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.