Tichels vs. Shaytls- Both Attractive

          When I was a girl, as far as I knew, if you covered your hair after marriage, you only had two options. If you wanted to look good, you wore shaytls. If you didn’t need to look good, you wore tichels. Those tichels were small triangles tied over the hair. They weren’t ugly, but they weren’t exactly pretty either. During my growing-up years, the world of hair covering expanded. Hats, berets, snoods, and mitpachot came out. Technically, “mitpachot” is the Hebrew word for headscarves while “tichels” is the Yiddish word, but to me, they connote different things. Those mitpachot were larger, softer, more versatile, and came in a wider array of beautiful colors and prints. And in more recent times, thanks to Wrapunzel, Royal Head Covers, Keter HaYofi Mitpachot, and others, mitpachot have become even more varied and versatile and beautiful. Over all this time, shaytls improved in their quality and now they look better than ever.

           Nowadays, there are tons of options for hair covering. Women can cover their hair AND look great AND express their personal style. I agree that this is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, there are still those who refer to a shaytl as the attractive option while referring to a tichel as what you wear when you’re wearing something ratty or sloppy or unattractive. My reaction when I hear this is “EXCUSE ME?! I resent that!”

           Most halachic authorities agree that the shaytl is an acceptable form of head covering. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson z”tl went further and encouraged the wearing of shaytls. One of his reasons was that women would feel more attractive and less conspicuous in shaytls. On the other hand, Rav Ovadia Yosef z”tl was against shaytls because they looked like hair and therefore missed the whole point. I’m not a Rav, so I can’t poskin for any of you. But I can offer you some advice from my standpoint.

           When it comes to looking attractive, it is NOT tichels/mitpachot vs. shaytls. The only question is for the individual woman- “which head covering will make me look and feel my best?” Most women do look and feel their best in a shaytl, especially for work (where they want to look professional) and special events (where they want to look extra special). But there are those out there, myself included, who are not comfortable in a shaytl and prefer hats, berets, or mitpachot. It happens that mitpachot make me look and feel my best and so I stick with those.  

            Here I am wearing mitpachot for two special events where I wanted to look my best. The outfit on the left got me a wonderful compliment when my friend called me a “glamourpuss.” 

Every woman needs to find methods of hair covering that leave her looking and feeling her best. Hair covering is a very deeply personal mitzvah and if the woman doesn’t find the methods that work well for her, she’s going to resent it. I use the plural form because no woman should be limited to one method of covering, especially when there are so many good options available. One of my headwrapping friends is a writer and speaker and she told me that sometimes her mitpachot are perfect and sometimes her shaytl is perfect, so she uses one or the other depending on what she feels will work best for the audience.

           As a stylist, I can tell you that most hats and berets are flattering. And they come in a lot of styles so you can find the ones that work well for you. Mitpachot can be flattering when wrapped the right ways. I prefer height on the top and either no tails or tails off to one side. I used to think that tails were unflattering, but I’ve since changed my mind and I even wear tails sometimes. But I still feel that tails are more flattering when they’re on one side and not on both sides. Tails on one side give an asymmetrical look that adds interest.

Here I am wearing the same scarf with different sides showing and different styles. Versatility makes a huge difference.

Most snoods and pre-tieds are not flattering. Beret snoods, which come off more like loose berets, do look fine for most situations although I wouldn’t recommend them for special events even if they’re fancy and embellished. Pre-tieds are fine if the tails are long enough to wrap over the head, but otherwise, they sit too flat.

        While I myself do not wear a shaytl because it’s just not my style, I do believe that shaytls are a terrific option for women who are comfortable in them. The only reason that I would tell a woman to not wear a shaytl would be if that shaytl was messy or unflattering. And in those instances, I would advise her to bring it to her shaytlmacher and get it fixed so that she can look great in it.

The point is that it’s not a matter of attractive clothes + shaytl vs. unattractive clothes + tichel. It’s a matter of attractive clothes + attractive head covering vs. unattractive clothes + unattractive head covering. And it’s always better to go the attractive route whether it’s a mitpachat or a shaytl.

