Friday, December 30, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there's such a thing as too discrete

Start here, and don't forget to read the comments.

I did, in fact, buy myself a camisole (in a modest style that, naturally, the vendor no longer sells). But I ran into the problem that a lingerie saleswoman had once explained, which is that women's "basics" are generally made for the majority of women who are taller than I. Consequently, we shorties have no choice but to tighten the straps (or have them shortened)--and when the straps stretch, the garment no longer fits properly. After a number of months, I found myself pulling the camisole way down in the back to force it to stay up in the front.

So I gave up and bought myself a couple of sleeveless cotton tank tops. This style is just about perfect. The non-stretch straps hide that other set of straps, and anything else above the "support system" that I don't want to flash in public, while still being barely low-cut enough, if I tug the tank down a smidge in front, to remain hidden under those blouses of mine that have a lower second button. (I refuse to choke myself by buttoning all the way up, but neither will I leave more than one button unbuttoned.) Since I bought the tank tops in "Light Eggplant," a pale purple (no longer available, naturally), they're also practically invisible even when worn under a white blouse, while still hiding the view completely.

Unfortunately, that near-invisibility creates a different problem--if the blouse gaps open between buttons, it's almost impossible to tell that what's directly under it is a tank top, not just my bare skin. I give up. This tzniut/modesty business is more complicated than I thought.


Blogger Talia bat Pessi said...

I feel the same way. It's good to know someone else feels the frustration, too! I have to wear blouses to school and I'm ready to shoot someone/something (preferably the blouse manufacturers/designers) when I'm getting dressed.

Sat Dec 31, 06:52:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Likewise. And finding something that's neither blatant nor invisible to wear underneath a blouse turns out to be a challenge. Oy.

Sat Dec 31, 07:29:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous westbankmama said...

We here in Israel have similar problems. What a lot of women do is to buy a short sleeved knitted top (or even sleeveless), and wear a blouse over it, with only the lower buttons of the blouse closed. That way there is no gap in the obvious place, and it is obvious that you are wearing another layer underneath. Israeli stores sell these short sleeved (and sometimes sleeveless) tops in most colors (usually right next to blouses with the same or complimentary colors) and they are labeled "basis" in Hebrew.

Sun Jan 01, 03:23:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

WestBankMama, this is where being a Conservative Jewish woman makes dressing in a tzanua/modest manner a bit challenging. I got flack from my Chanukah hostess just for showing up in a skirt for something like the fourth year in row--which means that, if I'm really serous about believing that pants made for women are *not* either beged ish (men's clothing) or automatically immodest, I would be well advised to prove it by wearing pants to parties. If I wear my blouses open over the tank tops that I just bought (or tops of the same design but in white, which matches everything), I'll actually be dressed in a slightly less tzanua/modest manner than I am now. If, on the other hand, I give up trying to hide the tank tops and go for "jewel-neck" tops that cover, or nearly cover, the collar bone, I'll look "like a Beis Yaakov girl." I get flack just for wearing skirts when all the other women are in pants. Imagine the kind of flack I'd catch for being a Conservative Jew "dressed like a frummy." There's also the serious issue of what one of my commenters has described as "religious arrogance," which might very well apply to me as a Conserv dressed like an Ortho--would it really be appropriate for me to "out-frum" my friends?

Sun Jan 01, 03:19:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Barefoot Jewess said...

I have not read every comment but I did read back on your posts. For someone like me who is just surviving especially in a non Jewish world, all these strict halachic conundrums are such a luxury to ponder.

I think, and believe, that modesty resides in one's being. Anything else, the overt behaviour, is just a social engagement.

I associate Conservative, and wear tefillin, but I was challenged by others about the fact that I did not wear a kippa up on the bimah. My rabbi ruled that women were not bound by such a stricture. In my eyes, wearing tefillin up on the bimah was head covering and crown enough. As far as I was concerned, my modesty was not in question.

All that other crap, about not tempting men with our voices, or our dress? Seriously, men? You are so weak, that you cannot withstand temptation without our subservience?

And what is wrong with having normal, healthy, sexy thoughts about a woman, and yet not acting on it (which most of us don't do? ) As if the thought is real? Seriously, who writes this stuff?

I also agree that the taboo makes it that much sexier. A chimera, IMO, but it does keep the population preoccupied, down and unquestioning. Makes it an ersatz febrile topic though.

Sun Jan 01, 08:58:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Barefoot Jewess said...

One other thing--to think that thoughts or feelings are reality, concretised, is so insanely ignorant and barbaric that I don't know what else to say.

Sun Jan 01, 09:32:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Barefoot Jewess, I'm glad I have the luxury, and I hope you get to that point, as well.

The attitude that men are "so weak, that [they] cannot withstand temptation without our subservience" is something that I, too, find disturbing.

Sun Jan 01, 09:47:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

Sorry, I do not understand the problem. I wear a Jockey or Shimera camisole from Nordstrom and a Gap tee over that. Sometimes, I layer a funky tank over the Gap tee. I cannot wear anything with buttons as my arthritic buttons give me trouble.

