(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)Vogue
Religious Jewish women in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel, May 14, 2004. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)Vogue
Navigate to News section

Fashion-Forward

Vogue magazine deemed Orthodox Jewish style as fall’s ‘sexiest trend.’ That’s empowering.

by
Rachel Shukert
November 06, 2015
(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)Vogue
Religious Jewish women in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel, May 14, 2004. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)Vogue

I’ve been gripped by a deep shopping dilemma of late: I keep obsessing over whether or not I should buy a midi skirt. I’m attracted to the au courant 1970’s vibe that’s everywhere this season, and I like the idea of not only playing with the unexpected shape and length of a skirt, but also owning one that won’t make me worry I’m unprofessionally flashing my underpants every time I cross and uncross my legs. And yet every time I try one on, I squint at the way it hits me at exactly mid-calf. And, well, I’ll put it this way: I live in a neighborhood in Los Angeles that is almost even split between screenwriters and ultra-Orthodox Jews. If I walked outside in this admittedly tricky yet fashion-forward new skirt length, I’m pretty sure I have a good chance of being classified into the wrong camp.

And yet, maybe that’s the whole point! According to Vogue, Orthodox Jewish style is suddenly all the rage—it’s “Fall 2015’s Sexiest Trend”—especially in regards to their excavation of the new slip dress trend (or rather, old slip dress trend: the 90’s, like the 70’s, are also back, which makes sense given the fact that we were reviving the 70’s in the 90’s. Ah, fashion.) Rather than wearing it in the overtly sexy, slinky “I-just-rolled-out-of-bed” kind of way that is its traditional interpretation (think Courtney Love and Amanda DeCadenet at the 1995 Oscars), Orthodox Jewish fashion designers like Simi Polonsky and Chaya Chanin (of The Frock) have been using them as layering pieces: under over-sized boyfriend blazers, over long sleeve tees and turtleneck sweaters, taking the slip dress out of the bedroom and more into a charmingly disheveled Annie Hall-type realm. Mainstream designers like Rag & Bone have followed suit, layering the dress adorably over skinny leather pants and crisp button down shirts. Now I know what I’m buying instead of paying my electric bill this month.

It’s fun to see Orthodox style, so often characterized as frumpy and unflattering styled in a modern and fashionable light. But I think these new styles go beyond the influence of any one group. I’ve never been a proponent of the idea that tzinus is somehow counterintuitively feminist—anything that denies a woman agency over her own body, or what she puts on it, is not exactly my cup of tea. But after the bandage-dresssed, micro-mini, vertiginously heeled world of the early 2010’s, this shift towards a quirkier, less body-conscious aesthetic is gratifying. As feminism has taken more of a central place in the zeitgeist over the past few years, women, it seems, are expressing a renewed consciousness by choosing personal, powerful, adult clothes that they actually want to wear: Flat shoes. Interesting—which does not necessarily mean skin-tight—silhouettes. Clothes that express more about the wearer than how recently they’ve been to Pilates or the plastic surgeon. That’s a style sea change we can all get behind, whatever the philosophy behind it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some shopping to do.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.

Join Us!

All of Tablet’s latest stories—in your inbox, daily. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Please enter a valid email
Check iconSuccess! You have subscribed to the Tablet newsletter.