Stay Warm and Stay Safe

I do not like winter. I don’t like having to bundle up in a million layers to go out and then peel off those layers indoors only to have to put them on again (I feel like an onion). I don’t like having to wear boots to keep my feet warm. I just don’t like this cold weather.

That said, there are things we can do to make winter a little easier.

First is making sure that your outerwear does the job.

I may be a die-hard fashionista, but I’m also a strict practicalist when it comes to outerwear. If a coat or boots do not keep you warm, then it doesn’t matter how nice they look. It’s fine to keep them if they flatter you, but for winter weather, you need coats and boots that will protect you from the elements and keep you warm and dry and safe.

Despite what other fashion gurus might say, I don’t think you need a whole wardrobe of coats or boots. You need a trench coat for mild and cool weather and a winter coat for the cold. It’s better if both of these are in a refined style that flatters you, but again, the priority is protection from the elements. Most trench coats do the job with serious style to the point that every fashion guru agrees that they’re a staple. And I do agree with that one. But with winter coats, they have to keep you warm.

When shopping for a winter coat, make sure you’re either wearing layers or that you bring an extra layer with you so that you can see how the coat fits over layers. It’s OK if the coat is slightly bigger than your regular clothes as long as it’s not too overwhelming. It’s also best if the coat falls no shorter than just below the rear but not longer than the knee. A shorter coat may not protect you as needed and a longer coat is more cumbersome for movement and more easily stained.

I’ve heard that down coats are warmer than wool, but I’ve worn both kinds and I’ve found no noticeable difference in warmth. But I have found a difference with water. Wool resists water better so it works better in rainy or snowy weather. If you find that a down coat works better for you, then go for it.

Color is the fun part as always. A neutral will go with everything, but a bright color will brighten up the winter doldrums. It’s really up to you. Many years ago, I was at a rummage sale and I got a wool coat with bright blocks of color all over. That coat was fun to wear and lasted several years before it wore out.

You don’t need a lot of boots either. You only need one pair of serious winter boots that keep your feet warm and dry. These boots are not likely to be pretty or attractive on your feet, but frozen wet feet are far worse.

my winter boots

These women’s boots are the ones I just got from Payless and they’re doing the job. If need be, look at men’s boots- there are usually waterproof boots there.  Once your budget allows, your next pair of boots should be clean, neat, refined, and water-resistant. These are the boots you wear when it’s cold out but dry and you want to keep your feet warm while still looking good. When shopping for boots, always try them on with the kind of thick socks that you’ll be wearing underneath them. You must have enough room to wiggle your toes freely.

Second is making sure that what’s under your coat and boots keeps you warm AND makes you look and feel good. This is where attractiveness comes back into play.

Of course, layering is great. In fact, 2-3 thin layers keep you warmer than one heavy layer and are more flattering and attractive. One big heavy sweater adds bulk, but a combination of shell, overtop, and jacket or cardigan looks better and keeps you warmer. Go ahead and play around and see what combinations work best. Make sure that at least one of those items is in a bright color that flatters you. This will not only make you look better, but it will brighten the outfit and make it less boring. However, you must not wear more than 3 layers under your coat. Not only is that too bulky to be attractive, but it will restrict your movement and that could be dangerous when it’s cold.

Under your skirt, a combination of hose and tights may be enough. If it’s colder than that, go ahead and add leggings. Make sure everything fits closely- baggy leggings or pants won’t keep you warm enough and will just look bulky under your skirt. Add socks with your boots. But be careful and make sure that you can wiggle your toes freely under your hose, tights, and socks. If things are so tight that you can’t wiggle your toes, that means that circulation is restricted and that could lead to frostbite.

meira bundled for winter

Finally, there are the smaller details. Wear something on your head to keep you warm there and cover your ears. Earmuffs are good and so are winter scarves (like what I’m wearing above). If you’re wearing a beret or mitpachot, use those for ear cover as well. I love turban-style wraps because they cover my ears comfortably in winter. Make sure you apply lip balm and light moisturizer to prevent chapping. If you need a winter scarf for your neck, wear it. If it’s really freezing, you may need to wrap it over your mouth and nose. Gloves may allow more movement, but mittens keep your hands warmer.

