Enforcing a Modesty Code

Can privately-owned stores dictate how we dress in their store?

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Comments (50)

(41) Annette, February 13, 2015 4:02 PM

No Shoes No Shirt No Service

The above is a sign that used to be common in Northern Ontario in the 70's --- while in Rome do as the Romans (if it doesn't contradict your own value system)
Absolutely allowed!!! otherwise we'd all have to live by THE LOWEST of the Lowest standards! no where near Torah values, nor my own comfort zone for that matter.
And I find that it is mostly the secular jews who object to this code in jewish establishments! Even church goers dress better than our own brethren. I expect a proper dress code from my own non observant kids when they come to visit. They will not be going to their own graves saying 'Mum never told me & I didn't know' - conversely If someone comes into 'my store' wearing a balaclava I'd want it OFF at the entrance - or I'd be VERY suspicious of what my next move would be. We ARE what we wear, we ARE what we eat, we ARE what we read, we ARE who we hang out with. In fact that's exactly WHAT makes us.

(40) esti herskowitz, March 9, 2014 3:14 PM

i'm a tour guide in Israel, and in many of the Christian areas, there are signs that say 'no shorts'. they don't differentiate between men and women, it's against an attitude of dress. the Christians who visit these sites are fine with these dictates, it enhances their visit as it enhances their thought process and spirituality level.
there are a lot of parallels that we jews can learn from them. this is not about discrimination. it's about accommodating the people in the store, or the vicinity, in their home turf, where we are visiting. it is about getting in to a mind set , maybe just for a short time, that says something different (and I'd like to think, higher) than our standard day to day routine mind frame. it opens our eyes to other people's thoughts and ideas, and helps us recognize, or at least look for, the divine in our everyday. we should appreciate it,

Anonymous, April 8, 2014 9:19 PM

modesty and tourists

Yes, regarding the christian tourists not minding the dress code; it is more like showing respect, being conscious that the place you're at is not just a place but a holy place.
It helps you to transition into another state of being.
Nothing to do with discrimination , oppression , nor being 'subservient' . I think people are gradually forgetting this and what it means because some are so out of touch with their spiritual life.

(39) Avi, February 17, 2014 4:48 PM

Define Discrimination

I think discrimination should be defined. These days any rules or regulations on people is called discrimination when it is not! asking for all people who want to enter dress a certain way is not discrimination, the world has become so "open" and "liberal" and "enlightened" that the Western world is closed, dark, and limiting.

(38) Anonymous, February 12, 2014 8:33 PM

Many restaurants have a policy of shoes and shirts required.

Many a restaurant has a policy requiring shoes and shirts to be worn, and patrons who don't comply will not be served (and probably will be asked to leave). This should be no different. The proprietor has a right to set standards for customers in his (her) place of business.

(37) viola, February 8, 2014 9:26 AM


I agree. It is so rare to see women dress modestly. The store did nothing wrong in stating a dress code. I totally agree!

(36) Rachel, February 3, 2014 9:14 PM

Private establishments are prohibited from discriminating in the US

Because of the pervasiveness of racism in the United States until the late 1950's Civil Rights era, it is against the law to discriminate against persons based on things like race, religion, gender, etc.
However, establishments that are open to the public can enforce codes of dress, behavior, etc. I think the problem initially in Williamsburg was that some people thought that the signs were meant to discriminate against the non-Orthodox, or against women. However, as long as the establishment makes it clear that everyone is welcome as long as they conform to the store's rules, that should remove the problem. I would also think that there is no disparate impact on women because the sign suggests that a man would not be welcome either if he dressed in a sleeveless shirt nor shorts.
NYC's solution may not be Solomonic, but it was pretty good given the law and circumstances in 21st century New York.

