My Answers

Raggedy Mom pointed out that I didn’t answer all of the questions myself. I’m glad I waited to read the other responses as they helped me clarify my own thoughts.

  1. For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married? Yes, as I mentioned in the original post.
  2. Also for married women, do you and your husband conflict about this issue? Not really, although he’ll comment if my stomach shows when I life my arms.
  3. Have your standards changed from when you were growing up, and why? I grew up wearing pants, going mixed swimming, etc. I stopped completely after my year in Israel, although the changes began earlier in high school.
  4. Do you often feel uncomfortable when you are in the company of a group keeping higher or lower standards (for lack of a better term) than you? Lower, not at all. Higher, only if I am wearing something that I myself feel is borderline.
  5. If you have ever suddenly changed your standard of dress, did people treat you differently or make approving/disapproving remarks? When I was in college, people often made disparaging remarks about women who wore skirts. Once, while collecting sponsors for a walk (or run?) for Soviet Jewry, a smart-aleck said that he would sponsor me on the condition that I wore pants. I shut him up by telling him that his remark was religiously intolerant.
  6. How accepting is your community of women who “deviate” from the generally accepted mode of dress? Good question (if I say so myself LOL). I think in the English-speaking community we are more tolerant. In my town whether or not you cover your hair can affect what school your kids go to, what youth group they attend and who their friends will be for life. So because I have one kid in such a school (for just one more year), I guess by default I am going along with such a division (although the school has additional admissions criteria).
  7. If you have a daughter, has tzniut become an issue yet? My older daughter just turned 13. She made the transition to skirts fairly young, and fortunately tzniut has so far been a non-issue. If she wanted to wear pants (out of school) I would not make a big deal out of it. Just as married women can go with uncovered hair and stand firmly within Orthodox observance, so too can women in pants. My take on tzniut, davening (prayer) and shul attendance is that teenagers will have to make their own decisions about these issues soon enough. Unless their behavior directly affects the rest of the family I generally leave it alone and hope to discuss it later.
  8. Any other comments to share? Just about everyone chooses to make some kind of statement with their dress, especially about how willing they are to conform to their neighbors around them. As the various responses showed, observant women also decide how much they prefer to fit in with the outside community or within their own, aside from issues such as comfort, fashion, expense, and of course halacha.

Original Post

Bloggers on tzniut/modesty for women.


  1. “Just as married women can go with uncovered hair and stand firmly within Orthodox observance, so too can women in pants.”
    Couldn’t agree more 🙂 Again, great meme.

  2. Great answers, great meme.
    In your community, regarding the disparity that you mentioned among the hair covering/non-hair covering women: I’m wondering how it is for women who partially cover vs. totally cover their hair? Do they fall into the category with the “coverers” or into their own vis a vis school choices, youth groups, etc.?
    Also, how old was your 13 year old daughter when she made the transition to skirts only? Do you think that with your younger daughter it will follow a similar pattern?

  3. A number of people I know are of the opinion don’t bother at all if you aren’t going to completely cover. I even got one such commentor on my thread.
    But halacha defines cover, not emotion and it seems there is room to manuvuer within the bounds. Try here:
    I’ve always found the all or nothing attutude disturbing. I think we should try to include more people under the umbrella of observance. And even if one believes that their only is one accepted opinion, isn’t it better tio be 25%, 50%, or 75% of the way there than not at all?

  4. mominisrael says

    Thanks RR!
    RM, I don’t know the answer but throughout the years the vast majority of MO women in my community adopted styles where they don’t cover the bottom of their hair from the level of their ears or so. Quite a few of them cut or grew their hair and don’t cover the few inches back there anymore. There are also quite a few women who wear a hat but have a long ponytail showing–these are the ones most likely to stop covering eventually. I heard about one yishuv that refused a family b/c the wife wore a ponytail (I remember you are interested in the subject of neighborhoods) and I suspect the schools in question might not like it if a woman wore an exposed ponytail to the interview.
    I think we made the transition to skirts when she started first grade. In gan girls can still wear pants or even shorts.

  5. mominisrael says

    SL, I found the post by R. Maroof interesting. I knew that it was okay to go without a head covering in your house (although this is something that only the most modern seem to know and practice, so I only take advantage of it when my kids’ friends are over) but I never heard that it applied to anyone’s home.
    I have heard it explained that some say the head covering is a sign that a woman is married (and not because her hair is ervah, problematic b/c why then do single women go without), and when she is in her own house, she needs no further sign. And in this case, a minimal amount of cover would suffice.

