A Jewish woman’s dress code is dictated by the section of Jewish law known as “Tznius,” which translates from Hebrew to mean “modesty.” While Orthodox women are required to dress conservatively, the expected levels of modesty when it comes to hair covering and appropriate lengths of skirts, dresses and sleeves vary by sect. Depending on which group they belong to, women observe all, some or none of these dress code requirements.
According to the Jewish law “Halacha,” a married woman must keep herself covered in public. This is done in order to show others that the woman is the wife of another man and that men should not approach her. A woman who is not yet married may reveal her hair.
This tradition is mainly observed by members of the orthodox Haredi sects, although some Modern Orthodox women cover their hair as well. Women wear berets, hats or scarves called “tichels” to cover their hair. Tichels come in a variety of styles that vary from simple solid-colored ones to ones with ornate patterns and designs.
Women who belong to Haredi sects wear blouses and shirts with sleeves that end below the elbow. The collar of the shirt must cover the woman’s collarbone and neckline. In some ultra-Orthodox communities, women also wear a loose-fitting vest over the shirt. In addition, these garments must be chosen in subdued, neutral colors that do not attract a lot of attention — unlike loud colors such as pink or red.
Skirts or dresses that end at the ankle are the most typical bottoms worn by Orthodox Jewish women. Stockings are always worn underneath the skirt or dress. All Orthodox and some Modern Orthodox women do not wear pants in the company of men. Most Orthodox women also do not wear open-toed shoes. Some will wear sandals, but only with thick socks or stockings that do not reveal the flesh.
Religious Holiday Attire
Orthodox Jewish women, particularly of Eastern European heritage, wear white aprons during the Shabbat. In preparation for the Shabbat, those women belonging to the Modern Orthodox sect trade in their casual clothing such as pants and sports shoes for more formal clothing similar to that of the Conservative women. All Orthodox and Modern Orthodox women dress conservatively when attending synagogue on these and other special occasions.
Women belonging to the Reformed sect are not required to follow any set dress code. Flesh-bearing dresses and skirts, as well as pants and shorts are permitted, sometimes even in synagogue or during religious holidays. Based on clothing alone, women belonging to this sect of Judaism are often difficult to distinguish from women of other faiths.