If it’s dangerously cold outside, it’s best to stay indoors, but if you have to go out, be careful and bundle up properly. Stay warm and stay safe.

Colors- Are They Tzniut?

The issue of colors and tzniut has come up on my social media feed several times. There are communities that follow a chumra that bright colors are inappropriate for tzniut because they attract attention. I give them full credit for acknowledging that this is a chumra and not halacha. But now I’m offering my take on it.

Are colors tzniut? Yes, they are, as long as you wear them the right way.

What’s the right way?

The first part of that involves flattery. If a color flatters you, then you may wear it pretty much any way you like. True tzniut demands that we look attractive and that means that a flattering color is appropriate for tzniut. If a color doesn’t flatter you, then it’s best to avoid it, but if you love it, it’s OK to wear it as long as you wear a flattering color near your face.

The second part involves how far you should go with color. There are two basic ways to go. You could wear a neutral base outfit with a pop of color near your face or you could wear a good color head-to-toe.

The neutral base plus pop is universally flattering. No matter what you like or dislike about your body, if you’re wearing a neutral base outfit, you won’t draw attention there. And if you add your pop of color near your face, you’ll draw attention away from your body and onto your face where your personality can take over. This formula is also universally appropriate. If you’re attending an event in a community that frowns on bright colors, this is a way to wear color without ruffling too many feathers. If you’re attending any event as a guest, even in more liberal communities, this formula allows you to look festive and happy without upstaging the hosts or the guests of honor. If you’re at work and you need to come off smart and focused, this formula allows you to do that without hiding your personality.

Here I am wearing neutral bases with pops of color. These looks are great when you don’t want to upstage anyone.

Having said all of that, the neutral base does require that pop of color for flattery and energy. A totally neutral outfit can look boring. If you’re in your 40’s or older, it could be aging. And if you’re not feeling well, physically or psychologically, neutrals won’t help you feel better. A great pop of color adds interest and energy to an outfit, flatters the wearer, and makes you feel good from the outside inward.

Where should you put that pop of color? I love a fun colored pair of shoes or a colored bag as much as the next girlie girl and there’s nothing wrong with either of those. But a pop of color near the face is universally flattering. And in most situations, you want the attention near your face so that people will look you in the face and pay attention to who you are and what you have to offer.

You could do a neutral skirt with a neutral overtop and add a colored shell. Or you could do a neutral skirt with a neutral shell and add a colored overtop. You could do your neutral base and drape a colored scarf around your neck and on your torso. Or you could add great jewelry. One showstopper piece is always a fun way to go and nothing dresses up an outfit better. If you’re married and you’re wearing a non-shaytl hair covering, you may want to use that as a pop of color. There are so many great options, so try what you like.

Then there’s the bright color head-to-toe option. This one is trickier and it’s not for the faint of heart. First, not only does the color have to flatter, but the fabric and style and details of the outfit have to flatter you. Remember that bright colors do draw attention and that if the base outfit doesn’t fit and flatter you properly, it will be much more noticeable. Second, the fact that it draws attention is an issue. Maybe your personal style is more subtle and you don’t want to be in the spotlight. Or maybe you’re going to an event in a community that frowns on bright colors and you don’t want to rock that boat.

However, a brightly colored base outfit is an option.

A dress in a bright color can make you look festive for an event. Or a more casual skirt-and-top outfit in fun colors can be just what you need to feel good even while just running errands. And if bright colors suit your style, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Are colors tzniut-appropriate? Yes. Just wear them the right way for you.