  6. mominisrael says

    RM and SL, you know, I am really surprised to hear from you and the other “memers” about all the fuss about how much hair is covered and whether one wears stockings. Those two things are just not issues in my universe.
    BB: Thank you!

  7. Mom in Israel, I really enjoyed reading this discussion and following all of the responses. Thanks for bringing up such an important and interesting topic.

  8. SL – I’m with you. Although I cover “all” of my hair (though not every strand – a bit shows in front), it irks me that some fellow all-coverers I’ve known have the ‘why bother covering only some’ attitude. It isn’t anybody’s place to judge the extent to which another woman does or does not cover her hair, and besides, is any other mitzvah (like shmirat halashon for instance) only significant if it’s executed perfectly 100% of the time? Arrrgh!

  9. MiI – In my daily life, I don’t really focus much on either of those two issues, since I think I’m pretty much comfortable with where I’m holding and have no real plans to change those things.
    I guess they were on my mind in the meme more than some of the other topics within tzniut because in my local chevra, for the most part, variations in the women’s tzniut occur mainly in the how much hair/stockings-no stockings arenas.
    When I first got married, I think I felt a certain sense of obligation to strive for stockings, or at least, going without them made me feel a little conspicuous in some settings. I’ve since grown to feel confident in not wearing stockings, although, since I’m often cold, I do wear socks or tights much of the year by default!

  10. Rochelle says

    Hi! I’ve been lurking ever since your post about breastfeeding.
    I have an experience that I think you will find interesting.
    When I first came to Israel, I met an orthodox woman my age who was recently married while I was engaged. We became friends, and she gently taught me about being more observant. I really thought about it. Growing up in a Reform home in the American Midwest (no real community of Jewish people), I thought that living in Israel would be more comfortable if I were more observant. (Maybe that sounds shallow, but the question of faith has nothing to do with it; my faith is a personal thing, and I still don’t see how outward observance is connected to my relationship with G-d)
    Anyway! the point is, I went home at one point for a couple of weeks, and told my mother that I was thinking of becoming more observant. She was OK with that. But when I said I wanted to cover my hair after the wedding, she blew up! “Have you lost your mind?? To put yourself down like that, to agree to sexist and primitive standards like that?!”
    Today I think her viewpoint, although valid in a way, is wrong. I think religious women feel their own strength in how they live their lives and what they contribute to their families and communities, and covering their hair is not for protection from others or to say they belong to someone, it’s just a sign of identification and pride. It becomes as comfortable and necessary as any other piece of clothing.
    Am I wrong in that thinking?
    It might be strange to you, but not dressing “tznu’ah” is how I maintained my relationship with my mother and family.
    Today, my daughter is 12 and refuses on her own to wear jeans that ride low or midrift-revealing shirts. She’s modest as a part of her personality.

  11. Ariella. says

    You know what I find very odd is the clinging to a skirt as the ultimate symbol. Though I do not wear pant and do not allow my daughters to once they reach a certain age, I don’t think that they are per se necessarily not tznius; it’s just that most of the women who adhere to the usual tznius dress codes don’t wear pants. If pants had been embraced as acceptable once the larger society started to see them as not an item of men’s clothing, then the course of tzniuswear may have been changed. Though they have not become accepted, tshuvos do clarify that pants are preferable to short skirts. So I wonder if there is some confusion among women who will put a skirt (sometimes short) over her pants for her jog or whatever while wearing short sleeves or a somewhat low neckline.

  12. Which poskim allow married women to go with their hair uncovered? I tried to follow Sephardi Lady’s link but it didn’t work–do you have a different link/source you could point me to? Thanks.

  13. mominisrael says

    Rochelle–I hope I’m not presuming here,sounds like your mother’s words might have stopped you from doing something you had doubts about anyway. Most parents come around eventually. Are you observant now?
    Ora, try the link without the period at the end. Worked for me.
    Ariella–Actually I think the opposite–the rabbis are opposed to pants because almost no one who wears them wears a style that might be acceptable to them; it’s hard to find pants that aren’t revealing. Our rabbi only allowed pants under a skirt that covers what needs to be covered anyway. I think skirts make a woman see herself differently. My mother said skirts call attention to the wearer, and I can see that side of it too.

