Myth: Dressing with tzniut means that you’re not supposed to draw attention to yourself.
Truth: Dressing with tzniut is about drawing attention to yourself in the right way.
In most of my columns, I talk about the need for color, either head-to-toe or as a pop with a neutral base outfit. The reason for this is that color allows you to stand out visually. And I’ve written about the need to stand out visually at job interviews and elsewhere. But there are two questions. First, isn’t it not tzniut to attract attention? Second, why do you need to stand out at all?
From me, you get the truth.
The idea that tzniut means you’re supposed to hide and avoid attention is a myth. True tzniut doesn’t demand that you hide. In fact, hiding is the wrong thing to do. We all have our own unique talents and strengths that we’re supposed to use to help klal Yisrael and we can’t do that if we hide. However, drawing attention to ourselves in the wrong way is not tzniut either. True tzniut demands that we draw attention to our personalities and our talents and strengths and not to distract from those.
There are those who describe it as the difference between attractive vs. attracting. Attractive means that you look your best as a person and people notice that. Attracting means that you’re drawing attention to your body, which tends to be very distracting. Okay, that’s an understatement. I’ve heard people say that if the men find skin and body parts distracting, they should just look away. However, the truth is that if you’re wearing something revealing, it’s very hard to look away. Those things scream louder than every other person in the room combined. That’s the reality and we need to work with that.
I like to think of it as the difference between “here I am” vs. “IN YOUR FACE!” Screaming and thrusting yourself in others’ faces is usually distracting and even annoying. But showing yourself is good and even necessary. Remember that there are certain things you can do with your unique talents that others cannot do. In order for others to see that, they have to see you. And that means coming out of hiding and showing yourself and saying “here I am.”
How does all of this translate to clothes and grooming?
We’re supposed to cover ourselves appropriately and not wear anything too revealing. That would be too “IN YOUR FACE” and wouldn’t accomplish anything productive. But we also have to wear clothes that flatter our bodies and faces and that draw attention to how great we look and to our personalities.
Flattering clothes are clothes that makes us appear taller, slimmer, healthy, and active. There are plenty of options out there for every body type. There are also plenty of ways to express our unique personal styles, and those are a must. Even if your personal style is more subtle and you prefer to be behind the scenes, your style still has to be visible. If it’s not visible and you don’t stand out a little, it will be harder for you to get your talents and strengths to work.
I always advise the specific use of color and accessories. If your style is more subtle, you’ll prefer a neutral base with a pop of color near your face. This pop could be in your accessories, such as a scarf or jewelry. If your personality is not so subtle, you may prefer larger pops of color or even a bright-color base outfit sometimes. If all of the items flatter you, you won’t go wrong.
There are those who say that they want people to know them for their personality and not by what they’re wearing. Yes, that would be ideal, but it’s not real. People cannot know you by your personality until they get to know you. And they’re not going to get to know you until they know you exist. And they won’t know that if you’re just a face in the crowd and you don’t stand out as a separate entity.
If you draw attention to yourself in the right way, without distractions, you’ll find many opportunities to share your unique talents and strengths and use them to help klal Yisrael. That is true tzniut.
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.