This blog post hit me like the biggest burst of inspiration, and I’m not sure why, but it felt like the perfect time to write about this. “This” being… I’m not quite sure yet, but I’ll know when I get there.
For this post, the title came to me before the actual layout of the content, but it seemed to work. Having a blog called Frum and Fashionable means that I need to address fashion at some point.
I get asked a lot what it was that drew me towards being an “ultra-orthodox” Jew, I put that into quotations because I’m not even 100% sure on what that even means, anyways; The thing that drew me to a more observant lifestyle was the fashion.
I’ve told this story often, and it always makes me laugh thinking about it. At the age of 15 I went on a trip with the Synagogue my family and I were affiliated with. We went to New York and got to explore the culture and life there, with an emphasis on Judaism and the Jews’ immigration to America. One day we were taken into Boro Park, I remember eating at Mendelsohn’s pizza, wondering what the metal cups by the sinks were, and I remember having this very nice man take us on a tour of the neighborhoods and what I now know to be 13th Ave. I remember watching the women and girls walking around in their skirts/dresses and tights, hair covered by short wigs or shpitzels (a scarf head covering), the men in their hats and long coats seemingly on their way somewhere very important, I was entranced by it all. Little did I know that some day I would be back there and be observant like them (kind of).
That was my first encounter with tznius, Jewish modesty, and it made me want to dress like them. It took me several years and many bad fashion phases to finally get to the point of taking on this very personal mitzvah.
I didn’t take it slow. I take almost nothing slowly. The 60 denier tights that I would go in to Boro Park every few weeks to buy are a testament to that. I wanted to be like the women I had seen the first time I went to New York, but deep down that wasn’t who I was.
During seminary and my time living in Crown Heights I was in a different world absorbing everything. It was confusing in a lot of ways; there is a major difference in style between BP and CH, anybody who has visited or lived there can attest to that. So, I was enthralled and trying to emulate one world while living in and learning about another. Nothing good can come out of being 18 years old and highly confused and motivated, trust me.
By the time I moved back home I was confident in being a Lubavitcher, but I also knew that there was a very large spectrum in which people observed their modesty within Chabad, and I became confused. After months of soul searching I figured some stuff out; I knew I liked my skirts and dresses, I knew I liked my arms covered to my elbows, and I was content in throwing my 60 denier tights out. But now came to an even tougher situation– What is my style in all of this?!
My style, I’ve established, is confidence.
When I was determining my standards, and how I wanted to present myself to the world and as a Lubavitcher, I decided that I would wear things that made me feel happy and confident. As long as it fit within my standards, the sky’s the limit. My bank account resents me for that, but I have honestly never loved myself as much as I do now.
A year ago if you’d have asked me to start posting full body pictures of myself and my different outfits I would have laughed and then said really bluntly, “No.” I hadn’t found a love for myself yet, and there are some times that it still sneaks up on me, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year while being sick it’s this: Even if everything else in your life is going wrong, a good outfit can make you feel at least 50% better. (Makeup can be another 40%. Still haven’t figured out that last 10%.)
I have found over this year, and the past five years of being observant, that modesty is like a warm blanket for me. It makes me feel safe and comforted, it’s a constant in a life of unpredictability. My clothing, like my faith, have kept me grounded through everything I’ve had to deal with. Each doctors appointment and each hospital stay, keeping my modesty standard allowed me to not only internally know that G-d was in control and that I was a woman of strong faith, but it allowed me to externally convey that and wear it as an armor.
Fashion and faith are deeply personal things to everyone individually. I never write with the intent of convincing anyone of anything. I am of the belief that there is nothing more beautiful than a person wearing confidence and a genuine smile.
Through fashion, through faith.
Through confidence, through laughter.