(35) Anonymous, February 2, 2014 9:43 PM

The secular world has no modesty! As a woman, I'm embarrassed to see how some women dress. Plunging neck lines, skirts barely covering underwear! Who walks into a store barefoot. We aren't at the beach. Today it's a disgrace the way people dress at the theater, airplane, or an elegant restaurant. I've seen jeans at a wedding! Lack of respect for the venue and themselves.

(34) Aharon, February 2, 2014 8:34 AM

Its their store

If you dont like their dress code, don't shop their. Its not discriminating. Anybody can go in if they comply with the dress code.

(33) Gabriel, February 1, 2014 4:20 PM

Reminds me of the movie Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts. She is a prostitute who goes into a high end clothing store and the workers are too haughty to help her.
I understand their desire to keep a standard of modesty in the store. But what if people want to go in there in the hopes of changing the way they dress?

(32) Anonymous, February 1, 2014 3:22 PM

I totally feel that our society knows no boundaries and that everyone should dress appropriately, Jew or non-Jew . If you own your own store you should be able to tell people to dress modestly. I am not orthodox,however, I am really distressed when I see women in public with their bra straps hanging out or their shorts that are so short, you can see their buttocks. Modesty. I believe that it is just common courtesy and positive self-esteem to dress appropriately.

(31) Leah, February 1, 2014 5:43 AM

Why would a woman wearing a low cut dress

be shopping in a modesty store?

Iris Moskovitz, February 2, 2014 3:43 AM

I agree

I was thinking the same exact thing. I have never seen an immodestly dressed woman coming into either of my local "frum" stores. Suppose things are a lot different in New York.

(30) Aharon Tuvia, January 31, 2014 6:42 PM


In Havdalah, we describe Hashem as "HaMavdil ben Kodesh l'chol," among other things, that Hashem does indeed differentaite -- discriminate -- between what is holy and mundane, between Shabbos and the rest of the week, and between Jews and non-Jews. I applaud what this clothing store is doing. Not that I say everyone should use their methods, it's their personal business decision. But I'm tired of Judaism in particular, and of religion in general, being of the defensive and having to hide behind some veneer of being "modern" and " relevant." It's actually the anti-religious that are attempting unacceptable discrimination in this instance, by trying to deprive a business of the right to determine what types of attire are appropriate or not in its store. It is the anti-religious who are trying to force their anti-religious agenda on everyone else. It's about time someone in our Kehillos stood up and said "enough!".

(29) Alice, January 31, 2014 4:51 PM

Don't judge a book by the cover

I believe that we should respect each other regardless of how we look or dress and also never judge a book by the cover because who knows what soul is in that body. It could be a wonderful and righteous one. However, I do believe that if a person is in a neighborhood that is religious then by all means they should respect the dress code and rules. The people who wanted to take the matter to court are being petty and obviously have no serious worries in their lives. If this is their only concern then they should thank Hashem and stop wasting time over stupidity. They probably would not have been interested in what the store sells anyway.

(28) Bernadette wolff, January 31, 2014 3:52 AM

respect Jewish Laws

The laws of Jewish modesty should be respected. I applaud their decision to discriminate against unwholesome dress and I pray the have the courage to defend their faith.

(27) Bernadette, January 31, 2014 12:17 AM

The store should be able to post the sign as they see fit. And IMHO if I am dressed against a store's dress code, I probably would want to avoid that store anyway as there would not be anything there that I would want to buy. I think that the people who made a big deal out of this just wanted to well make a big deal out of something.

(26) Harriet, January 30, 2014 10:33 PM

Moderation, good taste and common sense

The answer lies in moderation: as a Western European woman, I feel very uncomfortable when I see a lady wearing a full burka. Equally, I don't enjoy the spectacle of sagging hairy bellies and men's feet in flip-flops, in a seaside café, for example. People should have regard both to their own dignity and to other people's aesthetic sensibilities, and, last but not least, to the prevailing social mores of the particular time and place we inhabit. Look around you: most people do in fact conform instinctively to the prevalent dress code of our society, i.e. suits or jeans and tees for men and knee-length frocks cardigans or jeans and tees for ladies.

