We Won’t Disappear

There has been a recent trend among many “frum” publications and institutions in which women are not seen. The publications won’t use photos of women or girls. If there’s a story involving women, they might use photos of the men involved but nothing of the women. Or they might blur or pixilate the woman’s face. Or they might photoshop the women and girls in some way. I recently saw an ad via social media that was supposedly for children’s clothing, but they removed the face of the girl and replaced it with a doll face. That goes beyond disrespectful all the way to creepy. The institutions might advertise fundraising events in which women are honored, but only the men are displayed. Or they might advertise their services and while they’ll show the male professionals, they won’t show the female professionals.

 Of course, all of this is done in the name of tzniut. As if we women are not supposed to be seen because the men can’t control themselves.

 The truth is that there is NOTHING tzniut about erasing women from view.

One of the main points of tzniut is that men and women deserve to be seen as people and not as sexual objects. By erasing women from view, even when they are dressed b’tzniut, they are only hypersexualizing women and turning us into sexual objects. That’s the exact opposite of tzniut.

 Plus, tzniut is just as incumbent on men as it is on women. Erasing women only puts the onus further on the women. That is, the men are fobbing their responsibility off on the women. Not good at all.

One of our responsibilities as Jews is to be an Ohr LaGoyim and bring good values and teachings into the world. When we make Torah and mitzvot look bad in some way, it’s a Chillul Hashem. There’s a very prevalent belief in the secular world that Torah Judaism is sexist/biased against women. Erasing women from view only perpetuates that myth and thus is a Chillul Hashem.

 I am proud to be part of a group of people- women and men- who are trying to raise awareness of this. Recently, my friend Merri came up with an idea. Every day until Shavuot, she’s posting selfies with the hashtag of #Iwontdisappear. My friend Ann suggested adding the hashtag of #frumwomenhavefaces and that was well-received. Shavuot is when we celebrate receiving the Torah and mitzvot, including the mitzvah of TRUE tzniut which demands that we women be seen. I myself have been doing this. I don’t want my daughter or my niece to ever feel that they have to hide themselves over someone else’s misguided idea of tzniut.  

Making cholent

In honor of Rosh Chodesh Sivan, I’m adding this post.

Sunday day and eveningOn Shavuot, we’re supposed to be celebrating Torah and mitzvot. Let’s celebrate the mitzvah of tzniut (among others) by showing our real selves and not letting ourselves be erased.

#Iwontdisappear

#frumwomenhavefaces

Tummy or No Tummy

Someone on my social media feed asked about how to dress a tummy so it’s not obvious. Here’s my answer.

First, you need not be ashamed of a tummy. Most women have one. I have a bit of tummy myself. Plus, I have a curve in my lower back that makes my tummy protrude. There’s nothing wrong with having a tummy.

Second, while you need not be ashamed, you just don’t want your tummy to be the first thing people notice about you. The good news is that camouflaging a tummy is not difficult.

Many women make the mistake of trying to hide their tummies under larger tops. The problem is that no one is fooled by that. Everyone knows that you’re wearing the larger top because there’s something large underneath.

Dressing a tummy the most flattering way is counterintuitive. The best way to go is with fitted tops that play up the shoulders and chest and make the waist and tummy appear smaller. The best tops for that are structured tops like jackets and button-down shirts. The fitted versions have a shape built in that gives you the shape you want.

However, less-structured tops can also work as long as they’re fitted. I love cardigans, wrap tops, and mock wrap tops.

skirt with layered tops

Your bottoms count too. A-line skirts are universally flattering and work beautifully with fitted tops to give you some feminine curves on the bottom and make the waist and tummy appear smaller by comparison. But straight skirts can work just as well as long as they fit well, are smooth on top, and are not too narrow or short. This is one of my “yea Tzniut” things. A shorter skirt that exposes the entire knee actually breaks the line of the leg, truncating the bottom half and making the torso appear larger by comparison. Not that you need to wear maxi skirts like I do. Maxi skirts do flatter some women, but not all. JBTK (just-below-the-knee) does work for everyone and it works here too.

