Tishrei 5765 – Tznius and Style

Lichvod Rabbi Orlofsky,

I was in Post-shalhevet and really enjoyed all of your shiurim and value your advice because I think you understand people and answer questions based on what’s best for this person. Basically, my question is in terms of clothing and tznius. B”H, I happily wear very tznius clothing – appropriate everything, stockings included. I happen to like styles. Bais Yaacov girls wear dark cardigans and pleated dark skirts. I like colors and style – do you think this is just as acceptable if its tznius?

Thank you!
Name Withheld


Dear Friend,

There are few areas in modern society that are as difficult for a woman as tznius. We all went to seminary and we all learnt about the importance of tznius and yet it remains a tremendous challenge for us.

A Baal tshuva once asked me why is it that baalas tshuvos tend to dress more tzanua than FFB’s. Sadly, I understood what he meant. The answer I gave him was that to a girl who grows up frum, tznius is usually reduced to a set of rules; this long, this high, these many inches, etc. A student doesn’t necessarily understand that there is a difference between the rules of the dress code than the rules of how to correctly write a heading on their composition.

When a baalas teshuva decides to take on the laws of tznius at an older age, it is a reflection of a deeper understanding. They have gotten to the heart of the matter. Namely, that the goal is not to dress tzniusly, rather the goal is to be a tzanua. That relates to how we talk, how we act, how we conduct ourselves in public situations and yes, how we dress.

There aren’t enough rules to cover all situations where tznius applies. Would anyone have ever said don’t wear a skirt so baggy that it is falling off? Or don’t wear a shirt that fits like a second skin? Or a shirt that doesn’t ride up when you pick up your arms? Until recently, these things were self-evident. Today everything has to be spelled out and even then we can’t cover every possibility.

So after this long introduction, the answer to your question is, it depends. A top that comes high enough and covers your arms and isn’t to tight but has blinking light bulbs all over it is not tznius. That’s not the style yet, but give it time. Likewise neon colored clothing is obviously designed to catch people’s attention and get them to look at you. That is the antithesis of tznius. Tznius sends a subtle (or not subtle) message to men that says, “don’t stare at me!”

Do modern styles send that message? Then they aren’t a problem. Now here I want to add a caveat. Certain styles are not inherently priztusdik, but they draw attention simply because of the novelty associated with them. I’m thinking of the style a few years back of wearing sweaters that hung down to the floor. In and of themselves they weren’t inherently not tznius, but because they were a novelty, they caused heads to turn and people to look. That is what we are trying to avoid.

Hatzlacha and may Hashem give you the strength to not only be tzanua, but to feel happy and comfortable with it.


Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky