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August 30, 2016 / 26 Av, 5776
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Why Must Jewish Women Wear So Much Black and Gray?

Not honoring your own voice begins to erode who you are and what you have to offer in this world.


Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

We have contact with many non-Jews. They consistently say “Yes, we know that you have a black dress code”. That’s what we are putting out there. What does this say about representing Hashem is this world? What message do we want to put out to the world? Is it a message that one should always look like they are either on the way to, or on the way back from a funeral? Or maybe we want to put out a nicer message? Is the way we are dressing putting out to the world the much needed message of joy and happiness?

So assuming that you like colorful clothing, how does it affect you when you silence your inner voice and desire to wear colorful clothing? What messages are you giving yourself when you ignore your own voice? In what other areas of life does the silencing of your voice affect you? Really think about it and let yourself feel it. Once you feel it, begin by asking yourself “What would it be like to listen to my own voice and express myself accordingly?” Would I feel freer or have more self-respect? How would it affect my children or those around me? What would the ripple effects be?

Every single one of us have revealed and latent leadership qualities. It may be leading as parents, or having friends that count on us for advice and guidance. Certainly we are leaders of ourselves. That leadership needs to come out in this area just like it comes out in so many other areas.

You know inside what is tznius and what is not. You are allowed to listen to that voice. That’s why Hashem gave it to you. The payoff for not listening to your own voice is not worth it in the long run. Even if for the time being, not listening to your own voice may have certain benefits like the feeling of belonging, in the long run it is not worth it.

In the long run, not honoring your own voice begins to erode who you are and what you have to offer in this world. That is the ultimate opposite of what Hashem wants from us. The underlying message that all women need to wear black is that we all need to be the same. It says that there is no room for diversity. I just can’t imagine that that is what we want to show the world and that that is what Hashem wants us to be like.

So I make my plea to all the women and girls to please take a deep look into what drives you to dress a certain way. Please really analyze it. You are leaders and are very very strong and powerful. If something doesn’t sit right, please consider addressing it. Things will be alright if you make some small changes. You will be followed if you do. Your children will find shidduchim and people will respect you.

Bezalel Perlman

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82 Responses to “Why Must Jewish Women Wear So Much Black and Gray?”

  1. Chava Canales says:

    Wonderful article from a woman who wears mostly all colors. Thank you!

  2. Sandra Swerdlov says:

    that's why I won't wear like this 😉

  3. I agree that we all must wear nice colors as it was HaShem's that created the Rainbow with all the colors … so why use only two??

  4. Didn't read the article yet, but I happen to be seeing more color lately. Hopefully the trend will be getting more colorful 🙂

  5. Bill Kushner says:

    what concerns me most is that i believe that most of the ladies wearing only black and grey are just doing it because everyone else is doing it. In other words there really is no philosophy to it whatsoever. The herd mentality is dangerous to our spiritual health. at least thats my opinion

  6. It’s really none of your business what they choose to wear.

  7. Aviva Fort says:

    I'm a metalhead and I like frikkin' black – and anyway, men shouldn't really be talking about other women's clothes :Pppp

  8. Yochana Chava Sandler says:

    I have been saying this for ages- Y the heck is there no color in frum womens clothing? I don't remember it being so black and white growing up. I think it is fairly recent- like the past 15 yrs. Fine you are a metal head, or goth whatev- it's your fashion statement…but why do so many other frum women choose to wear black?

  9. Aviva Fort says:

    Yochana Chava Sandler fine ok 100% but this stuff is for a woman to write about – not a dude….anyway many frum women around here dress like colorful hippies

  10. Yochana Chava Sandler says:

    around where? are you in Nachlaot? or Tzfat? I was in Brooklyn walking down the street with 3 friends (ok you might call them hippy-ish) and some frum girl came over to us and said- are you from Israel? we were like huh? why? she said bcs you are wearing colors! made me sad.

  11. Daphna Krupp says:

    I am orthodox and while I wear a bit more black in the cold months I wear all the colors of the rainbow. If hashem created the rainbow and a world in color who are we to decide the world is black and white? (Pun intended)

  12. Yasa Leah Borensztejn says:

    Colorful hippie, yup that's me!

  13. There was a Rav who said that the reason we have techeilet in tzitzit is that color provokes passions and feelings, and so we're supposed to feel passionate about mitzvot. I believe it's the same with tzniut. If you love black and gray and they reflect who you really are, then that's fine, but if you're just wearing those because it's the "uniform," then you are violating the spirit of tzniut. I love black, but I also love colors (I hate gray), and I love that I'm not wearing a "uniform."

