Try, Try, and Try Again… The Right Way.

Every so often, I’ll see a new wrap style worn by one of my headwrapping friends. If I like it, I’ll ask how she did it. More often than not, there’s a video tutorial so I’ll take a look and try it out. Several months ago, I tried the “lazy woman’s two-scarf veil.” I got the technique right, but while the style looked gorgeous on Olivia- who did the tutorial- and on many other women, it didn’t look right on me. It was just too big and too overwhelming next to my face. But the scarves that I used are old favorites, so I just took down the veil wrap and switched to a tried and true knot turban.

tryout and tried and true

You can see the difference- the veil wrap is so huge on me while the knot turban is dramatic without overwhelming me.

Just recently, I saw another wrap style that I liked called the “fountain of joy.” Leorah, who did the tutorial, is known for very dramatic styles. I admit that I was worried that if I wore this one, it might come off too over-the-top for me, but I decided to try it and I’m glad I did because it worked.

Over the top

Again, this is dramatic without overwhelming me.

While my examples have to do with headwrapping styles, my main point applies to just about every type of clothing. There isn’t a clothing item or accessory that isn’t worth a try. If you see something that appeals to you in some way, try it. If it’s available in a store, go to that store and try it on. If it’s only available online, you’ll need to buy it in order to try it and that means taking a chance. But if you have the money and the item can be returned, it’s likely worth that try.

Too many people talk themselves out of trying new things. They’re afraid that the new item won’t work, as in “well SHE can wear it because she’s beautiful and can wear anything but I can’t.” Or they’re afraid that it will be too strange and make them stick out like a sore thumb. I admit that I almost succumbed to that latter excuse- it’s what made me wary of the “fountain of joy” wrap. But I’m glad I didn’t succumb.

What’s the worst that can happen if you try on something new and different? You may find that it doesn’t flatter you in some way. Or maybe it’s too small and simple and disappears and does nothing for you. Or maybe it’s too dramatic and over-the-top and it’s wearing you. You know what? All you have to do is take it off. You tried it and it didn’t work. That’s all. But what if the item does work well for you? Then you have a new item in your arsenal. Of course, that means just a smidge more work because you’ll have to see how the item works with other items and create new outfits with it.

However, to minimize the work, I recommend one important thing. When you’re trying on something new, always start by trying it with a simple and neutral backdrop. If you’re trying on a new top, try it with a neutral skirt. If you’re trying a new skirt, do it with a neutral top. If you’re trying a new accessory, try it with a neutral base outfit. When I tried each of the wrap styles listed above, I was wearing simple neutral base outfits. Why do I recommend this? Because simple and neutral goes with everything. Since you know that the new item will go with the neutral item, you’ll be able to assess the new item on its own merits. You need to make sure the item works for you on its own and then see how it works with different outfits.

Let’s say you’re trying a scarf as an accessory and you try it next to a simple and neutral base outfit. If the scarf doesn’t flatter you, you’ll see that and you’ll know that it won’t be any more flattering with a more dramatic outfit. If the scarf just doesn’t do anything for you, again, you’ll know. And if it’s too over-the-top next to the neutral outfit and it takes over the whole thing, you’ll know that it will only clutter up a more dramatic outfit. By trying it on with a simple and neutral backdrop, you’ll see if the scarf or any new item works well for you.

If the new item does work for you, then you’ll have to try it with other items to see how it works and create new outfits. Maybe that new scarf looks great with your navy jacket but not so great with the brown top. Maybe it looks better with your dark green dress than with the burgundy jacket. Once you have a complete outfit, either take a picture of it or write down the elements on an index card. This way, you’ll know that this is something that works. When getting dressed, you can look through your photos or cards and pick an outfit.

Just to summarize…

  • Never be afraid to try something new if it appeals to you. If it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do is take it off and not wear it again. If it does work, you’ll have something good.
  • Always try each new item against a simple and neutral backdrop. This way, you can assess the item on its own merits and make sure it works for you. If it does work for you, then you can try it on with other items and other outfits and see how far you can go with it.

