For me, it’s my long black skirt.
Ok, confession: I have 6 long black skirts. Of course, they all serve different purposes (c’mon, ladies, it’s like black shoes).
Why do I so very often wear a long black skirt?
Firstly, I ONLY wear skirts. According to halacha (Jewish law), which is the code by which I navigate my life, my skirt has to cover my knees at all times: sitting, standing, running (more on running later).
So to me, a “short skirt” is one that just covers my knees, and a long skirt goes till my ankles. Happen to be very trendy right now. Google “maxi skirt” and see what happens.
Why black? It always matches, it’s always appropriate, and it always looks clean.
But *sigh* I really don’t like to wear black. Why? Because I don’t want people to think that following halacha means living a dour, boring, colorless life. It’s complex.
So there are things I do because I think they’re good and right, and then there are things I do because I want others to think well of traditional, observant Judaism.
Does this complicate my life? Somewhat.
But, eternal optimist that I am, I prefer to think of think of this confusing interface as a path to enriching my life.
There was a long thread about the black thing on a bulletin board for frum jewish women recently and it was funny to see that the black thing really had more to do with practicality than tzniut.
many of the women have small kids, like you and black does not stain as easily. it can be dressed up or down, it matches stuff, and people who are overweight feel they look better in it. Even in the non frum world, you go to a night time bbq and people will be wearing a black shirt and jeans (some black slinky, some black tshirts, etc.)
I agree the maxi is really in right now. most of my skirts are not one colour but have black in them. Most of my dresses have some colour in them, but they all go with black shells and shoes!
oh yeah and dead on for the shaving legs thing!
Frum: (Yiddish) synonym for orthodox; religiously observant. Rhymes with how a Bostonian would say "room."
Tzniut (also tznuis): the character trait of dignified refinement in speech, dress and comportment. Colloquially used to refer to "modest" dress. Pronounced a variety of ways like TZNEE-yus, tznee-OOT.
I am from Florida – the land of the fluorescent wardrobe. Moving north to NY and then to OH I was depressed by the monotony of the black wardrobe. So, now, I wear a lot of brown 😉 I also try to pair my darks with bright shells not just a standard taupe/white and black combo.
However, right now I'm post-partum and black is key for the slimming effect and the easy cleanup.
Soooo true on the people thinking it's a religious thing… everyone from my grandmother to my mother-in-law have made a comment at one time or another when speaking about clothes to ask if I "have" to wear black… so exasperating. especially for someone like me that leans naturally towards blacks, grays, blues, purples and pinks… I really love wearing black! I just look like a major conformist while I do it, instead of the chic fashion plate I strive to be 😉
6?! That's great. I also have a love/not love relationship with black. In the last two years or so, I have made it my shopping goal to buy things which are not black. Brown, navy, khaki, whatever. However, black is still such a great go-to color, even if I feel like it makes me feel a little more like a stereotype.
I want to hear about the pajamas!
It's an interesting paradox- I have been told by observant women that it is a personal choice, but some looks and comments I get (on occasion, mind you, not all the time) still give the impression I'm not fitting in. My group of friends is very stylish- very colorful, but none of us are frum (see Ruchi's glossary :)), we are "on the path". Usually I don't mind standing out with color, but when I go to an event where I don't know many people (I went to my first Kollel dinner this year), I totally went black— except for my purple shoes, I couldn't resist!!
I just realized there are two different sub-issues here- the observant world as seen by the nonobservant, and the observant world when looking at one another. It came into my mind when I started thinking about how a community standard comes about, like how the use of color vs black may start out as a personal choice for ease of cleaning or slimming, but turns into a community standard whereby if you want to fit in, you choose black when you may not have otherwise done so. Same thing with headcovering- hat vs sheitel vs colorful scarf. Let's talk about that, too!!
Ilene: I've discovered a few interesting somethings.
1. The more "black-hat" a community is (more on black hats in the future), the more the women of that community tend to dress in black and white. 2. This trend is only in the past 10 years! When I was growing up, it was not that way. Although a black skirt and denim skirt were pretty much all you needed (or a wardrobe thereof) for casual use. The tops were varied.
3. The NY/NJ communities like Brooklyn, Lakewood (not Lakewood, Ohio – more on Lakewood another day) – are much more "black/white" than so-called "out-of-town" communities like Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit etc. That said, when I go to a more "black-hat" affair like a Kollel event, I will don the black/white thing to fit in.
Comments glossary: Kollel – a non-profit institution where married men study advanced Talmud full-time and receive a stipend to do so. It's a Hebrew word that means "all-included" since the idea is that the families' needs would be taken care of. Pronouced "KOE-lell."
More on kollel life another day 🙂
Wendy, all I meant about the PJ's was that while I don't wear pants in public, I do own some sweats/yoga pants that I use for PJ's or workouts (only if there are no men around). You'll see in Israel when we have our PJ parties!
busyme: Brown is my fave black too!!
It's not just in the frum world! Among observant Reform Jews (NOT an oxymoron) many women wear long skirts, too. When I started working at a regional office of the UAHC (now URJ) I decided to go to long skirts, at least for work. I bought lots of them, dressy and not, colorful and dark. After I'd been in the office for a month or so, one of the assistants actually asked me if there was something wrong with my legs – I laughed and showed them to her. No one would mistake me for frum; my hair is uncovered and I often wear short sleeves. Now that I work from home, it's a non-issue, but I still like the comfort and ease of wearing long skirts.
Wendy – your comment made me giggle. I think I like you!
Ruchi – I hope you're keeping track of all those "more-on-that-later" topics.
I have an issue with the black/white/gray thing trickling down to little girls' clothes. When I was a kid, black was considered too mature for a young girl. Now, when I put my daughters in pink or florals – I look like the weirdo! Since when do little girls have to look like mini adults in black pencil skirts, etc.?
As for me, it's black because it's slimming. Pretty simple.