  14. Yosef Zamler says:

    They do it to dress modestly

  15. Josh Becker says:

    "Every single person was created different with different tastes and personalities. Women were created with a sense for beauty and aesthetics. Men only get as far as feebly attempting to match a tie to their suit."
    Wow. thanks for letting us know the "different personalties" of genders in a nice little nutshell of a generalization.
    "You will be followed if you do. Your children will find shidduchim and people will respect you." Wow.
    While I (obviosuly) agree with the point of this article, it's really something that this point even HAD to be made. This article has amused me. Thanks for that.

  16. Sarah Thien says:

    Is black supposed to be more modest than other colors? I thought it was about fit and amount of skin showing

  17. Aliza Feinstein says:

    Black is beautiful

  18. Shira Chana Fichtenbaum says:

    It is said black is a color of humility ….being humble ….

  19. Yael Tesler says:

    supposedly attracts less attention than bright colors

  20. Arnie Goldfein says:

    I applaud this article. When I saw the title I figured, uh-oh, here we go again with another lecture and another preaching. It was just the opposite. Thank you, Bezlalel!!

    My sister, Awlehaw V'Shalom, who was a saint, used to say that T'znius has very little to do with clothes and more about "that everything in my life in not everybody's business". That said, I think that men and women both encounter the same issue. Most men in the religious community dress in white shirts and black pants, black suits, black hats, etc. I wonder if we are doing a communal thing so as not to be ostracized. I do think though that a lot of people have been brought up in the frum community with guilt and shame surrounding clothing. And if someone is wearing clothes to hide themselves then something else is going on. I am not saying go be revealing. I am saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing colorful clothes that fit. Just do it for the right reasons and listen to that inner voice. It's a truth that no one else can tell you what's correct for you.

  21. Josh Becker there are way too many things wrong with this article

  22. Arnie, you're awesome. I'm missing Ester Nechama. I can almost picture what her reaction would be to this article and your words.

  23. Robin Hirsch says:

    I think its all coordination. The men wear black and white only. Also everything matches black and white. But seriously the ultra frum do it to not draw attention but young women wear all different colors especially at chassunahs

  24. Rachel Margolin says:

    imagine what could be accomplished in the world if just a fraction of the energy spent obsessing about what women wear was spent on something important

  25. NewAge Hasid says:

    Once you go black you never go back…

  26. I wear colors, but I respect that others don’t. if its their choice to do so, why be devisive and cause it. your own voice begins to erode? Some women who are so modest, are very very creative in other ways. did you really need to write about something? Think of something else more useful.

  27. Black is also the most slimming color, the most versatile color, the easiest color, etc. And it's the best backdrop for great jewelry. But if you're going to wear it, do it because you love it for any of the above reasons, not just because it's the "uniform."

  28. Leta Lenik says:

    I am a former fashion coordinator for fashion shows and I have a lot to say about this. Women wear black because they think it makes them look thinner. That's really it. Of all colors, traditionally, black was viewed as a wealthy person's color. It took a lot of expensive dye to get clothing black and only the wealthy could afford it.
    Black only absorbs light. It has no reflective qualities and does absolutely nothing for your complexion. It also has a very flat look in pictures and can actually make you look wider. Wearing a color, which complements your skin, at least next to your face, makes you look better. We all know which colors we feel and look better in. In fashion, wearing a flattering color is the difference between someone saying "You look great!" as opposed to "I love your outfit."

  29. I love wearing black. And gray. But I also love various shades of blue, green, purple, darker pinks… I enjoy most colors. I have no use for International Orange, however.

  30. Aliza Feinstein says:

    Did you ever see Casablanca? Remember that scene in the shuk where she wears that stunning black and white ensemble with a hat? I liked it.

  31. Aliza Feinstein says:

    Not to be sexist, but I think the article was written by a man. I don't know about any other women, but when I look in the mirror, I don't think, "does this make a statement?" I think, " do I look decent? good, I gotta go, wait-is that a stain on my dress? Oh good I'm wearing black, nothing shows up on black."

  32. Rachel Lamb says:

    Black does not truly make us look thinner. Black is cheap and easy alternative for designers to produce for the masses. Your wife Rivka Malka Perlman mentioned mentioned Carol Tuttle of Dressing Your Truth. She also mentioned that even though she never took the course that she us a Type 3 "Rich,dynamic,textured" I suggest everyone got to http://www.dressingyourtruth.com and find out more and look into the free assessment

  33. Yonina Hofman says:

    Unfortunately the herd mentality that you speak of is extremely prevalent in the charedi community where the all black and dark colored wardrobe is being worn. So it is essentially a vicious cycle. The all black phenomenon is not something you see in the modern orthodox world. You see lots and lots of color.

  34. Yisrael Edward Cohen says:

    Nice article, but I do take issue with one thing…. I take my appearance seriously as well. As do many of my male friends. We match shirts, ties, pants, shoes, etc. Just like woman women are told colors are bad, so too men in that society must wear a white shirt and black suit, along with a hat. I used to dress like that. I eventually got sick of the monotony. I like colors, I like trying different combinations, and so do many other guys I know

  35. Libbat Shaham says:

    Why must Jewish men wear so much black and white?

