Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Outfitting Hasidic Women With Stylish, Yet Modest, Fashions 

Sifting through the crop tops and sheer blouses for sale at Junee, a boutique in Borough Park, Brooklyn, is an unexpected clientele: some of New York City's most modest women.

Filled with bright colors and the latest fashions, the store specializes in outfitting Hasidic women, who follow a deeply conservative sartorial doctrine that, among other things, requires their elbows, collarbones and knees to always be covered, and if married, their hair to be hidden under a scarf or wig.

Junee and other stores like it have seen their sales rise in recent years because of a flood of new products designed to make modesty and fashion compatible. There are items like tape to tighten up a collar that sags toward impropriety, felt dots that muffle the provocative clack of pumps and cloth tubes that can extend a short sleeve into something more acceptable.

Women's undershirts are so popular among those wanting to cover their collarbones that entire shops have opened selling nothing but undershirts, also known as shells. Even dickeys, shirtless collars once the purview of only the nerdiest of nerds, are getting a second look. In Borough Park, one of the most heavily Hasidic neighborhoods in New York, dickeys are a hot item: Fitted into a sweater, they can make even a cowl neck look demure.

Tznius, or modesty, has taken on a renewed focus in recent years, Hasidic Jews and religious experts say, as the wider world encroaches on their insular community. In response, some Jews have ratcheted up their observance of tznius as a way to draw a brighter line and to spread their beliefs. The move parallels similar ones in Israel and London, where issues concerning modesty have come to the forefront.

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