Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The "levush," or "clothes make the (wo)man": A guide to the "Orthodox observance spectrum" & its "dress code"

"Members of the Tribe"

Portrait in tile, 86th Street/Broadway subway station, downtown platform
Shira's Shot, July 7, 2007

Thanks to Mark/PT for introducing me to the term "levush," which I gather means "clothing" or "clothing style." (Mark used the term "uniform," which was probably appropriate for the "levush" that he was describing.)

Here's the "Orthodox observance spectrum," in clothing terms, as far as I've been able to determine (corrections and/or clarifications welcome):

(a) what Chana calls "cultural Modern Orthodox" (they like the name but don't always play by the rules of the game):

Woman--sleeveless or sleeved, pants or skirt, bare head for a married woman, except, perhaps, in synagogue

Man--kippah (of any color[s]) in synagogue only

(b) left-wing Modern Orthodox (where you won't get thrown out of synagogue for starting a women's tefillah (prayer) group, or, maybe even (gasp!) a "partnership minyan"):

Woman--short sleeves, pants or skirt, head-covering for a married woman optional in general, but often considered required in synagogue

Man--kippah (of any color[s]) or hat (of the sports variety), except, perhaps, at work

(c) right-wing Modern Orthodox, also known as Centrist (may or may not permit women's tefillah groups, depending on the rabbi and/or synagogue and/or community):

Woman--short to elbow-covering sleeves, skirt only, head-covering for a married woman, perhaps a greater concern for modesty in terms of length of skirt and height of top

Man--kippah (of any color[s]) or hat (of the sports variety) at all times

(d) "Yeshivish":

Woman--sleeves that cover at least the elbow, skirt only, head-covering for a married woman, perhaps a greater concern for modesty in terms of length of skirt, top that covers all but about an inch of the collarbone at the center (leaving room for a short necklace) or covers the collarbone completely

Man--kippah (almost always black) or hat (almost always black, but, occasionally, for informal occasions, of the sports variety) at all times, white shirt (at least for Sabbath and holidays), possibly a black suit

(e) Chareidi (fervently Orthodox, of both Chassidic and non-Chassidic [mitnagdic (?)] varieties):

Woman--long sleeves, skirt only, head-covering that covers the hair completely for a married woman, perhaps a greater concern for modesty in terms of length of skirt, top that covers the collarbone completely. One of my co-workers tells me that some of the women in the Chareidi community in Lakewood, New Jersey have taken to wearing black and white clothing, as the men do.

Man--black kippah or hat (or Chassidic fur hat, differing in design depending on your Chassidic group) at all times; black suit; white shirt at all times (even when playing hard-rock guitar at a concert open to the general public).

Then, of course, there are the Ashkenazi/Sefardi (B'nei Edot HaMizrach/"Mizrachi"?) differences of opinion:

1. Is wearing a wig/sheitel a permissible way for a married woman to cover her hair? Ashkenazi rabbinate--yes; Sefardi rabbinate--no (or so I've heard).

2. Are bare feet permissible, or must a female of 12 years or older cover at least her ankles? I've become aware of this issue only within the last two or three months. My impression is that this is a hot country/cold country split: Those whose ancestors came from countries where the wearing of sandals was standard see nothing immodest about bare toes, whereas the rest of us poor souls (soles?) . . .



Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Did I really use the term "levush"? Crap! Maybe I HAVE lived here to long!

Tue Sep 04, 11:02:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

ROTFL :) :) :)

Yep, you really used the term "levush." :)

Re living there too long, see my next post.

Wed Sep 05, 12:53:00 AM 2007  

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