I don't know about you, (the person currently reading this), but I hate doing things just because someone told me I have to. I like doing things when I understand them, I'm passionate about them, and want to do them. Being Jewish doesn't always allow one to do things because of those reasons. Often, we're doing things simply because we were told we should, we had to, or there isn't a different way to do it. I mean think about it, a lot of the Mitzvoth in the Torah we do simply because we grew up being told to do them.
If I listed you all of the Mitvoth I actively do, most of them would be just because I do them. I honestly wouldn't be able to give you an answer, it just makes sense so I do it. However, when it comes to dressing Tznious I find it very hard to just do it. I can't just always wear tights because I'm told it's more Tznious. I can't wear my skirt at the same length everyday. I can't measure with my fist where my shirt sits on my arms and collar bone. Measurements with regard to how I dress, besides for the process of making clothing, doesn't sit well with me.
Tznious was always very confusing to me because of the measurements. There are SO many interpretations of what is considered Tznious, it makes my head spin. One day I will think I am perfectly covered to Tznious standards and suddenly someone will be like "You aren't Tznious. You're wearing red." I mean for the love of god, can we at least leave colors out of it? I used to hate wearing red because I had red hair. I would avoid red and pink always. In Seminary I began to love the color on me. I bought a few clothing items that were red for shabbos and suddenly people treated me like I belonged in the red light district instead of Shul.
I felt so uncomfortable with the way people stared at me and shunned me. However, I chose to not care. I express myself through my clothing. If I only wore dull, dark colors all the time, I would feel dull and dark. I wear bright colors, crazy prints and sometimes even dare to wear clothing that flatters my body shape. I also dress modestly while doing this. I have never been the type to show off my body. I had a short time period in my life (end of middle school until 10th grade) where my self esteem dropped so the length of everything I wore shortened like crazy. I thankfully realized I wasn't comfortable dressing that way either. I wanted guys to like me, but I didn't want to be liked for my body. I found comfortable boundaries for myself which also allowed people to get to know ME.
The length of my dresses, sleeve lengths, where shirts sit on my collar bone all vary. It varies because sometimes I feel the need to adjust the boundaries I've made. When I got married I felt the need to cover more. For me that meant making sure I wore a tank top under a button down shirt, a slip under dresses/skirts just in case they are see through, and not to wear really fitted clothing if I'm not with my husband.
I personally find nothing wrong with wearing fitted clothing. The difference one must recognize is there is fitted and skin tight. I always try to avoid skin tight, but I don't think fitted clothing and modesty contradict themselves.
I'm not here to say dressing Tznious is bad and you shouldn't do it. It's wonderful, and everything in the Torah is there for a reason. I haven't yet found my connection to the measurements, so I do my best with dressing modestly. If you are able to dress Tznious, do it!! Rock it!! Own it!! For anyone struggling with it, like myself, know it's okay for your level of modesty/Tznious to vary. There is nothing wrong with you, and it's very normal because it's a STRUGGLE for you. If you fall one day, get back up and try again. It's not a hit or miss opportunity. Every single day is a new day for you to try again.
I asked my Instagram followers to respond to the following : "Define modest fashion to your personal standards." The responses I got proved that Modest Fashion is different in each individual's eyes. It's pretty crazy that two words have such a vast array of unique definitions. Modest Fashion to me is expressed in a different way each day. Depending on the weather outside, my mood, where I'll be going and so much more determines how covering my outfit will be. Some will say I'm a hypocrite because I'll wear dresses above my knee and @modestisthenewblack is my instagram handle. I personally don't see the contradiction because I'm simply sharing my journey. In life I constantly see people, fashion trends, the world etc evolving. Each day my definition or expression of Modest Fashion evolves too. I know Women who only wear pants but they dress modestly. I know women who will only cover their hair, for them they are dressing modestly. I know women who will be covered from head to toe and for them that is dressing modestly. Modest fashion in my eyes is a form of self expression. You don't have anymore self confidence or self respect depending on the level of modesty you're on. Modesty is also how you treat others. I think a lot of the issue is Women will dress covered or not and then judge someone who expresses themselves on a different level. I really don't like the labels that people place on others depending how they cover themselves. A girl who wears a head covering and pants isn't confused. A Lady wearing an adorable pant suit to work is still modest. A girl wearing a shorter skirt/dress with a Sheitel or headscarf isn't a contradiction. We often make these snap judgments based on others appearances to help ourselves make sense of the world around us. Our judgments happen to be part of what makes this world so confusing. We can all recognize there are different shades of colors, different cuts of meat, different textures of hair, different breeds of dogs etc. Why does it become so challenging when it comes to recognizing modesty doesn't have just one or just your interpretation? I asked my Followers if they can still appreciate someone else's style even if the level of modesty differs from their own. Each person who responded said they are able to and do appreciate the other styles they see. Another question that floats through my mind is does it depend on the situation? I'll give you a few examples to elaborate on that. Would you still appreciate someones outfit if they wore pants to an orthodox shul on Shabbos? Would you think a girl is really strange if she was in the club busting out her awesome moves covered from head to toe? Would you think someone is completely provocative and disrespectful if they showed up to a funeral in a shorter dress with sheer cutouts? Would you feel a little uncomfortable going on a double date if the other girl reveals a little more than you? You aren't a bad person if any of these change you initial response. I personally have my moments too where the little high school girl in me will run her mouth inside my head passing all different types of judgments. As I get older I thankfully am able to catch myself and actually appreciate the person's appearance and outfit. Just because I wouldn't wear it doesn't make it bad to wear. All in all modesty is different to everybody. Some people think modesty is dressing according to the Torah's guidelines of Tznious and other people view modesty as dressing more covered up to their own level. Personally when I see all different types of measurements I get stressed out and don't feel like doing any of it. I feel dressing modestly and tznious are totally different. Tznious is a direct set of guidelines which works for many and modesty is a more lenient way to cover yourself. Modesty works for me because it gives me room to grow on my own journey. Maybe one day I'll follow tznious according to the Halachic guidelines but until then, god forgive me, I'll just be trying my best with where I am.