14 November 2006

On Being a "Frumpy Frummie"

These are my long-delayed comments on the phenom known as a "hot Chanie", which is a young frum woman that "skirts" tznuit rules in the way she dresses, etc.

One of the most basic concepts every ba'al(at) teshuvah encounters is tzniut (modesty). When I was presented with the idea by some of my more frum acquaintances, it was defined as lengths of hemlines, shirt sleeves, and coverage of "sexy" body parts such as collarbones, elbows, and knees. It was, at best, over-simplified. After some consultation with a dear friend of mine, who is a rabbi, I was given his definition of tzniut. Words that he gave me included "modest in behavior and attitude", "dressing in an appropriate manner", and "not drawing attention to oneself with clothes". To me, this definition a more appropriate one of modesty.

At cool yiddishe maidel's school, there is a mother who identifies herself as frum who wears jeans, t-shirts (sometimes short-sleeved), and does not cover her hair. She is a humble person who does not dress in an overly-distinct manner. Contrast this to another mother who wears tight, high-end designer clothing that covers all the necessary body parts but is rude and crude in her manners and speech (her children are not at cym's school, I just have to encounter her at the kosher grocery store).

Tzniut is...
* wearing clothing that is appropriate to the setting
* conducting oneself in a way that does not draw attention
* conforming to dress code rules of your child's school at least when at the school
* looking polished and put-together without looking "sexy"

Tzniut is not...
* spending hundreds of dollars on a single outfit (when there are too many people who are living paycheck to paycheck without health insurance)
* being a show-off with your appearance (there's a fine line between self-pride and narcissism; Judaism is against avodah zarah, remember that!)
* turning parent-related school functions into a "hot mama" contest (it's just as embarassing to your child as it should be to you)
* (for married women, specifically) trying to snag a man with alluring looks and fancy clothes. Young women on the shidduch search should be given lessons for being attractive and tznua at the same time. It will be helpful for these young ladies to see the distinction between dowdy, baggy clothes, hair tied back into a pony tail, no make-up, etc and someone who can put themselves together without trying to be a frum version of Britney Spears. [A side note, a sheitel is worn to cover hair on a married woman without feeling "weird" in a hat or a scarf. It should not be more attractive than the hair that only your husband sees; since he's the one you should look sexy for, not other men.]

For more guidance about the hair covering issue, I recommend Hide and Seek by Lynn Schreiber. It is an essay anthology featuring both sides of the debate.

Do not hesitate to add more definitions to my Tznuit is/is not... I greatly appreciate any additional input.


  1. Thank you! I agree whole-heartedly...

  2. I have so much to say on this, but things are a bit sad for me right now... :(

  3. Tzniut (while important) is not the reason for all of our troubles as so many Rabbis would have us all believe!

  4. Rachel: Thank you for responding.

    Chana: Sorry, stuff is not going your way. E-mail me soon so we can talk.

    Lakewood Venter: I do not feel that tzniut is the source of our problems at all. I'm sure that everyone will agree that it is sinat chinam (senseless hatred). I just took it upon myself to throw my 2 shekelim into the debate.

    CYM (thanks, Hila, for the shortened code name)

  5. No problemo, Charlie Yankee Mike! (I'm sure you realize that's the Military Phonetic code for CYM)...Bwahahaha I crack myself up! Or maybe I'm just cracking up...Woooh k, time to lay off the caffeine hahahaha. Hope all is well!

    -HH (Hotel Hotel)--mine doesn't sound as good!


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