“Tzniut” Meme– Modest dress by Jewish women

A couple of my friends recently stopped covering their hair in public (as required by Jewish law, according to most Orthodox rabbis). I wasn’t privy to either one’s reasons for doing so, but I can imagine some possibilities:

  • They don’t “believe” in it any longer or think that it’s halachically required.
  • They find it uncomfortable, unattractive, or inconvenient.
  • They don’t like the “stigma” of being obviously identified and/or stereotyped as a strictly Orthodox married woman and everything that goes with that.

I find such a decision fascinating mainly because I have never seriously considered going without a headcovering in public the entire time I have been married. In fact, except for showing a bit more elbow and hair, I dress by the same standards I did when I got married, and barring the headcovering, the same way I did during my year in Israel when I was taught (or “indoctrinated with” if you will) the halachot of women’s dress in Jewish law.

In a nutshell, I haven’t reexamined the halachic reasons for the way I have dressed in all these years. (You can retract my “thinking blogger” award and remove me from the JOFA list of blogs right now LOL.) I feel comfortable dressing this way. Partially because I’m not currently out in the working world, I enjoy more “benefit,” if you will, from dressing in a particular way than negative stereotyping. I dress more or less like thousands of other women in my community and in Israel, and while I don’t agree with every political or religious view generally expressed by this group, I can live with it.

I don’t find the clothing restrictions oppressive (except for a bit in the summer). In fact, in a way they allows me to focus less on my appearance and figure and more on my spirituality and religious observance, and as for labelling, I see few downsides in labelling myself as a religious Jewish woman. People feel comfortable asking me questions about Jewish observance, which I enjoy answering; they are less likely to question my kashrut standards (sad but true); they are less likely to put me in an uncomfortable situation, for instance men are unlikely to come on to me or touch me inappropriately (not that that was a big problem of mine at any age).

The main reason I haven’t revisited these halachot is that I have gotten used to them and they reflect who I am–were I to dress differently I would feel very exposed. Since the reasons for the way I dress are personal and don’t affect anyone else, I’ll stay more or less where I am on the tzniyut spectrum for the foreseeable future.

Now for the meme. I’m tagging some Orthodox female bloggers to hear about their reasons for their current standards of dress and why they may or may not have raised or lowered them (for lack of a better expression) through the years. I’m not so interested in the details of the dress, but answers to the following questions:

  1. For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married?
  2. Also for married women, do you and your husband conflict about this issue?
  3. Have your standards changed from when you were growing up, and why?
  4. Do you often feel uncomfortable when you are in the company of a group keeping higher or lower standards than you?
  5. If you have ever suddenly changed your standard of dress, did people treat you differently or make approving/disapproving remarks?
  6. How accepting is your community of women who “deviate” from the generally accepted mode of dress?
  7. If you have a daughter, has tzniut become an issue yet?
  8. Any other comments you care to share on the topic.

I’m well aware that non-Orthodox and non-Jewish women also have standards for how modestly they dress and I would love to read any blogger or commenter who cares to share her opinion.

Bloggers on tzniut/modesty for women.


  1. I will have to get to your Meme tomorrow. Very timely since the weather just warmed up suddenly.

  2. Thanks for tagging me! I posted my answers already. Great questions – certainly food for thought..

  3. That’s a really interesting meme- I’ll be glad to answer the questions. Will try to have them done by the end of the week.

  4. I’m working on it…I just want to think it through…I’m a bit different than most of your list (I think)

  5. sure, don’t tag me… humph! I’m insulted… Just to get back at you, I’m gonna um.. answer anyway… (wow, my threats are pretty pathetic)

  6. mominisrael says

    Trilcat, consider yourself tagged!! Can’t wait to see it.
    Safranit–The more diverse, the better.

  7. There’s a great book on the topic. It’s called “Hide and Seek.” It discusses a sampling of women from all over who do/don’t cover their hair in different ways. Some have recently taken the mitzvah on and some decided to stop covering their hair. Some women write about their custom not to wear wigs and others discuss why they shave their heads. It’s a great book for any Jewish woman who would like to be exposed to differnt customs. I find this topic very interesting and although I have refrained from commenting on your blog in the past I feel that this is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. Kol hakavod for bringing it up.

  8. I read hide and seek, and I thought it was a somewhat useful book, though some of it ticked me off.
    I came out of it intending to partially cover my hair, and then I met Yaakov…
    haha. Man proposes, G-d disposes.

  9. Law School Widow says

    I’ve never been tagged before! Thank you for the honor! I didn’t answer all of your great questions, but I did share an anecdote. I hope it suffices!

  10. Thanks for the tag! I’ll try to get to posting my replies later tonight or tomorrow!

  11. Heidi Ruby Miller says

    I’m not Jewish, but came upon your entry while researching Israeli dress on the web. It made me curious about what the dress would have been for both Israeli women and men just before the 1947 UN resolution. (It’s a specific time period I’m writing about.) Would you happen to know if it was the same?
    Any input or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
    ~Heidi Ruby Miller

  12. mother in israel says

    On this blog I mainly discuss dress among contemporary Orthodox Jews. Israel has a largely secular society with about 20% of Jews claiming to be observant.
    I’m sure you can find books or websites with pictures from the period you are researching.

  13. Wish I was tagged!
    When I first married, the ‘sheitel’ was the highlight of the preparations, it was synonymous with the ‘ring’. For the first several years it was a badge of honor. But that was before I started seeing other forms of head coverings, and wondering ‘why’ and ‘what for’. One thing lead to another, and now I only cover with a scarf, albeit color coordinated with the outfit. I learned a deeper and more spiritual reason for covering, that brought my thoughts closer to Sarah Imeinu and Rochel Imeinu.

  14. The link to the responses did not work.

    Can you please check it out and fix it?

    Also, can you email me the link at:


  15. Esti Stahler says

    I have to explain tzniut to secular woman during a mission to Israel.what are some good explanations ,some persuasive insights and some appealing stories or observations thatvwill give them a positive view of tniuttz


  1. […] revisit any of the particular points I made in that post here, I will say that Mother in Israel’s treatment of a tzniut meme got me thinking about the issue from a slightly different […]