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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Where has all the color gone?

I've noticed this in the past few weeks, with something really driving it home recently. The ladies in Flatbush have stopped wearing colors, at least to dress up.

Oh, black has always been a popular color for Shabbos and Yom Tov - it's slimming, it goes with everything, and you can wear the same black suit over and over and no one will notice. I have a black suit of my own for that reason. I only really wear it for simchas (weddings and bar mitzvahs) because my synagogue is sort of askew from the rest of the area, but I do own it. But there's always been other colors, too.

A few weeks ago, though, I got to attend a yeshiva high school graduation - the son of friends of ours. They had separate seating, so I was with the young man's mother, sister, grandmother and another family friend. His father sat by himself until Jonathan showed up a bit late.

We were the only women in the auditorium wearing colors. The mother wore a lovely pink suit, and a white knit hat with a flower and I wore the outfit I wore to my brother-in-law's wedding - a green skirt, melon tank and embroidered natural linen jacket, with a green headscarf. The other ladies also dressed in summer-appropriate colors, and wore hats (except for the twelve year old, but she wore a blue headband.) Everyone else wore black or grey or black and white, and, of course, wigs. I was also the only one who knitted, but that's fairly normal. Better that I knit than I spoke or texted on my cellphone.

However, this is a fairly right-wing yeshiva even for Flatbush, so the other families might have skewed that way anyway.

This does not explain what happened on a recent Friday night at the local mikveh. The waiting area had a number of women in Shabbos dress (some in outfits, some in Shabbos robes), and all of them were wearing black or black and white.

Except me. I was wearing that outfit I mentioned above. I felt like Mrs. Technicolor. And the people who use this place don't skew any more right on average than the rest of Flatbush. Which, yes, can be pretty far right.

Is it a style thing? Am I hopelessly out of date?


I've noticed this for quite some time in the general society, in NYC in particular. It's not just people on the streets -- compare the set decoration and costumes for the SGA seasons, for example. It's starting to make me a little crazy, frankly.

I think it may be connected to the oncoming economic depression: black is a sign of Seriousness. And in NYC it helps you blend in, it conceals poverty, dirt, the fact you have to ride the subway. And, of course, it makes you look slimmer.

Oh, yes. NYC has always equalled black, but not to this degree.

But these aren't outfits likely to be worn on the Subway, or to conceal poverty.

This is only tangentially in response to your question, but I'm curious and thought you might have an answer: why is it customary for men in certain parts of the Orthodox world to only wear black and white? Black trousers, white shirt, black kippah -- it's like a uniform. There are variations, of course -- I've seen half a dozen different styles of Hasidic male dress -- but the color palette is uniformly black and white. Is it written somewhere that colors are inappropriate for men?

We call it the uniform, in fact. Part of it is mourning for the Temple - how can a man wear bright, cheerful colors if the Temple is in ruins? Part is also the need to conform, especially in a group where one is judged in large part by appearance.

It's also the "dress code" for a lot of yeshivas. Not uniform, note - uniforms are for girls. Boys just have to wear the SAME clothes. And why should they stop just because they're out of school? (That, however, may be a male thing.)

Who cares if you're out of date? That monochrome black is so darned dull. My chasunah suit is light grey, winter Shabbos suit is blue, and summer Shabbos suit is tan.

Oh, don't worry about that. I'm not changing my wardrobe. In fact, my latest clothing purchases are all in pretty, summery brights. I'd rather be Mrs. Technicolor than dull. (My one black suit is NOT dull.)

I'm just curious. Stark monochrome does not flatter anyone.

Interesting. Cycles of fashion, I suppose.

I'm sure - and this group follows both the outside world and its own cycles.

what drives me crazy is shabbos robe as street clothes.

I KNOW. I understand the Shabbos robe - I really do. I even have a velour dress I keep just for that purpose - something pretty to toss over my head after my shower and before candle lighting, or to wear to Shabbos lunch if I didn't go to shul. And even if it is soft and fuzzy, it is a DRESS. And I still don't wear it if I have company.

To wear a robe in public other than on one's own front porch? My mother would disown me.

My own theory is that the institutionalized drabness of men's clothes has spilled over into women's clothes. I just don't know why.

So it's happening in Queens, too?

I'm glad Batya's resisted this.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

I like your daughter's outfit.

Were the girls the same age?

(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  

Out of curiosity, have you noticed a similar trend among your secular neighbors? Because ISTR reading some fashion theorist or other opining that color ebbs and flows with economic cycles, and that during periods of recession or fear of same, the color tends to leach out of the fashion palette...

It's really hard to say - I don't see my non-Orthodox neighbors in similar situations. But I will say that I've only really noticed the black-and-white clothing recently - at Yitzchak's graduation and that Friday night at the mikveh. Most of the women I know are wearing summer-appropriate colors and such, but my synagogue is one of the most left-leaning Orthodox synagogues in Flatbush, many of whom are not at all style or fashion conscious - much like me.

It's why those two times made me wonder.

This reminds me of "I'm more Jewish than you! See? I don't even wear color" situations.

It does.

I can't comment on the current situation - but I did want to say that I actually went to Erasmus High School (class of 1971), and commuted from Manhattan to do it, too.

this has nothing to do with answering your question, but i've noticed that some non-hhareidi men are able to dress monochromatically without ending up looking hhareidi. and i'd like to figure out how to pull that off.

Wear a black shirt and white pants.

black adn white

I clothes shop in boro park. if i tell the saleslady, not black and not a super-straight skirt, she'll tell me, would you like to see the two outfits that leaves? one can only buy what they sell. if the ladies shop locally, there really isn't much selection.

hopefully, fashion will change soon. i refuse to wear black, and haven't bought new clothes in a while.


Re: black adn white

I can believe it. I wonder if the clothes shops in Flatbush are any better? I get most of my clothing online. *Thinks*. Except for the hat and the knee-highs, everything I'm wearing right now I bought online. Even the shoes. And colorful. Beige hat, rose blouse, blue sleeveless tee, grey skirt. Pretty colors for a pretty day.

I get straight skirts in that they can be flattering or they work better with certain jackets, but I won't buy them for daily wear. I like the freedom of movement I get from full ones. You can't sit cross-legged in a straight skirt. Since I don't wear pants, I need this.