Day Into Evening

The day-into-evening issue is routinely addressed by fashion gurus. It’s what happens when you have one thing during the day, such as work, and then an event in the evening and you don’t have time to change your look completely. This usually does not refer to a basketball game in the daytime and your sister’s wedding in the evening. Those take you from one extreme (casual) to the other (formal) and you’re more likely to make whatever time you need to change completely and be ready. With the day-into-evening issue, you’re usually dealing with two things that require some polish. The good news is that with a little strategy, it’s not difficult at all.

There was one Sunday when I had to go to a high school open house in the morning and then to two engagement parties later. The open house was dressy casual while the engagement parties were more formal.

 

My strategy was to use a black base and then add color. I wore a black skirt with a black shell as the base and then added a cardigan and mitpachat and jewelry for color. For the open house, I used olive green as my color. I chose a very simple wrap style in olive that actually matched my cardigan. Olive green is a color found in my irises, so it has a softer effect while still giving me polish. For the parties, I just switched to teal as my color- teal cardigan and teal mitpachat (same wrap style). Teal is a more dramatic color on me and it comes off more dressy so it works better for special events. My crystal drop earrings added fun sparkle to both outfits.

This idea of a neutral base plus color is the easiest way to take any outfit from day to evening. Black is the easiest neutral for a base, but other dark neutrals like navy and charcoal work great too. So do the lighter neutrals like beige, ivory, and white. Just avoid midtones because those don’t come off dressy. Remember that it’s always better to appear slightly overdressed than underdressed. Once you have your base, just use colored accents to take it in the direction you want. If you’re wearing a non-shaytl head covering, you can do that in a color as I did. You might choose to use your skirt and overtop as your base and add color with shell and that’s fine too.

Jewelry dresses up any outfit and it works best when you do it in a color. You could use smaller jewelry for the casual look and then change into a showstopper piece for the more formal look. Or you could do what I did and wear one showstopper piece for everything.

The two occasions should both be somewhat dressy, but they don’t have to be that close. Just recently, I had to go to my niece’s birthday party (casual end of dressy casual) in the morning and then go to a wedding in the late afternoon.

My strategy here wasn’t all that different. I wore a black shell with a dark denim skirt for the birthday party and added olive accents (can you tell that I love olive green). For the wedding, I just changed into my emerald green dress and switched to a darker green mitpachat with sequins and wrapped it in a more dressy style. My peach/pink/purple chandelier earrings contrasted with the green and worked for both events.

If you’re wearing hair (your own or a shaytl) and it’s in a color and style that flatter you, you could just wear it that way through both events. Or you might choose to wear a simple style during the day and dress it up for night. Just do the opposite of the daytime look and you’re fine.

For makeup, do what I did. For the daytime look, do no more than a basic face. Even out your skin, conceal as needed, define your eyes, and add subtle color to cheeks and lips. For nighttime, pick ONE feature to play up and add something extra. I added smoky eye shadow, but you could do a bright lip color or extra blush and bronzer. Just don’t play up more than one feature or you’ll look overdone.

Remember that if you approach the day-into-evening issue with some strategy, you’ll look great for both. Breathe and relax. You can do this.

To Shop or Not to Shop?

My family and I recently hosted our son’s bar-mitzvah party. As part of the preparation, I had to make sure that we were all dressed properly. One of our friends was a little dismayed to hear that I had no intention of shopping for a new outfit for myself. “You deserve something new.” I don’t agree. What I deserved was to wear something pretty, flattering, and appropriate that made me feel great. And I didn’t have to shop the stores for that.

Most women are in the mindset that they have to shop for a new outfit when they have a special event happening. This is especially so if they’re hosting it. But should they shop the stores and buy something new? The answer is not an unequivocal no.

First, you have to have the money for something new. That may sound like a given, but there it is. If your original budget didn’t include a new outfit for yourself, it’s OK to redo the budget to allow for a new outfit. But if you honestly don’t have the money for a new outfit, you’ll need to work with what you already have…

Second, money or no money, if you haven’t shopped your wardrobe and weeded it out within the past six months, you shouldn’t be shopping for new clothes at all. You need to know exactly what you have and where everything is. And you need to make sure that every item has been assessed for its value in your wardrobe. If the item fits you, flatters you, and is in good condition, then it stays in your wardrobe. If the item simply needs cleaning, repair, or a tweak for a perfect fit, then set it aside and get it fixed right away. If the item is noticeably too big or too small, or if it doesn’t flatter your body, but it’s in good condition, set it aside for sale or swap or donation. If the item is irreparably stained or torn, then it goes into the rag bag or the trash.

