Sunday, June 27, 2010

Viva Le Vou Chic: Tznius Has It's First Day At School

 A chic look into our levush
By Mor Binder

Come to LadyMama every week for Mor's take on all things modish and modest!
Read more about Mor on the author page!

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Tznius Has Its First Day At School

I’ll never forget the first time I attempted to go to school dressed “modestly.” The record states it was my shortest day of school ever. It took a lot of determination and emotional strength to finally take the hem of a skirt that just about covered my tuchus down to one that easily covered my knees. My arms clung to the insides of my sweater, glued by the perspiration of the Australian mid-summer sun. If I was going to do tznius, I was going to do it all the way.

Legs shaking and heart racing, I walked into the school grounds internally palpitating in preparation of the social suicide I was about to commit. Suddenly, all my notions of standing up for what I believe in, being proud of my Jewish heritage (as the Chabad house had so deeply ingrained), flew out the window - more like, ran out the door. Beyond the glaze of my shell- shocked friends, I was left standing in the middle of the courtyard resembling those year-7 girls on their first day of high school, dwarfed by their oversized uniforms that end up being miraculously transformed into hip hugging leg baring promiscuous school dresses within 24 hours of the school years commencement.

My short lived episode with the world of tznius lashed a red mark across the mitzvah, and a whole two years passed before even the thought of approaching it resurfaced. Fear not however, for my introduction to the inside world of Lubavitch was just around the corner and with it a realization that to be tznius did not necessarily mean having to look and feel like a cupcake. Kudos to the immaculate dress sense that can be found in our local Chabad Houses, in the hubs of our centralised Lubavitch communities and - *gasp* - even in the dark confines of our seminaries. Among those long denim skirts and daggy sweatshirts came some savvy outfits that made leaving behind the Levi jeans, bonds singlets and havaina flip flops, less of a daunting concept.

As most cliché love stories go, this one too ends with a happy ending. For the hate felt towards such a dreaded deed turned into a deep love for the beauty of fabrics, fittings and all things fashion. Metallicas undershirts, boots worn all year round, Kookai skirts, the wonders of layering, the need for endless formal wear, vintage dresses, an eye to alter, the femininity of stockings, fitted blazers, sequenced cardigans, a-line denim skirts, patterned rain boots (Burberry or Target)...heck, Abercrombie sweatshirts - they were all aspects of the tznius wardrobe that were both necessities and accessories that opened up a world of creativity, femininity and individuality that achieved way more than any pair jeans could have.

I came to learn that the fashion we create for our community can be one that reflects our beliefs, taking only the crème de la crème of the wider fashion world and altering it to our standards. Chabad teacher Rabbi Paltiel recently said at a gathering, “Lubavitchers don’t go to college, but if they go, they have to be the best.” I guess you can say the same about fashion; while it's not our life’s focus, the amount of attention we do give to it must be enjoyed and pulled off with style. Viva Le Vou Chic!

On the theme of school, below are my preppy style inspirations, as well as some finds more within the average maidel's budget!

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If only the reality of chic preppy school styles had been revealed to me earlier in life. Featured is a collection of such looks unaltered off the runway – modest and all. The timelessness of this style is undebatable and its ability to be paired with up to date accessories of each season maintains its credibility. Pearls, headbands, ribbons and scarves all add to the sophisticated ensemble. Winter wearers, feel free to team up with stockings and socks (stick to knee-highs if you’re opting for a slimmer look) of all types; patterened, lace, argyle, opaque, sheer. Stockings/ sock combos are bold and lift the notch on the preppy barometer. Boots serve to reduce the playfulness in such a piece but if summer is your season don’t shy away from experimenting with ballet flats, mary-janes and kitten heels.

Dolce and Gabbana 

Dolce and Gabbana 

Charles Nolan 

 Charles Nolan

 Jill Stuart 

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No wonder schools choose these as their staple food. Adding a blazer to any outfit lifts the sophistication bar at least 10 points. Crested or not, fitted or loose these toppers are bound to come in handy  weekdays, shabbos and everything in between.

Crepe boyfriend-fit blazer


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Plaid skirts work both formal and casual, depending on whether combined with a plain t-shirt or blouse. If finding knee length styles proves challenging, almost any second hand or vintage store you walk into should have a set. They can be bought very cheap and then altered for a slight fee to create a more modern cut.

Brown Plaid Skirt
Antipodium -

Covington Plaid Skirt 

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Coupled with a cute blouse, or sleeveless dress, cardigans prove their usefulness in a tznius wardrobe time and time again. Deeper cuts rather than more open neck styles are better suited if being used on a hot day as sleeves.

 Oscar De La Renta 
$1, 290
Urban Outfitters

7 LadyMama voices:

Sheva said... [Reply to comment]

interesting that the runway has so much tznius. it makes you realize that our daughters really have no excuse not to be stylish and aslo modest.

MB said... [Reply to comment]

Mor, really wonderful article and great modest finds!

I can't help but wonder though, when you describe Chabad's sense of style...

Is it a compliment to Chabad that we have such stylish representatives? or it a distraction?

Me and all my friends take pride in dressing well, but there seems to be a pressure that only exists in always look good and be fashionable.

Chani said... [Reply to comment]

Great article i love it!!

RZ said... [Reply to comment]

Nice concept, and I have many friends and relatives that must look top style all the time so I relate fully. I have a feeling Rabbi Paltiel didn't mean that if a Lubav goes to college they should get top grades is either something to quote, out of its original context, as it can be taken out of hand, and I don't think it's a parallel to how all the way stylish our level of tznius has to be! the Torah B'davkah says that we should be TZNIUS, MODEST, and part of that is not sticking out. that might include not wearing very strong colors that are the object of attention, and head turning clothing styles.
Just something to think about....

Mor said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you all for your comments.
Just a few thoughts on whats been mentioned.

MB...You’re absolutely right there is a pressure out there; however this pressure is not unique to Chabad it exists in most communities and just takes on different forms. Girls will be girls and clothes will be clothes. In Borrow Park, past the dark colours and thick fabrics are labels of some of the biggest, most expensive brands out there. When I was in high school it wasn’t enough to wear black skinny leg jeans they had to sit right, be the right brand and get matched with the correct singlet, one shade off and you were ousted. I’m sure Meah Shearim also has its hang ups, perhaps even to the point where dressing out of fashion becomes the fashion. I will say however that I think the great thing in Chabad is that this pressure is limited to looking presentable. Just thinking about my friends, who are my greatest inspiration when it comes to dressing, each of them has their own individual style that is not restricted by a particular look book. There’s so much room for diversity and creativity that allows people to move beyond the confines of dressing a certain way. We have a responsibility to look put together, after all we are representing something more than ourselves. In seminary for example they encouraged us to not dress “daggy” as it was not befitting a Bas Chabad. But what that “togetherness” is, that’s for us to determine, and to enjoy doing so in the process  P.s. cool initials.

RZ... You raise a good point, which is exactly what this article was trying to promote, the idea that being stylish does not negate tznius. Like anything else in life, we have bechira in which styles we choose to be inspired from and which we don’t. When I see a red sequenced mini cocktail dress on display I don’t think oh if only it had sleeves and covered the knees, I think no, that’s simply not appropriate. Within the realm of being modest, tznius and not attracting attention is a lot of gorgeous clothing and styles that don’t have to be ignored. When my Rebbetzin walks into shule, even within her shulcha’s budget and lack of spare time, she is by far the best dressed lady there. This is a huge Kiddush tznius, ladies are constantly inspired and impressed by how presentable modesty can be.

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