(25) M J Spaulding, January 30, 2014 9:50 PM

Dress Code

I remember as a child my aunt would not let me an my cousins go to town in our shorts. This was no New York but a resort town on Lake Michigan. When my older sister went to town she wore a hat, a dress or suit, high heels and hose, and white gloves. I didn't wear a hat, but a dress and shoes and hose and white gloves. It was just what one did. I miss those days.

(24) Frank Adam, January 30, 2014 9:14 PM

Not Just Jewish Modesty But Common Law Private Property

No lesser person than the Duke of Wellington at the height of his reputation in the decade after Waterloo and the greatest public figure in Britain at the time was once turned away from a London club because he was in pantaloons instead of breeches and stockings.
New York City's lawyers were eventually properly briefed as the matter depends on when you step over the property line from the public street into a private domain - in the example cited a shop.
What is bad behaviour is to become rude and physical about the way people dress in the pubic street and other public spaces. As fashions in modesty also shift as much as fashions in clothes cut and behaviour or language choices, in case of dispute it boils down to a jury.
For everyday guidance it is traditionally the host who sets the dress code for an occasion with a note on the [simcha] invitation and that also goes for when Joe Public organises a public function in any of their institutions or spaces that are publicly cared for.

(23) Anonymous, January 30, 2014 8:46 PM

I don't agree

I can fully understand that the way some young women dress today is very immodest to say the least. But a shop , although it is private property. Is nevertheless a public place where anybody can come in and buy goods and the owner has the obligation to serve everyone equally. If you impose a dress code, first there is no limit to it. For some covering the arms will suffice whereas for Muslim fundamentalist, a woman should be covered from head to toes. So, where do you draw a line? Then, some Christian, Muslim or other religious fanatics will come along, and everyone of them will try to impose his rules. My G.d. America is not Iran!!!or Afghanistan....we need to remain moderate and tolerant.

(22) Anonymous, January 30, 2014 8:46 PM

Dress code

I don't see why the store can't state their preference for a modest dress code, since Night clubs, certain restaurants and other secular gathering places actually ban people from entering if they don't follow a certain dress code.
Although a gentile I would prefer to walk into a store with a modest dress code where the owner is likely to have certain morals. I have also owned a store with my spouse in the past and understand very well what it is like to be dealing with all sorts of people who walk in ! I am glad the charges against the store owner mentioned here were dropped eventually.

(21) R, January 30, 2014 7:01 PM

Dress code

Dress codes in private establishments are not offensive per se, but they present three dangers. By the way, this applies in Israel as well. First, as a practical matter, a non-observant person in "trendy Williamsburg" who wanders over to a more Jewish neighborhood will not be dressed "appropriately," and it is not practical to ask him or her change clothing and come back, so as a practical matter the dress code keeps particular individuals out ipso facto, and that is wrong. Ditto if the store is in a regular commercial neighborhood. Second, one has to be very careful in designing the dress code. If, for example, you say no visible necklaces with a cross on them or no women wearing burkas or no turbans, you're crossing a line that your should not cross (excuse the pun). Third, we can be our own worst enemies; if we allow dress codes, then certain individuals are liable to demand that stores that do not have dress codes be put in cherem, and all of a sudden it becomes not a matter of personal choice but a forced race to the bottom. With all that in mind, I am opposed to dress codes.

(20) Upsidedown, January 30, 2014 6:44 PM

The mirror question

The mirror question probably provides the answer: how would we react to a sign that reads: "no long skirt, no long sleeve, no head covers"? The fundamental idea is that we are all (and I mean all) fulfilling G-d's plans. Whatever we wear or way we behave is what G-d intended for us at that point in time. No men/women can therefore judge what G-d created; regardless of our personal preference or conviction. Lastly, let's examine our reaction to the mirror question and see if we still believe that's ok? Or are we passing judgement to G-d's creation? Can we assume such role? Let G-d be the judge of every soul ... And let each of use just focus on our own soul & path to growth

(19) H A Arnevet, January 30, 2014 5:45 PM


My customer base has certain preferences; to keep that customer base I cater to those preferences; I don't wish to offend my clients. I'm not keeping anyone out who will not offend my clients; allowing offensive people in would be a restraint of trade (by the gov't).

