Every once in awhile, you come across a moment that makes you rethink the way you are living. At the beginning of this year I was sitting down, listening to my Rabbi talk about how important it is for us, as parents, to walk the walk. To change at least ONE thing that makes us more observant during this time that our children prepare for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It was in that moment, I looked over at my eldest who had just FINISHED her bat mitzvah when I realized what I needed to do. There she was, in tight skinny jeans that hanged off her waist and a see through t-shirt with a camisole underneath. She looked like something out of a fashion magazine but being in the synagogue she looked out of place. She looked obscene. Then I took stock of myself. I too looked out of place with my v-neck t-shirt exposing my cleavage., my hair up in a messy bun and my jean pants ripped at the knees.
This was me just 10 months ago.
How could I tell my own daughter to not dress inappropriately when I myself was dressed inappropriate? That’s when I decided to take the plunge and being to practice Jewish Modesty, Tzniut.
During my transition to a more modest lifestyle, I ended up affecting other people unknowingly. One of those people was my good friend Kristi. Kristi had come to the conclusion that she too also wanted to dress more modestly. I decided to go ahead and sit down with her and find out why she would decide to make this change despite not being married or having any kids.
Gin: Why did you decide to make a change and try to dress more modestly?
Kristi: Um, a few reasons actually. I saw the style and actually really liked it. We had googled it in (conversion) class one night and a saw a few and I said to myself, “yeah I could wear that!” Also, I had been dressing very immodestly and felt like it was time to grow up with my clothes, working in office and all.
Finally, I wanted to do something different with my Judaism. I wanted something that pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Now, all of the rituals (of Judaism) came naturally to me then finally once I started doing dressing modestly I fell in love. I was going to just do it until my adult bat mitzvah and then reassess, but I think I will stick with it.
Now I know you had some difficulties with dressing modestly. Can you describe your biggest from when you first started?
Oh well, I still have them! There’s two. One is I started when it was hot in Texas. LOL Not only that but there were no modest clothes so I had to wear the same thing every day. It was hot. Also I have not fully transitioned and still own a lot of immodest clothes. So the temptation to wear short sleeve shirt on a hot day instead of doing laundry is so strong.
Have you heard of modest clothing companies like Shelly Shelly? And kosher casual? If so, what has prevented you from purchasing them?
Okay, yeah Kosher casual ! Yes, I think that might’ve been one I googled. But I’m nervous to purchase online clothes.
How do you feel when you dress modest?
I feel like I’m on a personal level with G-d out of everything I’ve done that is Jewish. Dressing modestly is the most meaningful thing I have done vs. everything else that I have done. Like lighting candles for Shabbat, going to service, and praying, It’s obvious to the world what I’m doing because I’m Jewish but when I dress modestly, it’s truly between me and God. No one sees me cover my elbows or put on a skirt and says, “Well, she must be Jewish.” If that makes sense.
Would you say you don’t feel like you stand out when you dress modestly?
I did at first. I felt like I stood out. But now I don’t know if I got used to it or what but I don’t think I stand out anymore.
Did current fashions have any influence on your decision to dress more modestly or would you say it was purely for religious reason?
Um, I would say fashion had about a 20% influence.
Any advice for those transitioning based on your experience?
Like I said, we pulled up Google images and saw the modest clothing. LOL. Make your journey your own. Don’t beat yourself up if you ever struggle because you will. Just have fun with it.
Okay. Would’ve helped if there was someone who guided you? Like a how-to video or someone personally raiding your closet?
I think the how-to would have definitely helped. Anything that I try to find on the subject involved hair. I learned everything I know from Google images of women dressing modestly. Having a person in my closet, not so much, because like I said I wanted it private and personal and I wanted to make it my own. Something as simple as “these are the basic rules, Here are some fun examples,” Would have been amazing! And not something designed to be like, “okay now you’re married so now you do this.”
Has anything stopped you from asking someone you know who already practices modesty? And if so, why?
Definitely. Being single and stay modestly by choice, not because it’s how I was raised, was definitely hard. Having something new and kind of overwhelming is bad enough, but I felt surrounded by people who meant well but we’re telling me how unnecessary it was, how they could never do it, and how it wasn’t like I was married or anything. At my lowest, it made me feel like I had less value as a Jewish woman unless I was married. That was the absolute lowest it got. Like I wanted to give up. Ironically, I felt like my biggest support and the person who kept me focused on the spiritual reason I am doing this was my very non-Jewish mom.
Thank you for answering these questions.
You’re welcome. Thank you for listening.
Like Kristi, I found my transition difficult mostly because I am a Conservative Jew and not Orthodox. I had no help either. I did find some inspiration from people online like Jew in the City and Wrapunzel who had style ideas from a more modern jewish orthodox point of view. Since then I’ve shared my knowledge with Kristi and all those who wish to put a little more observance in their life. In fact, I’ve made a video to help those, like Kristi, who need just a couple of ideas.
As a result of my transition, I have found that my daughter has become more conscious of what she is wearing and dresses just a LITTLE less revealing than she was. She knows the “rules” on modesty and for the most part, she covers at least one of the items. Because of that I am happy.
My daughter was not the only reason I have done this journey. I too wanted to improve my relationship with G-d and my husband. Dressing this way, acting this way, and living this way has given my relationship with G-d and my relationship with my husband greater meaning than I could ever imagine.
Right now, I’m inviting you to sign up online to join me and receive updates and tips on Jewish Life here in Texas. A free pocket-book on Modest dressing will be yours once you subscribe. Join now!