When pairing tops and skirts, always try to go monochromatic. That means one color head-to-toe. That look gives you one long line that makes you appear taller and slimmer and makes most issues, including a tummy, less noticeable. While one color does work, you can also wear two colors as long as they’re the same value (lightness or darkness). A dark brown top with a navy skirt (as seen above) gives you that one long line (and yes, brown and navy do go together). A lighter top with a lighter skirt (as seen above) does the same thing.

Are there dresses that flatter a tummy? Absolutely yes. In fact, dresses are perfect for a tummy because they go from top to bottom without any break in the middle. That long line makes the tummy less noticeable.

Tummy- dress

An A-line dress with princess seams (seams running down the chest and down the skirt) flatters everyone, but even a dress with a defined horizontal waistline can work as long as that definition is subtle and doesn’t break the line. Of course, it has to fit properly.

A smaller trick that works is to use accessories. You can use these to draw attention away from the tummy. My favorite trick is a dark base outfit with a long colorful oblong scarf draped in front. The scarf draws attention to my face while obscuring my tummy. I particularly loved this trick when I was in the first trimester and didn’t want to announce anything. But this isn’t the only trick. A great necklace OR dramatic earrings also draw attention upward. If you cover your hair and you like non-shaytl coverings, you can use that. I love my colored and printed mitpachot, but you can also use hats and berets. I also love the trick of wearing colorful shoes, but I think it’s best if you balance this with a fun accessory near your face.

Perhaps most important is what lies beneath. No matter what kind of body you have, you have to have the exact right underwear. In the case of a tummy, you absolutely need the right bra. If your “girls” are not properly supported and on your chest, they’ll just add bulk on the torso. I’m sure some readers are expecting me to say that you need a shapewear smoother for the tummy. I won’t say it’s strictly necessary, especially if you wear the right clothes, but it can help. I wear one myself. Whether it’s a bra or a shapewear piece, it has to fit you properly and give you the effect you need. Take advantage of fitting services (they’re free) and try things on and see what works best for you. And don’t be afraid of discomfort. When these things fit properly, you won’t even notice them.

One more thing that works: good posture. Your mother may have told you many times to stand up straight or to sit up straight. She was right. When you allow your shoulders to relax backwards, it will push your chest out a bit but it will also pull in your waist and tummy.

No, you must never be ashamed of a tummy. If you dress it just right, people will notice your face and smile and personality. Love that.

Weeding and Swapping

I know that many of us are focused on getting ready for Pesach. Most of that involves cleaning our homes and shopping for Pesach food. But it’s also a good time to go through your wardrobe. Warmer weather is coming and you want your wardrobe to be ready.

Go through your closets first and then your drawers. Examine each item.

  • If the item is clean and intact and it fits you and flatters you, it goes back into your wardrobe.
  • If the item fits and flatters you but isn’t 100% clean, it goes into either your laundry hamper or a separate bag to go to the dry cleaner.
  • If the item flatters you otherwise but needs a tweak to fit perfectly or has a small rip or tear that can be fixed, it goes into a pile for either your sewing machine or your tailor depending on what you can do.
  • If the item is clean and intact but doesn’t flatter, it goes into a giveaway pile. If it has a major designer label, you can sell it, but otherwise, you can give it away to your relative, friend, or local gemach or clothing drive.
  • If the item is stained and/or torn beyond repair, it goes into either the rag bag, trash, or cloth recycling (if your area has that).
  • If the item is clean, intact, and flatters you, but you aren’t sure what to do with it, it goes into a maybe pile.

Closet- tops

Once you have your piles, you need to work with your maybe pile. Try on those items with different items from your keeper pieces. Try different accessories and see what you can do. You may come up with some great “new” outfits.

Once you know what you’re going to do with each item, start putting things away and taking care of everything. Get your laundry and sewing repairs done. Take things to the tailor and dry cleaner as needed. Get rid of the trash items. If you have a relative or friend who could use your giveaway items, invite those people over to look and take what they might need. The rest, bring to the gemach.

