The laws of modest clothing.
1. One of fundamental laws of the Torah is the requirement for modesty in clothing. Regarding this law, there is an important difference between the obligations of a man and a woman. While the man should also dress modestly, the woman is obliged to do so. The man, whose wife does not wish to dress modestly, has a mitzva to divorce her and in this case, the wife will lose her Kesubah. Usually, the one divorcing his wife has to pay her a sum of money, stated in their marriage contract (Kesubah). But in some cases, where the wife is guilty, she will lose her Kesubah. Note, that even a sinful woman, for example the one who eats non-kosher, will still have her Kesubah, as long as she feeds her husband only kosher food. In case of wearing immodest clothes, it is different. The reason for this is that the immodest woman destroys the foundation of her family. Her beauty is intended to promote the love between her and her husband and therefore the woman that uses her body for attracting other men loses her Kesubah. (Note that the Torah does not view a woman as someone who “provides pleasure” for her husband. In truth an unmarried woman is also prohibited from wearing immodest clothes by many Torah laws. One of the prohibitions she transgresses is “putting a stumbling block before the blind, i.e. causing men to have bad thoughts. However, in case of a married woman, indecent dress is also a violation of family loyalty and destroys the covenant that was made at the time of her marriage.)
2. Let us now list the minimal requirements for modest clothing.
- The skirt or dress should cover the knees, even when the woman sits down, gets out of a car, walks up the stairs, etc.
- The legs must be covered with nontransparent stockings or tights. Certainly, if she wears a long skirt down to her shoes, there is no obligation to wear stockings underneath.
- The dress or blouse should have a collar so that at least the area below the neck is always covered both in the front and in the back. No button on her clothing should be open. According to some opinions the neck itself should not be exposed either, but what is below has to be covered according to all opinions.
- The elbows should be covered. According to some opinions the sleeves should reach up to the wrists.
- It is forbidden to wear tight clothes that underline the woman’s body. It is also prohibited to wear clothes of red and similar colors.
- Married women, and also those who have been married (either divorced or widows), should cover their hair. According to many Rabbis,a wig is an acceptable way to cover the hair. However, those women that wear wigs should the ones that don’t look exactly like her own hair. It is preferable to wear a wig made from artificial hair.
3. All of the above is the minimal requirement of modesty. Our righteous women go beyond that and dress even more modestly than is required, while our sages promise a blessing on the household, where there the woman is modest. Even when our doctor tells us to avoid certain foods or to stop certain habits, because they are harmful to our health, we listen. How much more so should we heed to our sages who say that immodest clothing causes various problems including poverty and also has bad influence on the children. There is also a number of positive effects of modest clothing. Some cases of skin cancer are closely connected to the sun rays, falling directly on unprotected body parts. Some rape cases are closely connected to attracting the criminal, by immodest behaviour and clothing. And the last, but not least, the religious women overcome their mid-life crisis much easier than their non-religious friends of the same age. It is knows that the majority of western women come to face a stress of aging at approximately 45 or 50, because at this age they feel difficulties losing the most important part of themselves - their attractive youthful bodies. Some of these women even do plastic surgery in order to stop the aging process at all costs. Many go through hard psychological traumas, fights with their husbands, who sometimes stop being faithful and at times even end up being divorced. For the religious woman, her beauty and youth play a much lesser part in her life. She gets her share of respect from her husband, because she is the mother of his children. Her children, in their turn, respect her for being their mother. Many religious women at the age of 50, still have teenaged children, and are busy raising them, just as their younger friends, feeling young till very late. Moreover, for a woman who is covers her hair and body, aging is not so noticeable. The only aged part visible is her face, but using good make-up she can still look quite young. On the other hand a non-religious woman by the age of 50 loses her beauty noticeably. One can tell her age from the hair and her wrinkled arms. In fact, sometimes and older woman actually changes her clothing style to a more modest one in order to look more attractive.
4. Any blessing said in front of an immodestly dressed woman, is ‘Bracha Levatala” (a vain blessing). Therefore, a husband whose wife is not modestly dressed or has her hair uncovered constantly takes the name of the Creator in vain, and none of his blessings is counted. (If one finds himself in front of a woman, not modestly dressed, he should turn away or at least close his eyes, when reciting any blessing.)