Myth: For Shabbat and chagim, old-school styles are still the only way to go.
Truth: You have a lot of options based
on your personal style.
In last week’s column I wrote a bunch of ideas about how to dress for Shabbat and chagim. While I believe that your clothes need to be refined and dignified, I allowed for some un-traditional ideas. That was no accident or mistake. However, I still hear from members of my generation that certain items are not appropriate. Those ideas would’ve been right many years ago because those rules were in place, but those rules have died and there are a lot more options for men and women.
From me, you get the truth.
I remember once planning to have a couple of friends come to my home in Queens for Shabbat, and one of them asked me if it was all right for her to wear a twinset and skirt for shul instead of a jacket. I was able to confidently assure her that it was fine and she did wear the twinset. While I appreciate her wanting to respect her surroundings, the fact that she had to ask if a twinset (completely tzniut) was okay is not good. It may be un-traditional, but it’s completely appropriate.
If your personal style is classic, then it’s perfectly fine for men to wear classic suits and ties and for women to wear skirt suits or dresses. There are plenty of people, from my generation, whose style is classic and they pull off the classic looks beautifully. But not everyone’s style is classic. Mine isn’t. So what do you do then?
You work with your unique body type and your personal style and you put together outfits that are clean and refined but that still flatter you and reflect your style. Clean and refined are the main buzzwords here. I remember dressing one woman who was concerned that the outfit I put together for her was too plain. It was a simple skirt with a simple top. I told her that because it was plain, it was a blank canvas for great accessories and I showed her how it would look with a showstopper pair of earrings. That outfit would’ve also worked with a showstopper necklace, but I didn’t have one available at the time.
For the men, you may want to wear a suit and that’s fine, but what if pre-coordinated suits give you trouble? You know what? Suit separates are perfect for you. They’ll give you the same look but with a better fit and a lower cost. Don’t rule them out. What if your style is more casual? It’s okay to wear a button-down shirt with plain trousers. If your style is more creative, go with a colored shirt. If your style is more edgy, go with a dark shirt and dark trousers. If your style is more sporty, don’t go more casual than a simple button-down shirt with plain trousers. Remember that Shabbat and chagim do call for some formality and refinement.
For the women, if you want to wear a skirt suit, that’s fine, but remember that suit separates are an option even if the pre-coordinated suits work well. Breaking up the jacket and skirt is a great way to get more bang for your buck. If you love dresses, wear one. And feel free to add a jacket or other overtop if you want a different look or if you’re just cold. If you like a softer look, wear a cardigan instead of a jacket. If your style is more casual but you want structure, wear a button-down shirt. You could wear one open over a shell if you like. Wrap tops are a great option too. And what if you prefer print skirts? Go ahead and wear them, but make sure they flatter your bottom half. If they don’t flatter, move the prints to your top half.
Please do not skip accessories. These can add personal style and take a basic outfit from blah to bold in no time. Like I said before, if the base outfit is very plain and simple, it’s a blank canvas, so add one showstopper accessory that you love. Maybe that’s a leopard print scarf. Maybe it’s your green necklace. Maybe it’s your chandelier earrings. Even if the outfit is otherwise busy, you may still add a simple pair of drop earrings.
On your head, it still depends what you want and what you like. Gentlemen, if you prefer a basic black hat, go with that, but it’s also okay to wear a basic solid kippah or a kippah srugah with a fun colorful pattern (this is the covering of choice for my husband and my dad). Ladies, if you’re wearing hair (your own or a sheitel), just make sure it’s clean and neat, but don’t be afraid to wear it down, half-up, in a bun, twist, or whatever. And let its movement be; if it’s curly, you don’t have to straighten it. If you’re wearing a non-sheitel covering, hats, berets, and mitpachot are all great options. As always, I don’t like snoods (except for snood wraps) because they’re not flattering, and I don’t like pre-tieds (except when the tails can go over the head) for the same reason. Even if your personal style is more casual, remember that what you wear has to flatter.
Which brings me to my only words of caution. Sloppy is not good in any context and it’s especially bad here. While a plain top can work with a great skirt, they can only work if both items are fitted and neat. A loose T-shirt is rarely flattering and usually looks messy. Same with a big wide skirt. If your body type benefits from structure, then use it; look for jackets and button-down shirts and skirts in structured fabrics. You need to look dignified here, and when items don’t flatter your body, it’s anything but dignified.
My main point is that there are a lot of options. Even for Shabbat and chagim, when you do need to dress with some dignity, you can still express your personal style and look great in your own way. Enjoy that.
Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe organizer, personal shopper, jewelry designer, and fashion writer/blogger and speaker. She helps women look great while saving time, effort, and money, all within tznius guidelines, and she’ll add to that with custom-designed jewelry. Read more about her ideas on her blog- www.truetzniutistruebeauty.wordpress.com. She also has a YouTube channel, “Look Your Best in Mitpachot,” where she does head-wrapping tutorials, and she is also available for private demonstrations. She can be reached at (718) 644-6135 or at MESAtik@gmail.com.