In part 1, I discuss the painful subject of tights, and quote a lecturer who said she wears bulletproof stockings in order that her children should wear any stockings at all. I finished by suggesting that it doesn’t really work that way.
Most of us were frummer than our parents. Many of them had met while getting a secular education at Brooklyn College or at mixed Young Israel events. Our fathers all had jobs. They wore colored shirts. On the other hand, we would attend gender-segregated Jewish colleges in order to support husbands who would sit and learn in exclusively white shirts. We would meet these husbands through matchmakers.
Our parents, by our bais yaakov standards, were quite modern. And we, the younger generation, were more frum.
So when I wanted to know about tznius, I didn’t look at my mother; I went to Oz V’Hadar Levusha, by Rabbi Eliyahu Falk. He, I should note, had only acrimonious things to say about how my mother dressed. Her tights were too thin, just for starters. And she wore bobby socks to keep her ankles warm. According to Rabbi Falk, bobby socks are “pritzus” and “ossur” and anyone wearing them is irrevocably “contaminated” by the surrounding fashions (Volume 2, page 417).
This seemed like a lot of assumptions to make about a woman he’d never met, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. (I also gave my very devout mother the benefit of the doubt. It’s really hard to use the word pritzus to describe her conservative mode of dress, even if it doesn’t conform exactly to the bais yaakov code.)
Oz V’Hadar Levusha is a 2-volume, 1000+ page CFR on tznius. It includes a handbook with illustrations on button placement, zipper nudity, and hem length. If you want to know if you’re allowed to whistle in public, he has you covered — no pun intended. (Answer: no, because it’s low-class and illustrates special talent, which is immodest, volume 2, page 576.) But one area where Rabbi Falk stumped me was on opaque black tights.
You see, I liked opaque black tights. How much more tznius could you get? You can’t see any skin through them because they are so thick, and you can’t mistake them for skin because they are so black. And they are sooo much less ugly than beige tights. Opaque black tights were one super-tznius item I could really warm too. (That one wasn’t on purpose either.)
Except they aren’t super-tznius! Rabbi Falk doesn’t like them. He says they are pritzius because they are fashionable in non-Jewish culture (Volume 2, page 413).
This puzzled me for two reasons.
1 – I didn’t know of any non-Jews who wore opaque black tights.
2 – Do modest things become immodest the minute a non-Jew promotes them? Weren’t most of our (ostensibly modest) clothing from non-Jewish designers?
Heaven knew I spent hours combing through the racks of non-Jewish department stores looking for something to wear. And whatever I found, some designer had thought it would be a good fashion.
There was another consideration that puzzled us. The Rebbetzin herself did not wear opaque stockings. Rather, year round, she wore nude, no more than 40 denier, tights (unacceptable, Volume 2, page 398).
A group of us, all similarly puzzled by this Falkism, decided to send an emissary to the Rebbetzin to get the bottom line on tights.
Our messenger sat down in the Rebbetzin’s office and presented our confusion. How were we to know what tights to wear?
The Rebbetzin glanced down at her own legs and gave a smile and a shrug. “It’s confusing. There are a lot of opinions. I just know that I can wear these tights because that’s what my mother wore.”
And that was how we concluded that probably, it doesn’t matter that much, as long as we wore something.
It also answered my question from the part 1 post: Who actually takes their tznius cues from their mother? Apparently, the rebbetzin did.
And now, we all took cues from her mother too.