Monday, June 20, 2011

The Tzniut Project 18: "Refined Character Clothed Accordingly"

This is the eighteenth in a multi-part series called The Tzniut Project. Women from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of observances have volunteered to anonymously answer questions that I have written about their practices, people's assumptions, and more. For more information on origins the project, click here. Please continue to check back with The Tzniut Project to read more stories and comment abundantly!

Note: This post is contributed by a reader. I did include a comment, if only for posterity's sake!

1. How do you affiliate Jewishly? Feel free to elaborate on the words people use to describe you and the words you use to describe yourself.
Traditional Orthodox. If forced to pinpoint it further, Litvish/Yeshivish.

2. Growing up, did your mother or grandmother dress modestly in any way? Do you think modesty was something instilled in you by your family? Did you dress modestly growing up?
My mother grew up Conservative and dressed modestly to a degree while married to my father who grew up orthodox. When they divorced, her adherence to the laws of modesty pretty much went out the window. I went to Jewish day school and always dressed modestly, but I would wear a bikini at the beach. This is why it's important for parents to be on the same page. It's confusing for the kids. I have two brothers who are also religious and our mother looks at it as the ultimate in rebellion.

3. Are you married? How does your spouse feel about your choices for modest dress? Is it a dialogue or does your partner leave the mitzvah to you? 
I am married and my current husband has a stricter standard for modest dress than my former one. I knew this when we met based on where he's from. My ex-husband is more a Yeshiva University (modern orthodox) flavor and refused to let me cover my hair with a wig. He felt very strongly about this. Not wishing to rock the boat of shalom bayis, I went along but was never comfortable with it. I'd approach the topic occasionally, but he never relented. That's not why we divorced, but it didn't help much. When I started looking for a shidduch again, I knew the standard I'd want to keep. I live in a very yeshivish environment so there have been some adjustments to my dress since I got here. Out-of-town tznius is not the same as in-town tznius.

4. What would you wear on a typical day? On Shabbos? If you dress differently on weekdays and Shabbos, why do you make this distinction and how? 
On a typical day I wear some sort of black skirt or dark denim with a modest top and or shell. Always tasteful, nothing really out there. I have special clothes to wear to honor the Shabbos -- suits, separates, shoes. During the week I wear my wedding rings and a watch. On Shabbos I add accessories. I will run errands in a tichel during the week. On Shabbos it's always a sheitel. It's not uncommon for women in these parts to have a sheitel just for Shabbos.

5. What do you think other people infer from your clothing and hair covering choices? Has anyone ever said anything to you outright that expresses a judgment based on your appearance? (Ex: “You don’t cover your hair or wear skirts, so why do you keep kosher?”) 
I think my exterior adheres to the local standard but I'm sure I am very different from most of the women dressed like me. I am not from Brooklyn -- I would likely be more relaxed if not for the peer pressure and wanting to keep my son in good standing at his school. I also raised my level of tznius a notch to honor my husband. He finds me most attractive when I am totally tzniufied.

6. Have you ever surprised someone by dressing more or less modestly and making them rethink their stereotypes about what it means to be an observant Jew? 
I bumped into someone I knew from my old neighborhood (out of town) who I have not seen since my remarriage. She had never seen me in a sheitel and did not recognize me at all.

7. When you see someone who observes tzniut differently than you, what are your initial thoughts? How do you deal with them? 
I come from a town where not everyone covers there hair, and there are members of my husband's family who fall into this category as well. I *try* not to judge a book by its cover. My only concern is sending a consistent message of what the standard is to our child. He has observed, "That person is a yid (Jew) but doesn't know the rules about ladies not wearing pants," which is an acceptable answer to me.

8. I say modesty or tzniut … what does that mean to you? 
Refined character clothed accordingly. Honoring Hakadosh Baruch Hu by using proper speech and carrying myself as one who takes his laws seriously.

9. Anything else you’d like to add about your choices, experiences, and more!