My thigh length modest skirt

I have no problem calling a spade a spade, so here goes.

I am a modest Modern-Orthodox woman because I wear skirts that are so tight I tend to walk like a penguin.

I am modest because I receive my daily dose of exercise by playing tug-a-war with my skirt which constantly insists on riding up.

I know there are times that I am not sitting appropriately and Upper Leg City is in full display, but hey, I am wearing a skirt, so of course I am modest.

I think at this point we just need to laugh at how ridiculous the “modesty” situation in the Modern- Orthodox community (I can’t speak for other communities) is getting. Because I wear tight skirts which ride up several times an hour, I am labeled as more orthodox than the women who are wearing the dare I say it “P” word. Pants. Gasp.

Growing up I wore pants, however, I was always aware of the fact that my mother, my sisters and myself were a minority in my community. During my year and a half in seminary, I read an article discussing how skirts are the equivalent of kippot. I read the article at a pivotal moment in my year when my religiosity was at its peak and I wanted a way to outwardly identify and proclaim myself to society as a proud and dignified Jewish woman, so of course, wearing a skirt did the trick.

Initially I did not see the contradiction of wearing tight skirts to pronounce my religiousness (which of course encompasses modesty.) I was aware that my skirts were on the shorter end of the religious spectrum, but who cares, at least I was wearing a skirt. However, as the years have progressed I have begun to see the hypocrisy in my acts and the absurd and unfair stigma I have placed on those who choose to wear pants. So because I wear a skirt that shows some serious underwear lines, I am on a higher religious level than women who are wearing pants?! If anything I would say the women wearing pants are the ones dressing more modestly than me.

In 12th grade my Jewish Law teacher introduced us to a phrase, “A hot Chanie.” Essentially a “hot Chanie” is a woman who is following all the halachic guidelines of tzinuit- those attractive elbows are covered, her knees never see the light of day, and if she is married the hair on her head is covered as well. However, in true “hot Chanie” style, you can count the bones in her body because her clothes are so tight and her wig looks more done up than Giselle Bundchen’s hair on the Victoria Secret runway. In short a “hot Chanie” follows the guidelines of modesty while simultaneously ignores the guidelines of modesty. Well there are times I can honestly say I am guilty, guilty and guilty.

I personally feel that wearing skirts has taken such a precedence within the Modern- Orthodox community, to the point that the universal guidelines of modesty have been ignored. The contradiction of wearing a skirt for modesty/religious purposes, but having that skirt ride up every few minutes until your thighs are on display is a problem. The fact that a woman who is wearing a skirt that is so tight to the extent that you know how many bones are in her behind is labeled as more modest than a woman in pants makes zero sense in my books. I often think that pants would be more modest than what I am currently wearing. My legs would be full covered, and I would not need to sit in bizarre and stiff position to avoid the world from seeing Upper Leg City. Personally speaking, pants are more modest than the skirts that I choose to wear. However, skirts make the statement to society, which is something that I value and see as very important.

This issue has been an ongoing conversation with friends and family. I know that the issue of modesty is a problem many women face. Whether it be the stigma one receives for wearing pants, or the difficulty in finding that perfect skirt, or simply the confusion in terms of the word “modesty.” There is no solution to the problem asides from each woman to her own. I believe that every woman needs to figure out what works best for her without the comments and looks given by others. It is a difficult and sensitive issue, but I think we can all agree on one thing- thank you god for maxi skirts.

About the Author
Lottie Kestenbaum was born to British parents and grew up in New Jersey. To add to the identity crisis, Lottie made aliyah in August 2012. Hello tri-citizenship! She is currently studying Jewish History and English Literature at Bar Ilan University. Lottie shares more of her aliyah adventures & ongoing thoughts on her blog, Newest Sabra on the Block.