Myth: Tzniut demands that women stay hidden.
Truth: Our nation depends on women not being hidden.
Myth: Anything outside-the-box is inappropriate.
Truth: Clothing items/outfits/concepts
are not inappropriate only by being outside-the-box.
In my last article I wrote about a couple of outside-the-box options for special events. I stressed the point that while they may be unconventional, they can look beautiful and appropriate. Part of this comes from my own bias. For so many years I had seen and heard that anything unconventional or outside-the-box was wrong and inappropriate. Later, as an adult, I discovered that that is not the case, and so I began to get creative. However, it’s easy to go to extremes and it’s hard to remember that extremes can get you into trouble.
From me, you get the truth.
Can an unconventional look go wrong? Yes. How? By going overboard. And it’s too easy to go overboard. So how do you avoid going too far?
The first step with any unconventional item/outfit/concept is to consider whether it appeals to you or not. If it doesn’t appeal to your aesthetic taste, then you shouldn’t force yourself to wear it. You’ll be uncomfortable and that will show. That makes it inappropriate for you.
If it does appeal to your taste, the second step is to try it on and see if it flatters you. If the item/outfit/concept doesn’t make you appear taller, slimmer, and healthier, then it’s not good. However, you need to take a close look. Maybe it just needs a tweak for flattery. For example, long earrings that graze the shoulder are generally not flattering, but shorter drop or chandelier earrings might work better. Maybe you’re trying on a bright color and you find that it wears you, but a darker or lighter or softer version of that color would work better. Maybe it’s an outfit that features a bias-cut skirt, but you know that a basic straight or A-line skirt works better for you.
Let’s say you’ve found an item/outfit/concept that’s unconventional but that does appeal to you and that flatters your unique body and face. The next step is to consider the statement you’re making with it. Your appearance always makes some kind of statement and you need to make sure that you’re always making the statement that you genuinely want made about you.
This part is the most subjective part of the whole thing. You really need to go with your gut on this one. Let’s go back to the idea of a fancy skirt plus shell and cardigan. If you like it and everything fits and flatters, you need to think of what this look says about you. If it speaks about going to shul on Shabbat/chagim, then this outfit is appropriate for that. With a simple straight or A-line skirt, it might also speak to a level of professionalism that’s right for your job, and in that case it’s a great outfit for work. If the skirt is velvet or satin and the cardigan is fitted and in a rich color, then the outfit might speak about special events like weddings or bar/bar mitzvahs, and if it does that for you, then the outfit is appropriate for those.
Let’s also consider the idea of a dark denim skirt with a shell and wrap top. Assuming it appeals and that everything fits and flatters, consider what it says. There are those who think a denim skirt is just “casual, casual, and casual.” In that case, the outfit would be better for weekday casual errands and outings. But there are those who think it says “fun but not stuffy” and who would wear it for dressy-casual events like small parties. Again, you need to go with your gut.
I’ve written a couple of times about older women who go overboard with items that are fun and youthful. Here too is where unconventional can go wrong. There’s nothing wrong with grown-up women adding unconventional touches to their outfits. It’s a terrific way to celebrate your good health and energy. But when the women forget about flattery and appropriateness and just pile it on, it doesn’t work. Your life experience and wisdom deserve to be celebrated just as much as your good health and energy.
I admit that I’ve been inspired by what other people are wearing, including celebrities. There’s nothing wrong with any of that as long as you remember that what works for others might not work for you. This is especially true with celebrities; it’s their job to push the fashion envelope, and that’s not necessarily what you want to do.
The whole point is that no one should dismiss an unconventional item/outfit/concept just because it’s outside-the-box. That, in and of itself, does not make anything inappropriate for you. Always try. Play around and have fun.