Pants, Pants Revolution: How My First Pair of Jeans Redefined Modesty for Me
When I bought jeans recently, I redefined what ‘tzniut’ means to me as an Orthodox woman
When I got home, I suddenly felt nervous all over again, like a teenager afraid to come home smelling of alcohol. I hesitated, then told my mom, “I bought pants.” She turned to my sister and joked, “You corrupted her!” And that was it. Nothing more was said. Once again, I was reminded that I’m 23 and can make my own decisions, something that takes longer to sink in than it should. That step over with, I proudly showed them off to my fiancé, whose only real question was why it had taken me so long to come to the decision he knew I’d wanted for so long. And then, in a flurry of excitement and the reality hitting me, I texted some friends.
“I’ve officially joined the Pants, Pants Revolution!” I said. They all demanded pictures. No one was shocked; I was the girl who publicized sex at Stern, after all. It was only natural that I should wear pants. It was only bizarre that it had taken me so long to realize that, as much as I grew up being the quintessential Modern Orthodox good girl, I didn’t belong in the group of girls who did as they were told because they were told it was right. I think for myself. And now I wore those decisions publicly.
The truth is, I expected more shock from more people, which I haven’t gotten. My boss didn’t even notice I was dressed differently until I asked him when he was going to notice it. My friends didn’t blink. My fiancé’s parents, who didn’t say anything for days after they saw me in jeans, finally asked me about them—but were simply curious how I had gone from wearing no pants to suddenly owning four pairs. “I just bought them all now,” I explained. A couple days after buying that first fateful pair, I realized I wanted more. So, I bought two pairs of pants and another pair of jeans. And that was it. I may have felt different, more myself in some ways and more new in others, but to everyone else I was the same.
When I first started wearing jeans, I checked myself in the mirror a hundred times a day. Did they accentuate my thighs? Make me look even shorter than I already am? But now, months later, I’m actually more comfortable with my body in pants than I ever was in skirts. I actually feel more modest than before. Instead of battling a subconscious desire to rebel against the modesty laws I felt were imposed on me without my being asked, I now feel as if I have chosen my own path of tzniut, and the items of clothing like shorter skirts and low-cut shirts that I used to wear despite the fact that they were risqué (or maybe because they were risqué) no longer feel necessary. If anything, I feel more honest about who I am in pants—not to mention more comfortable.
And just because I’ve changed my attitude toward pants doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on tzniut altogether. Quite the contrary—I’ve defined what modesty means for me and embraced it. Now that I’m married, I cover my hair every day. The hats, perhaps seen simply as a hipster style by most people, are recognizable to other Orthodox Jews as a symbol of my marriage—they are, in some ways, the new skirt. This makes my decision to wear pants even more comfortable with me: I have chosen my own path in the complex laws of modesty, and in doing so I have found a precious balance of being me and still being recognized as a fellow Jew.
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