By Michal Goldfein
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself” —Coco Chanel
Fashion has changed a lot in the past few decades. For example, it used to be that modesty was equated with boring and simple. Over the past decade, fashion for the modest has done an about-face and has become more accessible. It is important to consider the positive impact modest fashion can have on Jewish women, and how we can further cultivate this trend.
When plus-size models talk about inclusivity in the fashion world and how they’ve never felt represented or told they have a voice in fashion, this notion resonates with me. They feel that their image is not worthy or celebrated in the fashion community, and, as a result, their self-image and self-esteem suffer. Liz Black, a fashion writer, shares from her own experience, “I can recall the sting of waiting for my best friend to try on cute clothes in 5-7-9 (where those were the only three sizes they carried) before trudging into Torrid, which was literally the only option geared towards my size and age range.”
Thankfully, much has changed over time and now there are more options for plus-size women. This includes cult favorites like Madewell and J. Crew expanding their size ranges. This feeling of separation from others around you is a feeling that many Jewish women have had. After speaking to Sarah, a friend of mine from Canada, this notion became even more poignant. She said that growing up in her small town with a minimal Jewish population, she always felt like an outsider when it came to what she was wearing. Most non-Jewish people around her were able to express their individuality through a lens of color, cut, and design. She, being limited to a small availability of modest clothing, could not do this.
Sarah was always confident with her choice to wear modest clothing but she couldn’t show her confidence through the clothes themselves. Nowadays, you can be modest and still have a voice, still express your confidence, feelings, or emotions in a colorful world of fabric and design.
Fashion’s impact on a woman’s confidence has been documented and researched. Professor Pine, writer of the book Mind What You Wear, states, “Putting on different clothes creates different thoughts and mental processes.” When people reach for something in their closet in the morning, most of us go in with an intention. You might pick a red power suit to convey confidence at a board meeting. Similarly, if a person is feeling down, or sad, they might reach for something black or grey. This notion of the mental power of clothing goes even deeper. Jan Erickson, in her Clothing Matters TED Talk, describes the research that was done in nursing homes where people were still able to dress themselves in their own clothing. In the study, researchers asked the elderly about different clothing items in their closet, pulling out each item. Some of the responses about the clothing were, “Oh, that’s me, I always wear checks,” or “Oh, that’s so not me.” It is clear that clothing does not only represent or convey different feelings but is part of our personhood and is identifiable to each person.
The fashion industry is definitely taking note of the psychological effects fashion can have and the need for this type of apparel. There is a modest fashion week that takes place in many countries, including one in London in 2018. Furthermore, companies like ModLi and Mikarose have cropped up to serve you a fashionable dose of modest feminine silhouettes. Even regular retailers are including more and more modest styles in their lines.
So what, you might ask, is the momentum of modest fashion’s impact on Jewish women? There is a thread, no pun intended, which connects the two. A modest garment is not just a practical item that we use to cover our bodies. With so many options in today’s day and age, clothing can finally be used to uplift us and to convey our inner strength. Modest clothing can give so much power to Jewish women. There is no longer a complete lack of congruence between what we wear and being modest. Respect for yourself and being a powerful driven woman go hand in hand. Women can show their confidence through color and feel like they are sharing their individuality with the world. Today’s generation and the generations of the future can be proud of where they’ve come from and their culture and beliefs, and “wear their heart on their sleeves.”
Michal Goldfein is a fashion influencer and content creator on Instagram and posts daily modest fashion inspiration @TheFashionDetour. You can listen to her modest fashion podcast on Apple podcast and on Jtriberadio.com.