It is a fairly well-known fact that there is a traditional Jewish dress code. For many people, that concept - “traditional Jewish dress” - may bring to mind scenes of Fiddler on the Roof; other people may immediately imagine chassidim, with their long black coats, full beards and fuzzy shtreimels (fur hats). The fact is that all these types of dress are most often based on community minhagim (customs), and upon the guiding principle of modesty.
In general, the concept of dressing modestly refers to keeping one’s body appropriately covered so as not to draw attention to one’s physical self and guidelines exist for both men and women.
The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Abridged Code of Jewish Law) records another interesting aspect to dressing modestly:
“One should not wear expensive clothes, for this leads a person to pride...” (3:3). Wearing expensive or showy clothing also goes against the concept of modesty. At the same time, one should take pride in how one dresses: “...and not wear clothes that are open or dirty, in order that one will not be ridiculed by people; but one should have moderate priced and clean clothes” (Ibid.)
Not drawing attention to oneself is not just about how much skin one reveals or whether the dress can be termed “indecent.” For both men and women, the idea of dressing modestly is meant to be a physical demonstration of a person’s innate respect for him or herself.
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