(18) Mati, January 30, 2014 5:34 PM

In Lubbock, Texas....

...Citybank does not allow any form or hat. That makes for an embarrassing situation for me because I am not interested in walking in this "redneck" town with only a yarmulke since I would be the only Jew that would. So I wear a hat. They have the right to have their dress code, but I have the right to move my business to another bank...which I did.

MABHS"Y, February 11, 2014 1:42 PM

No hat?

I"m certain that they have that policy in place so that if in case, God forbid, of a robbery, clearer identification may be made of the perpetrator. But I am curious -- did you ask if they would make a religious exception for you, or did you just assume they wouldn't, and walk out?

Mati, February 16, 2014 12:38 PM

This is what they claim...

but why doesn't every bank have the policy? Every bank is concerned about robbery. And I DID ask for an exception and was denied. So I didn't just walk out.

(17) Anonymous, January 30, 2014 5:28 PM

"No tikee, no shirtee"

When I was a kid, Chinese laundries had the sign up, "No tikee, no shirtee." Nobody ever filed a suit against them.

(16) Tana, January 30, 2014 4:58 PM

Enforceing dress codes is our right

Private businesses, schools and governments have a right to enforse dress codes in their arenas. Beache and swimming pools, for example may have las stringent rules.

(15) debbie, January 30, 2014 4:48 PM

private property vs in government

i don't have a problem with this because it's private property.what i do have a problem with is the fear that if the majority of israelis become orthodox and get in power they will enforce this dress code upon everyone and use morals police like saudi arabia when people should have free will and free choice

(14) RICHARD CHAMBERLIN, January 30, 2014 4:28 PM

The owner has the full right to have a dress code for those who walk into his store. Some restaurants don't allow men to enter without a tie. Years ago, modest clothing was required by law. There is nothing wrong with a store owner requiring modesty in his own store.

(13) Shoshana - Jerusalem, January 30, 2014 4:23 PM

obvious anti-Jewish

Of course a private store can put a dress code, especially in Williamsberg.

The whole thing was one anti-Semitic case to turn people against the religious Jews. If restaurants, etc., can have codes why can't a store? And the courts knew very well there was no case but it kept it going long enough to bad-mouth Jews, which from what I understand is the thing of the day in the good ol' U.S.A.

I would tell you all to move here but I don't know where the ant-Semitism is worse, to tell you the truth. But at least here we are in Eretz Yisrael and it's our own country,( meanwhile.)
Maybe you guys can figure our a way of ousting Kerry?

(12) Richard, January 30, 2014 3:39 PM

It is discriminatory

I have strong beliefs about the importance of modest.y However, I don't believe culture can be legislated or forced on people. The store may have served the community better if they indicated what type of clothing was inside and how they dress. People then have a choice. Those who are immodest may learn from example.

(11) Anonymous, January 30, 2014 3:16 PM

A store is not a public domain. It is privately owned/managed and, as such, can impose any rules - no cell phone, no large shopping bags, no outside food, no immodest dress. I can't understand how this even made it to the courts!

(10) Sidney, January 29, 2014 5:11 AM

Discrimination Against Men

I agree, with dropping the issue, completely.

If anything some dress codes around the country discriminate against men, E.g., Jackets required when women can show up in a dress and need not wear a suit or pantsuit.

(9) anonymous, January 28, 2014 4:26 PM

other side of the coin

I stay out of malls for the opposite reason. Window displays of nearly nude models in provocative poses offend me.Some of those stores cater to only young people who fit that image. Other shoppers are ignored. Their staff fit only that image. I don't see anyone suing those companies for their dress codes and lack of modesty.