  14. OK, saw the link.
    I would still like to know which particular poskim he’s talking about. Who are the “small minority of scholars” who say hair covering is rabbinical, and who are the poskim who say it’s not necessary at all?
    I assume I’ll keep covering my hair either way, but I would very much like to know who says it’s not necessary, I hadn’t heard that before.

  15. Ora-Address your questions to Rabbi Maroof. I’d learned hair covering very much from this perspective from one Rebbitzen (who covered everything). Even though I am basically a full covered, I maintain there is far more flexibility in the matter and find it very upsetting when the modern women are knocked for not being strict enough, rather than being recognized for taking on a rather difficult mitzvah.

  16. Ari Kinsberg says

    “In my town whether or not you cover your hair can affect what school your kids go to, what youth group they attend and who their friends will be for life.”
    this really bothers me, especially when these types of things are criteria for schools.
    “I knew that it was okay to go without a head covering in your house (although this is something that only the most modern seem to know and practice”
    i don’t know where rav breuer fell in the religous spectrum in israel, but when i went to him with a friend for the seder his wife’s hair was not covered. we asked his son-in-law (our tanakh teacher in yeshivah) and he told us this is her practice at home.
    (i think i’m feeling a little uncomfortable in this forum. are male commentors not invited?)

  17. Ari – you gotta stay out of the “female discussions” 🙂

  18. Ora, I also wanted to know what the source that said that it’s Rabbinic. I don’t remember hearing that you could uncover your hair in your home when other men are there. Does anyone know?

  19. mominisrael says

    Ari, me too. Thanks for the anecdote about R. Breuer and his wife. A man’s perspective is valuable too (so comment away, Rafi).
    BB–My husband looked it up. In Masechet Ketubot 72A it says that grounds for divorce without a ketubah are if the wife “goes out” with her head uncovered. Those who say that a woman doesn’t have to cover would presumably say that the standards have changed about what constitutes proper dress for women.

  20. I believe that Rabbi Michael Broyde of Atlanta has written about this issue. In one former community there were women who always left the house with a hat, but didn’t cover insider.
    I cover when we have male guests over, but believe there is probably room to be lenient, even if it is out of style.
    Ari-Thanks for chiming in. It is MiI’s formum, but I don’t see any reason to stay on your side of the mechitza, especially with something as valuable as you offered.

  21. Your meme has sparked such interesting discussions! Kol HaKovod!

  22. Ari, I appreciate your input. We live upstairs in a garden apartment, and my neighbors downstairs are a lovely frum couple with kids right around my kids’ ages. Really quite ideal.
    However, what I’ve seen is that in this ever-leaning right-wing community, the wife is subtly maligned by some of the other neighborhood women (though I’m not even sure she’s aware of it) because she covers her head with a hat (hair sticking out) when she leaves her home, but not at home, regardless of who comes over. As someone who works in a hospital, she also wears (loose) scrubs to and from the car, and at work.
    Why, oh why, do we fixate on the details of what other individuals “do or don’t do”?!

  23. First, I’m happy to hear what men say. Secondly, I think that the fact that something can be used as a reason for divorce doesn’t mean that it’s halacha.
    For example, if one member of the couple wants to live in Eretz Yisrael and the other doesn’t, that can be legit grounds for divorce. It doesn’t mean that it’s halacha that every Jew must live in Eretz Yisrael. (Though I believe it should be high on every Yid’s priority list, and with the rising cost of tuition, the “I can’t afford to live in Israel” excuse is getting less and less relevant.)
    Additionally, the expression used there is “seyar paruah” – wild hair. A woman with a braid or ponytail sticking out the back of her hat could hardly be said to have wild hair.
    I am curious as to why so many people have said that culottes are assur for women. They’re clearly tzanua and not beged ish, (see )especially for young girls who often end up showing their undies in public…
    I think it’s LOADS more tzanua to dress a 5-year-old in loose pants than in a loose skirt.
    Not to mention an adult woman who is bending down to pick up her toddler fifty times a day, or has a toddler who thinks that going under mommy’s skirt is cute, and extra-cute if it shows mommy’s upper thighs to the assembled masses…

  24. LOL. I’ve most certainly had every part of my body displayed for me involuntarily by toddlers, mine and other people’s.