Conservative Fashion

October 12, 2011

I dress the part for a visit to the ultra-Orthodox Meah She’arim in Jerusalem.


I dressed more conservatively today.

It had been suggested by our Hasidism professor to dress modestly when visiting the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. In general, it means no flashy prints, colors, or accessories. For men, the knees and head should be covered. For women, collarbones, shoulders, elbows, and knees are to be covered. Calf-length skirts are the right idea. For our visit to Meah She’arim today, I tried to dress the part.




I also forgot to mention that I wore black shoes and a black belt. It felt nice to dress a very specific way. And much like the idea behind wearing a school uniform, it’s not necessarily meant to be stylish.


Why do they dress so modestly?

The modest clothing worn by both Hasidic and non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jews is a mark of community, tradition, and uniformity. Wearing the same clothes as everyone else takes the focus off of your exterior and in theory should encourage an individual to express themselves in a different way, perhaps through personality, actions, or words. Conservative dress also acts as a social identifier; you can essentially tell to which sect of Judaism a man belongs by what he is wearing.

(This is only a small taste of what I’m learning in my Hasidism course!)


Did I dress TOO conservatively?

An amount of conflict was raised in my mind as I spent the mid-day in these clothes. Is it respectful to dress in this Orthodox fashion? I am obviously a non-Jewish tourist. I felt at times like an impostor, like someone trying to pass for something he’s not. I think I caught a few stares from the locals, in fact. Now looking back on what I decided to wear, I think it was the wrong idea.

The next time I decide to walk in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, I think I’ll simply wear any closed-toe shoes, a simple pair of khakis or jeans, and a regular shirt. I’m still on the fence about the kippah, but something’s telling me that I could go without it, as I’m not Jewish. I could probably save wearing it on my head for holidays, Shabbat, or any visits to the Western Wall.

I’m a tourist. I should look like one, and simply dress respectively.
If I dress in conservative, Orthodox-style fashion, I’m in costume.


Sakura Sushi isn’t kosher.

I must admit, though, that our clothing caused some amusement later. When we were out of Meah She’arim, I went with a friend, Nat, for some take-away (or take-out) at Sakura Sushi. Nat walked into the place and started to order. The man interrupted her and explained that the food wasn’t kosher. He thought we kept kosher because we were dressed so conservatively! We explained to him that we didn’t keep kosher and that we don’t normally dress that way… I’m at least glad we did a good job looking the part!


One comment

  1. […] number of us got dressed in our conservative best and headed out to Meah Shearim to see for ourselves what Sukkot is […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: