The high holidays are a tasteful time for some to usher in the autumn season as the official gatepost of fall fashion. Nowadays we should enjoy a respite from the secular world’s tiny shorts, push up bras and see-through garments.
More observant women can be into fashion and also include the element of tzniut (pronounced “tsnee-us”), modesty in dress and behavior. In other words, how much skin can be exposed.
In a broader sense: a code of conduct, awareness, mostly applied to women who dress in such a way to not attract attention to themselves. Covered knees, no exposed collar bones or elbows, no cleavage.
In the past, I recall mingling with observant women in Loehmann’s Back Room. Now there is Amazon, where one can order dozens of outfits, mix and match at home, and send the rest back. Weeks ago, I was impressed by a timely email blast from Fox’s in Sandy Springs urging shoppers to come in for (or buy online) the “modest fashions” shown by the corresponding models. Note that Fox’s is owned by a Jewish family headed by Bob Fox, 61, who started the business decades ago while in college. He bought samples and bargains from the garment district and resold them in flea markets to make extra money for college. Their motto is “catch the thrill of a great buy.”
Fox’s knows their shopper, as their retail locations are in Boca, Aventura, Chicago, Brooklyn and 12 others, not counting Atlanta. Designer threads at off prices, what could be better? Local Fox’s manager Rita Batens De Vuyst has substantially grouped racks of merchandise to aggregate a “modest style area” in the Roswell Road store.
Her management experience with Fox’s and modest attire is deep, as she relocated the Manhattan store in 2014. Brooklyn is another store that attracts modest shoppers. Some of the modest brands in Fox’s are: Yal, Paniz, Wear and Flair, Eliza J, Wish, Suzy D London, and Miss Finch. Many of the price points are $39 to $89, including European pieces.
Fox’s is only one option for Atlanta shoppers. Rebbetzin Elisheva Ingber of the Kehilla in Sandy Springs has found sophisticated fashions at Stein Mart and Dillard’s (or dillards.com). She said, “I find those stores have clothes for the adult women that are more conservative, but still fun.” She explained that women today should strive to be dignified, spiritual, capable and worthwhile. “Let’s not view ourselves as our clothing. What’s important is how we feel on the inside. We are not dressing for men. Women have power and control and are to be respected. Really this message has a higher level in the whole image that we put out.”
Understanding the origins of tzniut, she cited, “‘Kol kavudah bas melech p’nima,’ the honor of a princess is within. Verse from Tehillim psalms.”
Ingber, who grew up in a retail fashion family, is also creative. For her own child’s wedding, she bought her mother-of-the-bride dress online and bought yet another of the identical dress to cut it up to add length and cover décolletage. She calls it “sneuissifying,” and recounts, “Consider it like royalty. Even when Queen Elizabeth was young, we never saw her in exposing outfits. Even today Meghan and Kate are fashionable and modest.”
On yet another level, Ingber explains that some aspects of personal beauty are held back for “our special someones.” She explains further, “Certain aspects of woman’s beauty are private and made more special for her own very special significant others.”
Continuing into sports, many observant women play sports in long skirts, which seem airy, cool and not at all impractical. Some have leggings attached to the skirt to not have to worry about it flying up.
Beatie (Bracha) Deutsch, American-born Israeli and daughter-in-law of Atlanta’s Rabbi Menachem Deutsch, is a track superstar in Jerusalem and nicknamed “Speedy Beatie.” She is known worldwide for her tzniut wardrobe and staying true to her values. The mother of five and the first Haredi track star has her goal set on the Olympics, and told Ynet News, “Running is a piece of cake compared to potty training.”
Different observant groups have varied customs. Some eschew sandals; some consider thickness of hosiery. Wigs, head coverings, and male modesty are subjects for yet another discussion.