Once you have your keepers in place, try them on in different combinations and with different accessories. You will likely find “new” outfits right there that work great and give your look new life. And you have the satisfaction of an outfit that comes from your own effort and creativity and that didn’t cost you any extra money. I admit that I feel better wearing a “new” outfit from my own wardrobe that I ever do wearing something new.

Here are two outfits that I wore for my son’s bar-mitzvah weekend. Both of these outfits were items from my wardrobe worn in new combinations. I had worn the print dress and the wrap top, but never together. I had worn the black skirt with the black cardigan and coral shell, but never with the teal chandelier earrings. And my coral Waterfall Twist wrap was a wrap style that I had never worn before, but I did it with three of my own scarves.

I gave a list of items for a “capsule wardrobe” that every woman should have as her base. One of those items is a BBO- Basic Black Outfit. It could be a dress or a skirt-and-top outfit, but it’s in a refined fabric and it fits and flatters to perfection. This is your go-to outfit for any special event. It’s appropriate, but it’s not overtly memorable, so all you have to do is change up the accessories and you get tons of new outfits. Even if you buy a few new accessories for your BBO, it still gets you new outfits for a fraction of the price of a new base outfit.

Having said all of that, if you’ve shopped your wardrobe and you’ve weeded out everything you don’t need and you have the money and you want to shop the stores and buy a new outfit for a special event, then go ahead and do that. Just be smart about it. Remember that anything new has to fit you, flatter your body, and reflect your personal style. If it doesn’t do all of that, then it’s not worth the money even if it’s on sale and massively inexpensive.

Whether your special event outfit is new from the stores or new from your wardrobe, you need to look and feel your best in it. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the event that much more.

Giving Thanks and Dressing Well

I love celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. I love watching the Macy’s Parade on TV- I get a great seat with a great view and I don’t have to bundle up. I love eating turkey and various sides (although I try to eat vegetables and not overdo the heavier things). I even enjoy cooking. And yes, I enjoy getting dressed for it.

So what should you wear?

I know that there are readers out there who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and I respect that even if I don’t agree with it. If you don’t celebrate, just wear what you would wear on a Thursday. If you’re going to work, wear your work clothes. If you’re staying home and running errands and doing chores, then dress for weekday casual. But even if you’re not dressing for the holiday, you still need to dress for you. So don’t get sloppy. Even if you’re wearing a jeans skirt and top, keep them fitted and flattering. Make sure there’s a pretty color near your face.

For those of us who do celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s an American holiday, so I love the all-American look of denim. And since this isn’t a major Yom Tov, it’s OK to dress dressy-casual and denim is perfect for that. Go for dark denim with an even wash and make sure it’s clean, neat, and in a shape that flatters you.

I prefer a skirt, but a denim dress works great too.

For a skirt, pair it with a fitted top in a pretty color in the same value as the skirt- that gives you one long line which elongates and flatters the body. If you live in a colder climate (the weather forecast for NYC for this Thanksgiving says to expect a high below freezing), then wear layered tops. Go for 2-3 lightweight tops- they’ll keep you warmer than 1 heavy layer. Make sure that one of the tops is in a pretty, flattering color.

If you’re going to be at home, it’s OK to just wear comfy flats or even sneakers, especially if you’re doing chores or cooking. If you plan to be outdoors, make sure you have appropriate footwear for the weather.

 

Accessories can give you a great pop of color and make your outfit look special. But if you expect to do chores or cook, avoid necklaces and draped oblongs because those will get in your way.

purple blue aqua bead and chain chandelier earrings

Earrings are easiest.

