As quite obviously noted in the title of this blog, I am a proud religious (frum) Jew of the modern orthodox variety.
For all of you not in the know, the Hebrew term "Aron HaKodesh", which literally translates to "Holy Closet", was the Ark of the Covenant which was stored in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, not to compare my puny little closet to a holy, Tabernacle-wielding, divine entity; I'm just trying to incorporate my own little Jewish holiness into my everyday wardrobe selection. I know, sounds "divine"!
Being a religious orthodox Jewish woman in the working world could be extremely challenging. Being a religious orthodox Jewish woman in the fashion world could be even more challenging, and I dare say my own Mount Everest. The Jewish dress code stresses modesty. Modesty, or as it is referred to in the Jewish community tzniut (ts-nee-oot), is a prevalent concept in most religions, therefore a matter of fashion contention for women the world over...literally. How many times have I wanted to just buy that cute Marc Jacobs dress, but it was sleeveless, or too short, or showed too much cleavage.
Looking professional in a secular position of employment doesn't leave a lot of room for jean skirts and the ubiquitous "kiki-riki" three quarter sleeve shirts that serve us "frummies" (religious) so loyally.
I have always embraced my religion, but the strict clothing guidelines that are dictated among the women in the community aren't always fashion friendly.
The basic norms of the guidelines are as follows:
- Skirts that hit the knee or below.
- Sleeves that reach at least the elbow.
- Collars that hide your collarbone.
- No extremely tight or form fitting clothing.
(And that doesn't include the implicit, unwritten rules!) I can't claim to be loyal to the collarbone stringency, but I more or less do my best to uphold the rest of these criteria. You can see why we Jewesses have an issue here? Don't mistake me, I certainly feel the clothing parameters with which I have to work with are of my own choice and I do not resent them in any way; if I want to go to work in slacks and a tank top, no one would stop me. I choose to wear what I do because it makes me happy, it makes me feel special, and most of all, makes me feel proud to be a part of such a wonderful (albeit sometimes restricting) community.
When I started my first job a few weeks ago, I wondered how I was going to dress to work; would I be the typical Jewish-girl and pull out my school-like wardrobe of black skirts, a short-sleeved shirt over a long sleeved one, and flats? Or would I pull out my more professional looking pieces, slip on a pair of heels, and as Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame so aptly encourages, "make it work"? Wondering what I chose? I decided to go for the latter, and you should know I rock the hell out of a blazer. Going to work each day in my professional (while still frum!) clothing really allows me to be a part of my company and my religion at the same time. I don't have to let the religion dictate what I should wear, rather just how I wear it. Best of both worlds, my friends.
Three weeks into the job and I go into a co-worker's office to ask her a question about some spreadsheet I was working on; "You look really cute today, by the way. You always wear the nicest clothes to work." Thanks, I respond to her, and then turn on my Michael Kors heel and walk out of her office, my question answered and my convictions affirmed.