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Fashion Statement
Mom with a View

Fashion Statement

If you don't want to be treated like an object, don't dress like one.


I'm sitting at Coffee Bean in Los Angeles – it's a hot day -- and as I look around I notice that most of the women in the coffee shop and the surrounding streets seem to have forgotten to get dressed. Either that or they're shopping in the wrong department.

What's going on?

The Wall Street Journal recently printed a piece highlighting the difficulties that successful businesswomen encounter trying to mentor their younger colleagues or subordinates. These new workers seem completely unreceptive to advice on how to dress. They seem completely unconscious that to represent themselves in a businesslike fashion requires attention to how they're attired.

One of the primary and most basic tenets of the feminist movement was that women wanted to be treated as people, not objects. This is a noble goal and certainly a Jewish goal. But the Torah adds the important corollary to this desire. In order to be treated as a person you must dress like one. In other words, if you don't want to be treated like an object, don't dress like one.

Study after study shows that women who wear provocative clothing in the workplace will not be treated as equal business partners. They will not be taken seriously.

The easy way out is to blame men. The mature attitude is to take responsibility for oneself. Isn't that true empowerment? Women who want to be treated as peers must show that they take themselves seriously.

If a male partner in a prominent law firm arrived at the office in a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts, his employment future would be called into question. His clients would be less confident in his ability to represent them appropriately.

Likewise, if a female CEO leads a meeting in a low-cut blouse and miniskirt, her words will not be treated with the gravity they deserve. It's not sexism. It's reality.

This is not just true in the workplace but in all situations and relationships. We communicate who we are in many non-verbal ways. We communicate some of our goals through body language and other subtle clues.

Perhaps today's young woman doesn't realize what the message she is broadcasting. Perhaps she's just following the prevailing fashion. Or perhaps she's just not focused on being taken seriously as a thoughtful human being, which would be a real shame.

Deeper lifelong relationships of all sorts -- marriages, friendships, job-related partnerships -- are based on internal character traits like kindness, loyalty or honesty.

But the outside can be so loud it blocks the interior from being seen.

If women dress like bodies instead of souls, if what seems like underwear is now consider everyday street clothing, have we really progressed? No matter their real brains, insight or depth, women who dress like objects are viewed as...well, objects.

Objects are powerless. Human beings are powerful. Lingerie is revealing, but solely of the body. The irony is that only through covering up do our real selves shine through.

November 19, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 44

(44) Anonymous, November 29, 2006 4:30 PM

One can dress modestly and still be stylish

I DO BELIEVE THAT WE CAN DRESS MODESTLY AND STILL LOOK STYLISH.IT JUST TAKES ALOT of talent in shopping, and time patience to do it right! But I notice guys will look at women no matter what they wear- men are just talented that way! i have guys stare at me whether I have make up on, or not, if I am dressed up or not, have my hair covered or not. And What I do is either ignore their stares, or I stare them back with a serious non flirting manner.

(43) Gisele, November 27, 2006 2:50 PM


THEY DRESS AND ACT WITH ONE ANOTHER. AND WE MUST stop looking at one another as objects, but people to be respected. And if both dress,and manner are modest,than we won't have to worry about elbows,or too high dress lines,or necklines being too exposed. These parts should be covered up, but when these parts are covered and married women wear wigs, hats, etc. Some men still look at women in not proper ways! Also I have seen many occasions despite seperate seating at simcat, men still going out in the hallway of the catering hall looking at the various women- despite seperate rooms,and enterances. I see this on shabbat in schuls too. If single meeting places were better regulated then those places can exist/ and men and women can have an easier time to deal with one another- without the pent up emotions getting in the way of giving one another proper respect.

(42) Sara, November 27, 2006 2:15 PM

Thank you

My 15 yr old daughter and i were just having a discussion on this topic not that long ago. When we don't shop in the Frum clothing stores it is very difficult for her to get a skirt that is stylish and below the knees.
I know from my own experience i feel better when i am dressed nicely yet still conservatively then when i am dressed frumpy. I grew up modern and am now frum and even when i was modern i couldn't wear reveiling clothes i felt cheap in them. I also beleive that people are too provcative in the way they dress and i also think this has a big part in what is wrong with society today {and it is not only here in the usa}. there are more teen pregnancies and more teens having relations at a much younger age. when you dress provacativly you start to behave that way and then one thing leads to another. We do tend to judge people by the way they dress and their actions. and yes mindy it is great to be able to have these discussions!

(41) Mindy, November 26, 2006 2:26 PM

Agree with Daniella and Ora

Isn't it wonderful to have these discussions, intellectually and politely?
Thank God.
Who is like Your Nation, Israel?

(40) Anonymous, November 26, 2006 1:52 PM

Dress codes

I think that both men and women stare at one another how they dress regardless if they are married or not, and this is disgusting! I have had seen guys who are so called "FRUM" STARE AT ME AND LOOK AT ME ALLURING WHEN I WALK IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD, SOMETIMES WIRH MY SON, AND THIS BEHAVIOR DISGUSTS ME- THEY HAVE EVEN DONE THIS IN FRONT OF THEIR OWN WIVES! WHERE IS MIDDIOT?? Men look at women sometimes like they are just a piece of meat! This is the desensitized view I think that Ora meant in her 11/24 comment here. Both men and women have a duty to dress modestly, and to stop looking at one another as "objects of lust"- but people with respect and dignity!

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