 

Play around, experiment, and have fun.

We Won’t Be Erased or Silenced

Aside from this blog, I write a column in a local Jewish newspaper about how to dress well and look good within tzniut. Three times (in two years), I have written articles for that column about the erasing of women. I (and many other women and men) agree that the policy of not using photos of women in Jewish publications and ads is harmful and dangerous. The only feedback I have seen up until now was positive.

But then came my third article. I wrote it as a shout-out to my friend Merri who came up with the hashtag of #Iwontdisappear. I shared the article on Facebook in the hope of the newspaper getting good feedback about it. I’m not sure if they got any positive feedback, but they certainly got some negative feedback. The only response printed was by the paper’s Rabbinic Consultant. He felt that while erasing women from photos is “silly,” but those publications have a right to do it. As it is, this paper has already taken a stand by using photos of women and therefore, the paper doesn’t need to publish any more articles on the subject.

There’s a part of me that’s laughing about how I’ve been promoted to chief troublemaker. But then there’s the part of me that knows how dangerous this is.

First, the policy of not using photos of women is not “silly.” It is harmful and dangerous for many reasons:

  • When even a woman’s face is considered too provocative to be seen, it turns the woman into an object. That’s the antithesis of tzniut no matter how much these publications claim it to be about tzniut.
  • It infantilizes men by implying that they cannot control themselves. B”H, I know a lot of men who are mentschen and who know how to treat others with respect and Derech Eretz. They know that it’s not my job to hide.
  • It puts the entire onus of tzniut on the women while forgetting that men are just as obligated in tzniut as the women.
  • It harms the woman’s parnassah by diminishing the impact of any ads for her professional products or services. The publications won’t erase the photos of men because they know that photos have an impact. The editor of my paper once told me that it’s important to have photos because they make the article come off better.
  • It deprives our girls of visible role models. The only images they’re seeing are the images from the secular world. Many of these images are not tzniut-appropriate and most are unhealthy. And our girls are seeing these images no matter how hard we try to avoid them. The only effective way to combat them is to give them healthy images of our Nashim Tzidkoniot. There are those who say that these girls have their mothers and grandmothers, but our communities hold our Nashim Tzidkoniot as role models because they know the importance of having good role models. And with healthy images, our girls can see these women as real people whom they can try to emulate.
  • It erases our history. One of the wonderful and unique things about Torah Judaism is that we have always held our Nashim Tzidkoniot as role models throughout history. And we used images of them as a matter of course until the 1990’s. We have enemies trying to erase our history and we don’t need to do that to ourselves.
  • It’s a Chillul Hashem. There is a prevalent belief that Torah Judaism is sexist/biased against women. This policy only perpetuates that belief and makes it harder to counter with the truth. It’s true that we do not change Halacha or water it down to please the secular world and of course we shouldn’t do that. But this policy has no basis in Halacha or Mesorah. So is it really worth it? I say no.
  • It’s dangerous on a physical level. Especially in the era of MeToo, we need to teach our children- boys AND girls- about self-respect and body autonomy. The policy of erasing women makes a clear statement that women and girls are too provocative to be seen and that men and boys cannot control themselves. That undermines our efforts to teach our children how to respect their own personal space and to respect others’ personal space.

So much for “silly.”

The response also stated that if other publications want to have this policy, it’s their problem and not ours. First, we’re all Jews and if this policy is harmful, then it is our problem. Second, if there are people trying to pressure our paper and others into going along with this policy, it’s very much our problem. And the pressure they’re putting on the paper to shut me up means that it’s definitely our problem.

The response stated that since they already take that stand by using photos of women that this paper is not the place for such things. Actually, the fact that it’s reaching so many people and touching that nerve is exactly why this paper is the perfect place for such things. It means that my writing is making a difference. That’s why I write in this paper (they don’t pay me money).

Sunday day and evening

We women do not deserve to disappear or to be silenced.

#Iwontdisappear

#Iwontbesilent

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.