Tsnius Is Tsexy

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Tsnius, or tzniut, is a word that means modesty, and refers to special Jewish laws about how men and women should dress. Theoretically, a concept that should be embraced at single-sex schools for Orthodox teenagers who’ve had it up to here with social mores and expectations, right?

Not exactly. That is — not until Beth Menahem, a Chabad-Lubavitch girls’ school in Lyons, France, redesigned their uniforms and had a fashion show to highlight the fact.

Now, the girls are singing to a different tune — or, rather, strutting.

Under sultry beats of café jazz and club electronica, a string of young women strutted down the catwalk, as lithe and stone-faced as contestants on “America’s Next Top Model.” They wore playful confections made of gauzy fabric and delicate trim. The bohemian chic skirts and couture-style gowns they modeled looked well suited to the fashion week tents of New York or Milan.

The mother of one of the students, who also works in couture, designed the costumes. The idea is getting talked about all over the world in other Hasidic communities. Notably, the raves it’s receiving are not unlike the comments that my (the other kind of) ghetto high school got when they introduced uniforms:

My daughter Rivka is 13, and in the beginning when she heard about the uniform, she was not happy about it,” said Lidia Azoulay, who also works as an administrator at the school. “But when she saw how easy it became to get dressed in the morning, she loved it. There had been problems of competition between the children from rich parents and the children from poor parents, but now there is no problem.”

Of course, the notion of a modest women’s fashion show is kind of negated by having photos of the event run online. I deleted our lead graphic at the last second, but if you’re that curious, well, the Haredi news service can help you out.

Posted on January 16, 2009

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