How Hasidic women are influencing fashion
When you think of Hasidic fashion, undeniably a stereotype comes to mind: long, black outfits, typical hats, thick stockings and old-fashioned shoes. To many, the terms Hasidism and fashion might even be an oxymoron.
With the rise of ‘Modest Sexy’, the Hasidic woman is breaking down these stereotypes through her own quest of divine self-expression. More and more orthodox women are discovering the bridge between tradition, religion and individuality and the result is a unique style between halacha (Jewish laws) and high fashion. ‘Tznius’ is the Jewish law of modesty and comes down to three basic rules, that the body should be covered in three key-areas: collarbones, elbows and knees. And married women in addition have to cover their hair. It is not about repressing feminine beauty and self-expression, but emphasising it within the boundaries of Judaism, as opposed to the associations many people have with religious dress-codes for women. There is no word of a prohibition on accentuating curves, covering the eyes or the face.
Brooklyn-Crown Heights is the place where ‘Tznius Sexy’, first came to bloom, under the influence of sisters Simi Polonsky and Chaya Chanin, designers and founders of the very successful fashion studio The Frock NYC, Mimi Hecht & Mushky Notik (founders of MiMu & Maxi) and fashionista Adi Heyman (Fabologie). It is a flexible edgy style characterised by clever layering, a myriad of hues, prints and a mix of contemporary oversized and form-fit pieces.
Mushky Notik explains in a video interview with Refinery29: “As far as the rules are concerned, it comes down to covering collarbones, elbows and knees. It doesn’t say anywhere that we can not do this in a trendy way, or are not allowed to look beautiful and fashionable”. Chaya, who grew up with her sister Simi in an orthodox community in Australia, says that there are many ‘grey areas’ that are acceptable and that nowhere in Jewish law is stated exactly “this is what you should wear and this is what you should look like.” In just five years, their Brooklyn-based fashion studio has grown out to be popular far beyond the boundaries of the orthodox community, and is frequented by fashionistas, stylists and bloggers from all confessions.
The modest movement is growing beyond the orthodox community and is also conquering mainstream fashion. A variety of celebs are covering up in style, inspired by the style of the modern orthodox woman. Prominent examples are Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen and society woman and fashionista Olivia Palermo. Fashion editors and bloggers too, have caught up and articles about this contemporary style frequently pass on the pages of Vogue and Refinery29.
This fall, the layered orthodox rendition of the sultry slip dress is making global furore. The Frock’s Signature Slip dress (image below) is the hottest fall trend right now- as featured in Vogue– turning the ultra revealing dress in to a sophisticated everyday-multifaceted dress. And these clever layered aesthetics of the Hasidic woman have also trickled down to the runways of Fashion Week. Like Dries van Noten S/S16, showing a strong feminine collection of layered flamboyance.
The orthodox Jewish woman of today is edgy and colourful. She reads all the famous fashion magazines, but does this with respect to her Jewish values and traditions. The modesty-trend in mainstream fashion might come to an end someday, but the Hasidic woman has managed to put the discussion about what ‘sexy’ is and should be irrevocably back on the agenda.
All images courtesy of The Frock NYC. A special thanks to Simi Polonsky and Chaya Chanin for making this article possible.