Dear Dr. Yael,
I don’t really have a major family issue or psychological problem, however, I do have some questions and observations, which when I bring up to either my wife or other female acquaintances, I am subjected to the all-familiar eye-roll and headshake.
My questions all stem from one basic one: Who wrote the rules and regulations for acceptable clothes for heimishe Jewish women?
Case #1: My wife and I are enjoying lunch in a local restaurant when a woman walks in dressed in a loose-fitting long-sleeve hoodie and a calf-length denim skirt. My wife stares in shock and exclaims, “I know her – I can’t believe how modern/bummie she’s dressed!” I turn around and ask what’s wrong with what she’s wearing? In response I get “Look,” and “She’s wearing a denim skirt!” I frown and ask, “Is there a shatnes problem with denim?”
The eye-roll and headshake take place.
A few minutes later, another woman walks in wearing a tight form-fitting t-shirt, and a narrow hip hugging knee-length straight skirt. The t-shirt ends right at the base of the skirt, so that when she lifts her hand to wave to my wife, a quick flash of midriff is exposed. After a short introduction and some small talk, the woman leaves to place her order. I exclaim, “I know her family and can’t believe how modern/bummie she’s dressed!” My wife turns and asks, “What’s wrong with what she’s wearing?
Again I’m subjected to the eye-roll and headshake.
Case #2: For the summer, we are in what we call the chasidishe/heimishe crowd (not to be confused with the “Heymishe” crowd).
One Friday afternoon, on our weekly trek to Walmart, my wife points to one of the non-“heimishe” people and states that there should be a rule that women not be allowed to go out without socks. I happen to agree with her. Looking down and pointing to my wife’s stocking feet, I ask, how the woman’s bare legs are different from her see-through stockings? I continue by pointing out that she wouldn’t wear a top, or a skirt from such see-through material, so why are her legs any more “tzniusdik” then the other woman?
There go the eye-roll and headshake.
Case #3: It’s Pesach time and once again my girls are hitting the stores and burning up the credit cards. Of their many purchases l’kavod Yom Tov are new Shabbos robes.
Now, these robes are subject to some very mysterious rules.
Personally, I like them (the robes not the rules), and consider them very Shabbosdik or Yom Tovdik, however, for some reason when the girls wear these robes to the Shabbos/Yom Tov table, they are not considered “dressed.” A rule, by the way, that only applies to day meals. For some reason, robes are considered proper attire for night meals.
Another interesting rule is, that you can’t go anywhere Shabbos day in a robe. If you happen to see a women outside in a robe, that means she probably lives on the block, and thus, is permitted to be seen on the street with a robe.
I, of course questioned my wife about this. Why can’t she walk with a robe and, if someone were to see her, they would assume she lived close by?
There go the eye-roll and headshake.
Obviously, based on the exasperated looks I get from my wife (not to mention the reaction to my writing this letter) there must be a very simple explanation.
Please enlighten me!
Thank you for your entertaining letter. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability, however, let’s make it a pact to stop labeling people and worrying about what others are wearing. I am not saying that we should forego halacha or our own minhagim, but should we be pointing at others and speaking lashon hara about them? We just spent Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur davening for forgiveness for all of the things we did wrong and for all the lashon hara we spoke. So, lets focus on ourselves and how to be the best people we can be.
I will attempt to address your questions to the best of my ability in the way I believe the yeshivish world feels, readers, please correct me if I am mistaken. Keep in mind that I am not a rav and cannot answer halacha questions.
Regarding denim, I believe that some people see jean material as not yeshivish and inappropriate for men and women. As to the long skirts, it’s a “shlumpy” look and that bothers some people. Wearing a robe is related to this concept as well. A robe may look like a gown at times, but it is not considered clothing. Thus, if one wants to look “put together,” she will not wear a robe when walking far distances.
As far as I know, wearing socks is a minhag hamakom, which means that it depends on the community you live in. Of course, we can always be more machmir if we like. Wearing stockings, even nude ones, are considered acceptable as long as when a woman looks closely, she can tell that the other woman is wearing stockings. We women are pretty adept at this task, so generally this is not an issue. There are certain sects of chassidim who agree with you, though, and in those communities the women wear stockings with seams – or only black stockings.
I hope this has cleared up some of your confusion. Hatzlocha!