By Atalya Ilouz
A Nation of Rebels
Today is one of those incredibly pleasant mornings. The sun is out to play, and there is a faint breeze rolling through the streets. In any town all over America, the normal scene in town would be an array of people wandering around, different outfits and coloring creeping into the senses.
Not where I am.
Standing in the middle of Me’ah Shearim, it almost feels like I am in a Where’s Waldo game, except the scenery around me is almost utterly black, and I ( shockingly) am wearing a bright blue sweater.
Me’ah Shearim has the feel of an 1800’s town in Russia. Men stride through the streets, their long peyot bouncing jauntily as they walk, adorned in long black coats, shtreimels, and the fancier ones have short pants tucked into white socks. Not one ounce of color for these serious gentlemen! The women stroll down the sidewalks pushing their baby carriages, less stern than the men, along with their black uniforms they will add a pastel-colored top,( button down of course).
The Ideaology behind this sterile way of dress is twofold. As Jewish people, we see ourselves as children of the Almighty King. Therefore we are a nation of princes and princesses. As royalty, we must dress accordingly, suits and pleated skirts are the sign of our higher lineage. The idea of modesty (for women) is very important to them as well. When each one is dressed in this uniform, there is nothing individual about each girl, and less able to attract attention to herself, and possibly transgress the prohibition of being immodest.
This is where the problem lies for me. As the Jewish people our entire identity is that we stand out from the nations. We are a nation of individuals, who have time and time again chosen to do not what the rest of the mainstream world has done. Our forefather Abraham went against the grain to promote the idea of Monotheism. We are a nation of rebels, of thinkers, of appreciating what is outside the realm of everyday norm.
Fashion is a way to express oneself, it is a form of art. Choosing what you put together says something about who you are. Being on a busy street surrounded by different styles and colors is a simultaneous declaration from all the people around “I exist! I am different! I am me!” By taking away this outlet of creativity, and replacing it with a drab uniform, a flow of self-expression is halted. I am not suggesting that Jewish women start to parade around in Lady GaGa’s castoffs; nor am I suggesting the idea of modesty should be violated in any manner. However there is a way to remain modest in attire and express yourself.
I was walking in the open marketplace of Ben Yehuda last week. As I entered the marketplace, a young girl walked past me. She was wearing a soft yellow sweater, that brought a field of buttercups to mind. Her skirt was long and white gathering and swirling about her ankles, and she wore a delicate silver chain about her waist, with a few hanging silver seashells. Her outfit reminded me of a peaceful day at the beach, when the waves are low and the seagulls are out for a leisurely walk. Her outfit was beautiful, expressive, and completely modest, and was a lovely break from the black sea I had grown accustomed to seeing.
The next time you get dressed, think about what you want to express to the world. And for my sake, wear color.