(8) Anonymous, January 28, 2014 12:07 PM

no shirt no shoes no service

How is this different than the ubiquitous sign?
"No shirt, no shoes, no service"

Anonymous, January 30, 2014 2:41 AM

I agree

That's just what I was thinking.

Anonymous, January 30, 2014 4:21 PM

That is a health code in a restaurant.

Aviva, January 30, 2014 3:44 PM

It isn't

And it shouldn't be qualitatively different either. Should it.

Batya, January 30, 2014 10:01 PM

yeah. duh

Does anyone cry "discrimination" because of this sign? If they don't want your business because of the way you're dressed, don't shop there!

Why should the Jewish owner have to put up with what he considers to be immodesty? I think it's a matter of proprietor's rights in this case.

I think it would be a different matter if they were excluding people based on skin color, however.

Can they also enforce a men's only or women's only store? Would THAT be discrimination? I know I would feel uncomfortable going into some stores in Williamsburg (men's shoes, for example) because they are full of only men, but as a mom I could see a reason to go in if my son needed shoes. And it is my choice not to enter those stores. Similarly, I think my husband would be uncomfortable going into the ladies' shops on 13th Ave. He's come with me to see how a certain item fit, but wouldn't go in alone to purchase something for me or our daughter.

SusanE, January 31, 2014 1:15 AM

No shoes, No Shirt, No Service.

Same dress code sign.... you see everywhere. They have that right to post in their business.

(7) Anonymous, January 28, 2014 6:38 AM

Its his store, he has the right to be comfortable in his own store!! if people dont want to conform to the (not even so strict) dress code, they are welcome to shop somewhere else.

(6) Anonymous, January 28, 2014 5:41 AM

Modesty sign

I was happy to hear that the sign was posted on the outside of the store and doesn't become an issue after someone walks in

(5) Elisabeth Stewart, January 28, 2014 1:11 AM

I agree with the store owner.

A very brave shop owner. I hope the clothing in the shop is also modest. I would definetly go there. In the world today, our families are exposed to so much indecency, this storey is refreshing. Better to err on the side of modesty. There isn't a law against it. It is the right of the shop owner. There are plenty of immodest clothing stores to meet public demand. Check out Lori. Almost live! Our actions are the best teacher.

(4) Anonymous, January 28, 2014 12:41 AM

What is the problem

Many establishments in a beach town have a dress code. Why shouldn't a private store in Brooklyn be allowed to have a dress code?

(3) Anonymous, January 27, 2014 12:53 AM

It's a problem

This is exile. Unfortunately, unless you have each customer screened before they come in, I don't think there is much you can do. You can and SHOULD, however, have a STRICT dress code for all the people who work in the store. I have already told my cleaning lady that she cannot wear low cut blouses or shorts in my house.
why do I say WE ARE IN GOLUS? That is the problem with living outside Israel. We live among these people, they drive us nuts, and we still insist on living among them. If you want to live among your own people then you must move to a place where immodest women will be less likely to go into a religious store (like bnei brak, bayit vagan, etc.)

(2) Nancy, January 26, 2014 8:01 PM

This dress code sounds like it is directed to BOTH genders, and is not offensive to me. I would however be greatly offended by a sign which prohibited any racial group from entering the store.

(1) SarahRachel, January 26, 2014 2:51 PM

The Low-Hanging Pants Prohibition In Many Stores

Many stores where I live have signs on the windows and doors saying "no low hanging pants, no hoodies". These are legitimate signs that keep gang members out, and the rest of us are grateful for it.

If there is not allowed signs that say women should wear high collars, sleeves, dresses down to so far on the legs, etc. Then maybe signs like the ones in my area to keep out gang members might have to be taken down too. That would be horrible for both the store owners AND us non-gang member customers. What do we do then??


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