What bugs me is anyone thinking they have the right to comment on anything I am wearing. Okay, if my skirt is tucked into my underwear by mistake or has ridden up fine. But what you wear is nobody's business but yours and maybe your husband's (love the compliments from mine and when he stops me from hideous mistakes) if you ask him or a friend. If I do not ask for your opinion then I do not want it. :)

Mon Jan 02, 12:40:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

"arthritic hands give me trouble" is what i meant. Not "arthritic" buttons. Buying a size higher and adjusting it is an idea but I try to buy ALL my clothes from stores that have petite sections, especially now that I dress modestly.

I still want to look fashionable but I do not want to look like I am wearing a moumou or my Abuela's nightgowns. I realized that I cannot wear what is not made for my body type even if it costs me extra whether in tailors, petite sections or hidden strategically placed safety pins.

Mon Jan 02, 12:45:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Aliza, thanks for the tip, but it won't work for me--I checked out some Jockey and Shimera camisoles, and it appears that they're all cut low enough to expose a smidge of my cleavage. The camisoles or tank tops that seem to work best for me are the ones that are cut straight ( rather than curved) across the top--they really hide everything.

As for other people commenting on what I wear, I should clarify that our Chanukah hostess just mentioned in passing that I was wearing a skirt--it was more of a good-natured tease than a criticism. That said, I really do have to ask myself whether dressing in skirts makes me look "frummer [more Orthodox] than thou" when everyone at the party, including us, is non-Orthodox. Our crowd is quite modestly dressed, with no cleavage in sight, and I don't want to give others the impression that I'm competing for a "most modest" award.

My husband and I have discussed my clothing choices, and he made it clear that he prefers to see me in size 10 blouses rather than size 12s. The 10s are more likely to gap--hence the search for the perfect camisole or tank top--but the size 12s are huge on me because I have narrow shoulders. So I've decided to go with the smaller size, to please the one person who counts :), and compensate with appropriate undies.

Mon Jan 02, 02:06:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

For the record, my girlfriend the physician's assistance advised me years ago to switch to knit tops because they'd fit me better. I've finally concluded that she was right, and will be making the transition gradually, as it's taking some time for me to find sweater sets and dressy tee-shirts in my size and in colors that flatter me. Since I'm looking at "jewel-neck" sweaters and tee-shirts, all of which are within roughly an inch of my collarbone, I'll only need to wear to wear camisoles or tank tops underneath the white ones, assuming that they're more see-through. Good-by, buttons that gap.

Mon Jan 02, 04:22:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Look into "Cami Secrets" - it was sold As Seen on TV but Bed Bath and Beyond carries them. Let's my wife wear low-cut stuff that flatters her body while covering up to be appropriate in a work or tzinus environment.

You are welcome to dress however you want, bound only by appropriateness for the venue and good taste. Your attire need not be a political statement.

Tue Jan 03, 10:06:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, thanks for the tip. Those Cami Secrets are very cleverly designed clothing accessories, and would enable me to buy lower-cut knit tops without worrying about "over-exposure" (or overheating in the summer from a tank top worn underneath). They wouldn't help with the "gap-between-buttons" problem on blouses, but one can't have everything.

As for my clothing being a political statement, I have mostly myself to blame for that problem. At a Chanukah party a few years ago, I rather stupidly started a conversation about the current trend to show cleavage in just about any setting. My friends were sufficiently unimpressed with my protest to suggest that I not be so buttoned up, figuratively and/or literally--one woman said that I should unbutton another button, and I refused. So I can't say that I didn't get myself into this mess. Okay, so I grew up in an era in which exposed cleavage at work or at a religious service was practically unheard of, and I still think it's totally inappropriate. But no one is interested in hearing a rant on that topic, even, or perhaps especially, the ones who come to the office in revealing tops and get offended when anyone suggests that they cover up a bit.

Wed Jan 04, 10:33:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Well, these solved that problem for my wife. Women's blouses in the "men's wear" style are NOT designed to be buttoned up. They have the buttons all the way up to match the style, but if you run the buttons past the chest, they "gap." Leaving aside whether something called "menswear" for women is a Begged Ish issue -- especially since the style was originally risqué for blurring gender lines, wearing a blouse the way it's meant to be worn shows cleavage but avoids the gapping. My wife finds the "Cami Secrets" a better solution than a tank top or camisole, especially because until Monday, it was in the 80s here. :)

Wed Jan 04, 11:21:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Lucky you--it was 14 degrees (Fahrenheit) when I woke up, and has now progressed to a balmy 23. Could you send some of that nice Florida weather northward? :)

Wed Jan 04, 01:10:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Unknown said...

I wish I had a good link for tops and/or layers. Oddly enough, though I live in Southern CA, our office buildings are often freezing inside -- either the A/C is blasting too much or there is no good insulation, so when it gets "cold" outside (40-60F) it's barely over 60 in the office. Most of the time, I wear long sleeve, thin cotton shirts under all my blouses. My favorites come from Target right now, which have extra long sleeves (there's an extra cuff sewn on the end that flairs neatly on my wrists). Keeps me warm, makes my blouses modest, and warm wrists while working at a computer are fantastic.

Wed Jan 04, 01:22:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Ah, the joys of office over-air-conditioning, I know them well. Generally, my office is either overheated or "over-cooled." I find the layered look very handy--in addition to wearing a knit jacket to the office every day, I carry a windbreaker in my backpack year-round, just in case.

Wed Jan 04, 01:40:00 PM 2012  

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