  36. Anonymous says:

    I love wearing my Hawaiian shirts…so colorful and they don't have to be tucked in my pants.

  37. Lisa Kamins says:

    I also asked a rebbiten, who is also a widow from a tzaddik, she told me that the black is all about mourning the destruction of the Beit Hamigdash. now, many years ago the Gadoley HaDor saw that the women wearing just black was a problem, men are visual and it is important to keep one's husband interested, and keep him from wandering, so they gave a p'sak that women should dress in colors. I am all for dressing in colors, and colors can be perfectly tznuah. thanks for the article.

  38. Jodi Sugar says:

    I'm an artist, black makes me look sick and I almost never wear it. I own one black skirt. One time I was in downtown Chicago and a bunch of Bais yakov looking girls were all wearing black and NOT smiling while they were riding one of those four people bikes. They looked like they were coming or going to a funeral! And I think that's a chillul Hashem. We are supposed to be the LIGHT unto the nations. Maybe if it was still WW2 we could all wear black. But we should be past that. And if you have your colors done when people wear all black to make themselves look thinner it makes them look fatter.

  39. Esther Cohen says:

    right on sugarpie!

  40. Ettah Bienenstock says:

    I wear colors

  41. Lisa Rosendorn says:

    Colors r the new "in" here. Finally!!! Even in Lakewood, i heard.

  42. Shifra Bader says:

    I am totally with you, even though not an artist, but a lover of color!

  43. Hana Bashe says:

    LOVE colors. I always feel so self-conscious when I wear black and grey.

  44. What do you say about all the OTD people?

  45. Mark Trencher says:

    Short version: of article: Their individuality has been squashed.

  46. Fern Sanders says:

    Bottom line is that these women think that it is slimming. Nothing at all to do with being tzniusdik. Black is not a Jewish colour of mourning-we have no colours of mourning. This trend seems to have originated in the U.S. Hareidi women who originated in Israel wear colours.

  47. Aliza Feinstein Of course it was black and white. Casablanca was a black and white film. That doesn't say anything about black and white clothing vs. color.

  48. Is wearing a uniform different from wearing what's trendy?

  49. Amazing all those who run after the fashion styles from Paris are showing their self expression, but when frum ladies all where the same styles they are squashing their self expression.

  50. My daughter and I are out-of-towners . . I mean W-A-A-Y out-of-towners. When we went shopping in Brooklyn, we found the limited palette you describe: a little khaki, pink, and pastel blue for summer; everything else black, gray, and navy. Our yeshivishe brothers and sisters explained that it is immodest for women [or men] to call attention to themselves. Red calls the loudest, and is absolutely verboten. OK: when in Boro Park, we abide by Boro Park norms. But JEWISH CHIAROSCURO DOES SEEM TO BE A RECENT INNOVATION. Photos of the gedolei ha'dor of the 40s, 50s, and 60s show them in green suits, brown suits, blue suits; and patterned sweaters; and photos of mid-century testimonial dinners show women in purple, yellow, and rose. WHAT CHANGED? WHY?

  51. Perhaps when your family has a history of persecution, you don't want to stand out like a sore thumb? Maybe you are humble and don't want to look like a loud, but colorful peacock? I'm not saying they shouldn't wear color, but it's their choice. In America, we have millions of peacocks. We even have pastors prancing around on stage in pastel suits and snake-skin shoes squawking like a peacock desperate to find a mate. Some people consider fashion an art, but it's a shallow art. There are better, more concise ways to express yourself without being a peacock. Not that a little color isn't alright. And besides, if I was living in Israel or any other place with a lot of sun, I'd avoid black. I'd probably wear a lot of khaki. I believe clothing serves more of a function than fashion though. Jewish people are humble, and seeing as how humility is a rare thing today in America, I welcome humility as a form of self-expression, and I wish more Americans, especially ones like Kanye West, would practice that form of self-expression. He could be draped in a rainbow flag and I wouldn't care…it's the loud squawking that comes from colorful people that bothers me.

  52. Lais Sa Barretto Pfitzenreiter says:

    Black is my favorite color! Maybe the 25 years in N Y made it happen!,,,,

  53. Myriam Obadia says:

    I love colors. I feel like I'm thanking him when I chose which color/colors to wear each day. I don't think I offend tsniut, because the clothes I wear are always modestly cut, so I freely celebrate the beauty of the world G-d made by wearing colorful outfits and hats. Actually, the lower I feel, the brighter the outfit: it lifts my spirit and reminds me what a blessing it is that I finally get to live in Israel. BTW, no one, in my rather religious neighborhood has ever made me an unkind comment about the way I dress.

