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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.

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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.

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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. 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

  9. 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.

  10. Yasa Leah Borensztejn says:

    Colorful hippie, yup that's me!

  11. 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."

  12. Yosef Zamler says:

    They do it to dress modestly

  13. 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.

  14. Sarah Thien says:

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

  15. Aliza Feinstein says:

    Black is beautiful

  16. Shira Chana Fichtenbaum says:

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

  17. Yael Tesler says:

    supposedly attracts less attention than bright colors

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

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

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. NewAge Hasid says:

    Once you go black you never go back…

  23. 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.

  24. 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."

  25. 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."

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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."

  29. 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

  30. 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.

  31. 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

  32. Libbat Shaham says:

    Why must Jewish men wear so much black and white?

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

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