this whole process of dressing more modestly/covering is supposed to make me focus on internal qualities, I have to admit that right now it is making me focus on a few externals.

Can I talk about the shopping? Holy cow, I’ve spent a LOT of time online lately, looking at clothing sites and color palettes and figuring out what works for me.  I’d like to be able to reach into my closet and pull out an outfit that looks great, that I love, because everything is modest, goes with everything else and looks simple but put together. Don’t want to look like I’m trying to be something I’m not. Do want to look like what I am.  Not boring, frumpy, old or overly conservative because I am none of these things.  Fun, funky, a little left of center, and stylish, YES. I think modest can be all of those things.  I honestly think I can not be the only person in the .alt spectrum looking for significantly more modest, yet fun, clothing options. I’ve never really been a woman who cared about clothing overall, so it amuses me to no end now that I put more care into selecting my clothing than I ever did before. And more money.  I’m also wearing more bright colors than ever before, not just relying on the Goth standard of black on black with a little more black.  Fun!

When I started, I did get some odd looks and stares and I felt acutely self conscious. It took me a while to fully relax into the public covering and not think about it anymore. Now I am aware of what I’m wearing, but usually it’s a low key positive awareness. People in my classes treat me the same, or with more respect. Younger students especially are treating me as an adult and not a peer. Maybe it’s the crotchety old biddy in me that wants to tell these kids to get off my lawn, but I’m kind of okay with that. Yes please, respect is good. I like being treated with courtesy and it reminds me to treat others the same way.

The fact that all this has also brought me back onto a path of rediscovery about Judaism and back into the idea of meaningful Jewish observance is just a super sweet lagniappe of spiritual awesome.

It’s a journey, and one I’m just stepping out on. I thought I’d use this space to put up pictures of how I’m wearing the tichel, how to tie, ideas for fun outfits, links and resources.  Maybe someone else will find it to be of benefit, the way I found other headcovering blogs to be in the beginning.

You know, whatever it is for you, even if it sets you apart a little or a lot, you should not be afraid to do it if it is truly authentic. My tichel reminds me to focus on other qualities. It is a insulating layer of protection between me and the outside, and much more attractive than a tinfoil hat.

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