Move over, maxi skirts. For secular shoppers and modesty-conscious Jewish women alike, 2014 is the year of the long-sleeve, crew-neck, knee-length sheath dress.
Fashion-forward Orthodox women—like my (six!) sisters—are always on the hunt for chic clothing that aligns with the halachic standard of modesty, or tzniut. In other words, collarbones, knees, and elbows must be covered. Needless to say, they are stocking up this season.
While thrift shop racks used to be the ideal foraging ground for flowy vintage layers, in recent years we’ve seen a renaissance of demure styles at mainstream retailers like Zara and Banana Republic. There’s also been a wave of long, flowy frocks hitting the red carpet, thanks, in part, to stylist Rachel Zoe, who dresses A-list celebrities like Anne Hathaway to Kate Hudson in 1960s and 1970s-inspired looks.
As Dvora Meyers observed a few seasons ago at Jewcy, sartorial options for young, observant women were diversifying.
The necklines are higher and the hemlines longer. The fabrics are less clingy. It is finally possible for an Orthodox (or Mod-Ortho) Jewish girl to walk down the street and not be immediately identified as such, blending in with the rest of the young, hip set.
And now the fashion gods have delivered to us this season’s newest trend: the sheath dress, which despite its ample body coverage has a chic minimalist appeal. Often constructed out of comfortable jersey or cashmere, the reincarnations of this classic design are endless—from structured and geometric to slinky and patterned—making it ideal for women of all body types.
For high-end fashion consumers, no one does the sheath dress better than Diane Von Furstenberg, whose elegant designs have seemed to consider the needs of devout Jewesses ever since she launched her iconic wrap dress in 1972.
Having been forced into restrictive knee-length dresses for the first 18 years of my life, long hem lines still give me PTSD, so I think I’ll abstain from this particular trend in 2014. But even I can admit this season’s dresses are edgy, sophisticated, and just the tiniest bit sexy—as frum fashion should be.
Rachel Silberstein is a writer living in New York.