  54. Yeremiahu Rueben Yonteff says:

    Its no more complicated than a tnius issue. Men wear these colors for the same reason and many communities arent so machmir in regards to color. However i must say i have never never found anyone lacking in beauty do to tnius dress. Quite the reverse, as they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder so if someone finds themselves judging others this way it is a reflection of themselves and a sign that their midos may need a make over rather than the subject of their vision.

  55. Myriam Obadia says:

    *wear the same styles

  56. Pearl Fisch says:

    Wearing black or grey does not make you more religious its what's in the heart that counts.

  57. Glad you said that, Fern. This article is being circulated all over and long discussions are going on about it.

  58. Dear Roasted Locust, I protest that fashion is a shallow art!!!!!!! Here in Israel, the women who dress in long skirts and headscarves look so beautiful that the non-religious women stop them on the street and compliment them! It is a woman's divine gift to love beauty and to adorn herself so that she looks beautiful is her pleasure – and that of her husband! It is my opinion that art of any kind is never shallow, but can take the artist and others straight to the Divine. Some people think it is better to wear black because it is MORE tsnua and allows them to fade into the background and not stand out in a crowd..But just think of the impression that makes on the non-Jewish and the non-religious Jew – they stand out because of their somber and dull attire and look most unattractive!

  59. Beth says:

    Black white and gray include one more color than you men wear. Did it not occur to you that men do the same? Think.

  60. Julie Stampnitzky Kahan, wearing what's trendy is fine if it flatters you and reflects your personal style. Wearing a uniform is not good because you're wearing it only because everyone else is wearing it regardless of flattery and personal style. If dangly earrings are trendy, then bring them on for me because I LOVE what they do for me. But if choker necklaces are trendy, I don't waste my time because they don't work for me.

  61. Eva Feld says:

    I am a modest dresser, long skirts that are fashionable with stops that are exquisite and complimentary to making me feel good and look good. All this in an explosion of color and hats. I feel if Hashem can paint so can I.

  62. Eva Feld says:

    I am a modest dresser, long skirts that are fashionable with stops that are exquisite and complimentary to making me feel good and look good. All this in an explosion of color and hats. I feel if Hashem can paint so can I.

  63. Frume Goldberg says:

    go to bne brak and you see the women dressed in black or black and white and sometimes dark blue. for this reason i do not want to wear anything black. Well black goes with everything and that is easy.

  64. What do you like better green or purple. Go for it girl!

  65. Sharone Goodman says:

    go jodie, thanks for sharing, the photos arrived, how should i pay you?

  66. What if I just like the very conservative "look"? Does that mean I'm not true to my "voice"?

  67. Marcia Lacher says:

    Listen, a lot of this has to do with where you live and fashion. Modesty has mostly to do with fit and style. Here in New York, everyone wears black and this is a fashion forward town, so the religious women do the same. It is slimming, it is sophisticated and it is elegant. It is sombre and dull only if the clothes are bad, not because they are black. Black clothes can be too tight and too short just as much as colorful clothes can. So it is not for everyone. It bores some people. The women in Israel who dress in long flowing skirts and headscarfs fit the environment they live in.

  68. Linda Fuchs Versil says:

    black is chic

  69. Great Article. I think Bezalel Perlman hit it right on the nail. Orthodox women have to develop their inner voices much much more whether in wearing colorful clothing or in other areas. Happy Hanukah!

  70. Bravo Leta, this has gotten totally out of hand. You feel compelled to dress in black now, rather than choosing it.

  71. Aliza Feinstein says:

    hmm, that's a good point Yehoshua Freidman.

  72. Malka Blalock says:

    i agree, and i have seen quite plenty of times religious women thinking they are 'tsanua', wearing all black, but with something skin-tight – either the top or skirt, or both! quite the opposite acheived, and black is dull too (or some see it sexy, so how is that being tsanua?)

  73. Anonymous says:

    In our community, it is our minhag to wear colors, as well as black and gray. It gets very hot in summer. But this story was obviously written by a man. The main reason women wear black is that it is the most SLENDERIZING color! And what's with the accompanying photo of the women trying on a Mexican sombrero?

  74. the clothing and accessories are very individual a varied. Second, one can see the style as being a uniform in a good way. Just as people often dress their children in the same outfit, so do they wear an outfit that identifies them with a particular group. IT IS A UNIFORM FOR A CLUB THAT IT IS AN HONOR TO BE IN.

  75. Liz Frier says:

    The store looks to me like A to Z, a popular discount store and the girls are shopping for Purim.

  76. Judy Appell says:

    i love where you said that G-d made the world in so many colors… great point!

  77. Janet Groom Carroll says:

    I liked your comments Janet.

  78. Gaby Tzan says:

    Janet Yofi…….

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