One absolute rule here: If you’re going to give anything away, it must be clean, intact, and wearable. It’s terribly demoralizing for people to get clothes only to find that the things are not wearable. Whether it’s your relative, friend, or gemach, these places are not dumping grounds for your trash.

One other thing you can do is participate in a clothing swap. It works like this: a bunch of women get together with their giveaway items. The host sorts the items into categories. The women browse through the items, try on different things, and take what they like. Some hosts do this for free while others charge a nominal fee, but the clothes and accessories are otherwise free. It’s a very smart idea because you can get new items or even new outfits without spending more than the fee. And you also get a decluttered wardrobe and that’s worth a lot.

If you start now, you may be surprised at what you have in your wardrobe that you can use. But even if you just get rid of a bunch of things, you’ll still have less clutter and that makes a huge difference.

Closet- skirts

Hi everyone. I’m hosting a clothing swap in Queens this coming Sunday, April 7th, from 2:30 pm- 5:30 pm. If you’re in the area and you’re interested, e-mail me at mesatik@gmail.com and I’ll give you further details.

Clothing that Gladdens the Heart

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook featuring a bunch of photos of older adults wearing a lot of fun, youthful, colorful clothing. There are those who think it’s wonderful that these people have the confidence to wear clothing items that “gladden the heart” as my friend put it. However, the way they wore the items was all wrong and showed a LACK of confidence. Of course you want to show off your good health and energy, but your age, life experience, and wisdom are all part of who you are and they don’t deserve to be ignored.

There’s nothing wrong with adults wearing fun clothing that gladdens the heart. But as grown-ups, we have to do it the right way.

 

Here I am in my Purim costume wearing a bunch of Bohemian items for a hippie look. Wearing them all together makes me look like the crazy cat lady. Not good.

So what is the right way?

First thing is to consider flattery. If an item doesn’t make you appear healthy, active, and vital, then it won’t work. After all, the whole point is to celebrate your good health and energy.

The second thing is to be strategic and wear the fun items only one or two at a time in ways that allow them to shine against a simple, sleek background. I took apart the elements of my crazy cat lady look and here you can see them in ways that do work.

 

That fun print skirt? Here it is with one solid top for summer (left) and layered solid tops for cooler weather. One pair of fun dangly earrings and solid mitpachot add just enough interest on top without competing with the skirt.

 

That crocheted cardigan? Here it is over a solid t-shirt and solid straight skirt with the same dangly earrings and mitpachot. The cardigan is loose, but by putting it with these straight, fitted separates, my figure doesn’t get lost. By the way, the t-shirt is olive green and the skirt is navy. Yes, navy does go with any version of green or with any other color- it’s a classic neutral. Don’t be afraid to mix and coordinate it.

necklaces only

In my costume, I wore three separate necklaces along with the dangly earrings. Fun necklaces can look great when worn together. But here they are worn with the solid t-shirt and small earrings. Here, they can shine without anything else competing with them.

In all of these “good” photos, I’m wearing two solid mitpachot in a twist wrap with no tails. All of these sleeker looks can work with a tailed wrap as long as the tails are not too long. The one exception is the necklaces. Tails can snag on necklaces, so if you want tails, you’ll need to keep them shorter. And every one of these sleeker looks can work with a printed scarf as long as it’s either very subtle or layered with a solid scarf. That way, the print doesn’t compete with the other elements.

If your personal style is creative, Bohemian, edgy, or otherwise not classic and traditional, these sleeker looks allow you to wear those clothing items that gladden your heart. You can have it all here: a look that celebrates your good health and energy AND your life experience and wisdom. But if your style is classic and traditional, you need to add one or two fun items to your look. The last thing you want is to appear old and miserable. One or two fun, colorful items at a time as accents to a sleek and simple outfit will celebrate your health and energy and make you feel good without sacrificing your wisdom and timelessness.

Can grown-ups wear fun, youthful, colorful clothing that gladdens the heart and look good in it? Absolutely yes. Just do it the right way and make sure you’re not hiding any part of you in the process.

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.