No matter what, remember to brush your teeth, wash your face, and apply lip balm and light moisturizer. If you want to wear makeup, keep it to a minimum. Just even out your skin, conceal as needed, define your eyes, and add subtle color to cheeks and lips. Do not go beyond that.

If you’re wearing your own hair, keep it simple and wear it the way you’d wear it most days. If you’re doing chores or cooking, remember to pull it back so that it’s out of the way. Same thing if you’re wearing a shaytl. If you’re wearing a non-shaytl covering, then hats, berets, and mitpachot are best. Avoid snoods and pre-tieds- they’re not flattering unless the snood is a beret-snood or the pre-tied has tails that are long enough to wrap over the top of your head. And speaking of that, if you’re doing chores or cooking and you’re wearing mitpachot, then tuck those tails out of the way. Even if tails flatter you otherwise, you must tuck them away during chores or cooking for safety reasons.

When you’re dressed just right, it’s actually easier to relax and enjoy the celebrations. Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate and Happy Thursday to everyone else.

Capsule Wardrobe

Every woman needs to have certain clothing items in her wardrobe. No, she

doesn’t have to have everything in the world, but she needs a group of basic

items on which to build. In fashion-speak, we call this a “capsule wardrobe.”

Once you have these items, you can build all the outfits you need until your

budget allows for more. And most of these items are available at every price

point, so you don’t need to go crazy. Here they are:

  • The right underwear- if you aren’t getting the right fit, coverage, shaping, and support, then you may need to spend extra money. Not getting this right is bad for the spirit of tzniut (it makes you look bad even when the clothes are otherwise right), the letter of tzniut (it allows people to see things that they’re not supposed to see- trust me on this one), and your health (inadequate support can lead to back problems among other things). The right basic panties can often be found cheap, but the right bra may cost extra money depending on the size and amount of support you need.
  • 1 Shabbat/work suit- jacket and skirt, black or other dark neutral, multi seasonal, appropriate for work and Shabbat. Remember to pull these apart and wear each piece with other things.
  • 2 dark neutral skirts for work and Shabbat.
  • 1 neutral skirt for casual (keep it refined, so that you can wear it for casual workdays).
  • 3 fitted button-down shirts- 2 dark neutral, the third in a flattering color.
  • 4 basic tops or t-shirts- 2 classic neutral, the others in flattering colors that you like.

purple t-shirt

  • One BBD (basic black dress) or BBST (basic black skirt and top) for special occasions. If you don’t like black for whatever reason, go with another dark neutral.
  • The three basic shoes- 1 pair of black pumps or slingbacks, 1 pair of dark neutral flats/loafers, and 1 pair of neutral open-toe sandals, slides, or flip-flops (this pair should be cloth so that you can wear them on Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av).
  • One basic neutral pocketbook. Make sure it’s a refined shape that you can use for work.
  • 1 dark neutral hat or beret (for married women).
  • Outerwear- one neutral winter coat (if your climate calls for it), one trench coat, one pair of black basic boots, and one pair of waterproof boots (if your climate calls for it).

 

Notice that almost all of these basic items are in dark neutral colors. That’s no mistake. Dark neutral colors are the least memorable, so you can wear them over and over again as needed and just change the look with accessories. Dark neutrals are also slimming (dark colors recede) and they go with everything, so they’re versatile.

No matter what, all of these items have to fit you and flatter your figure. A good fit means that each item falls where it’s supposed to fall; doesn’t bunch, pull, or sag; and has details that lie flat against your body. As for flattery, that depends on the individual woman and her own body. For example, if you have a larger bottom half, you’ll likely want to stick with A-line skirts. If you happen to be blessed with a turtleneck neck (long, slim, firm neck combined with a firm, strong jawline), then at least one of your basic tops should be a turtleneck. Most of us do not have a turtleneck neck (myself included), so we need to avoid that.

When building your wardrobe, start with these and then build on them as your budget allows. Until your budget does allow, play around with these items and see what you can create.