The Tznius Awareness Patrol

Personally, I’m a fan of dressing modestly. For men, this seems to be impressed naturally; Jewish standards are more closely aligned with secular standards, and the rest (rumpled white shirt, black suit that doesn’t fit) is socially enforced (or enabled). For the female half of the Jewish people, standards are far removed from what is available for purchase by design (“stylish isn’t tznius”) that special training programs have to be instituted to convince teenage girls to go through the effort of dressing as demanded. Here’s a story from lyl about the Tznius Awareness Program in her school, aka, TAP.

One of the main ways our school tried to teach us tznius was through the Rosh Chodesh program. You were allowed to wear whatever you wanted on Rosh Chodesh. At our 9th grade orientation they told us we were not supposed to go out and buy special clothing for Rosh Chodesh; just wear what we had. The idea was that they could give us feedback on our wardrobes. Of course, all of us had heard about rosh chodesh when we got accepted in 8th grade and were instructed by upperclassmen to buy rosh Chodesh skirts.

The way you’d get feedback was, they had these stickers you could wear asking for feedback on what you were wearing. The school’s official statement is that they only give feedback to those students wearing stickers, but students who don’t want feedback will get often coerced into sticker wearing by smiling TAP people. Teachers would carry around buttons that read “I check out” to be given to students who are dressed properly. One year to streamline things the 7th period teachers were tasked with handing out the buttons. So as not to embarrass the students the teacher would call you out of class, ask you to spin around, and tell you what was right or wrong about your outfit. Once, my friend was told by a teacher that she looked so awesome “both hip and tznius” that the teacher wanted to call her out as an example in front of the entire class, but didn’t want to embarrass her.

The darker side was that every Rosh Chodesh, a couple students would be sent home to change. It didn’t matter if half the school was wearing the same offensive skirt; Students whose skirts were deemed too tight would be sent home each Rosh Chodesh as an example to us all. You never knew if it was going to be you or your friend, even if you were dressed identically. That happened to a friend once. She said she didn’t know why she even came back to school after; if they send you home, stay home. She started wearing the uniform on Rosh Chodesh that year.

Around that time was when those tube skirts came into style. You know those stretchy, t-shirt fabric skirts people use for layering these days? Everyone had them. Some people could get away with wearing them on Rosh Chodesh and some people couldn’t. To explain why, a teacher gave us a quick lesson on how we have to be aware of how our “bottom looks” in one of those skirts. Which is just another way of saying, if you have any curves, wear a muumuu. I had curves and I really wanted to wear those skirts, but that’s another story.

Eventually, most people did buy a Rosh Chodesh wardrobe. It was easier (if not cheaper) than going through the eyeballing and selection process. Other students just wore their uniform to school on Rosh Chodesh as well. One of my friends got kudos from the (male) principal for it. He generally kept away from all the hemline analyzing, but would give out buttons to the girls who wore their uniforms.

The Tznius Awareness Patrol

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