Sunday, February 3, 2008

Standards of Beauty

When I was younger, I liked to coast on what was termed "natural beauty". As a die-hard tomboy who found all things girlie (dolls, makeup, ballet, gymnastics) BORING, I had the sense from very early on in life that I should not have to find my self-esteem in attracting a boy. I mean, I was my own person, with ideas and likes/dislikes. Why would I ever want to put on mascara just so some boy would like me? I wanted to be a beautiful person on the inside.

I have long outgrown my tomboy-ishness and learned to embrace my feminine side. Several years ago, I came to understand that after a certain age, a woman is expected to wear light makeup under most circumstances (in the workforce, at simchas, on shidduchim). And so I replaced my slightly over sized, "comfortable" skirts and turtlenecks with properly sized clothing, my "sensible" shoes for pumps, and find myself always on the lookout these days for a new fabulous lipstick or eyeshadow shade. I learned, in other words, that to be valued as a person, I had to act like a woman. After all, would we respect a man if he acted unmanly?

Speaking of men, one mitzvah that I take very seriously is doing what I can to remain attractive to my husband. While I do not, B'H', feel pressured to always be seen with a full face of makeup on, as some women do, I do always try to have a bit of makeup on when my husband is home, to ensure that my hair is neat and my clothes clean. And of course, this consideration for appearance is a two-way street; a man should attempt to remain appealing to his wife. That means showering enough and laundering your clothes enough to banish odour, trying to refrain from wearing hole-ridden clothing (especially socks) in our presence, and striking up a relationship with your barber. Because one thing any woman appreciates on a man is a good haircut.

I had a conversation recently with my husband about tznius, specifically internalizing the concept of tznius versus superficially adhering to the the letter of the law. The conversation turned to the wearing of clothing that may cover all the "important" parts but are tight enough to leave nothing to the imagination, spike-heeled boots, and/or shaggy-maned sheitels.

I mentioned that most girls/women who wear such styles do so to be deemed attractive by men- all men. The intention is to invoke a look on the street, to turn a head and garner attention. The impetus for such intention is a hyper form of that sensibility evidenced by most girls (tomboys excluded) to be considered the most physically beautiful. Girls fuss with makeup, with fashion, with hair, in an attempt to find the most attractive look for themselves. We could come up with several reasons for this general preoccupation, but that's a whole other post. Rather, the point I would prefer to focus on is that there needs to be a balance for everyone, men and women, between attractiveness and modesty.

I go on record as not being a fan of the snood. While I can appreciate that a mother of 6 would wear a snood out of necessity, because she has not time for herself and because her children would ruin anything else she might get a chance to shove on her head, I think we would all agree that it is nobody's best look. Having been in hospital several times in the past year and a half and having experienced the difficulty involved in keeping your tichel on under such circumstances, I can to a degree relate. And, as someone who wore the simplest of clothes for many years, I understand the comfort factor, as well as the sense that somehow "frumpier" clothing is more tznius. But, let's face it, frumpy is not more tznius; we are obligated to not render ourselves repulsive to our spouses. So those who dress in too understated a fashion could move a bit more to the "attractive" side of the balance and those who dress too provocatively could move a bit more to the "understated" side.

Similarly, while we are bombarded from within the frum community and from outside sources with pressure to "put ourselves out there", we should not believe that overtly "come hither" hair, clothing, or footwear is tznius- no matter how well our body parts are covered. Certainly, one should be physically charming to one's spouse. And certainly, one should present a pleasant appearance to the outside world, since our appearance reflects upon our families and even our community, not just ourselves. And, just as the frumpier side of the spectrum can be inappropriate, so too can be a "too attractive" appearance.

I know I am always striving to strike the right balance in my appearance. And maybe, when we all have it down pat, both men and women, our minds will be better freed to focus on other, equally important aspects of life. Such as that idea I had first as a child: to make ourselves into a nation of people who are beautiful on the inside.


  1. Ooooo some may not like what I will write.

    First of all, How does one define beauty?

    If we define beauty as an extrinsic "look" we have problems. The exterior looks of a person are here today, gone tomorrow. If one is attracted to a mate based upon looks, what happens after the looks are gone?

    To me, the true beauty in a woman has nothing at all to do with her appearance. To me, the true beauty of a woman is her Midos: Character, Honesty, Humility, Loyalty, Kindness, Unselfishness, Sense of Humor, Playfulness, Spontaneity, and her EAGERNESS to be kind, forgiving, and to please her spouse.

    A woman with the above characteristics/midos is, to me, more beautiful than any model you may see in any media.

    Now, as far as looks go, I personally can't stand makeup. Period. End of topic. A "Full face of makeup" makes me want to puke. Give me the "Ivory Girl" look anytime. I have never met a woman who looks better with makeup. Well, that is not true. There are a few, like those who suffered from smallpox or the like, who may feel they need it, etc.

    But, all the women I have known, and I am sure the vast majority of women on this planet would look better if they washed their face and removed that slop they worked to hard to apply.

    Also, to me, makeup shouts: "I think I NEED this to look attractive" ... or worse ... "I want to attract looks by my outward beauty."

    Those to me are a turnoff.

    I have been set up a few times on blind dates. On one of them, I met the woman, and she was wearing makeup. I was so disgusted, that I made super-sure that she knew there was no chance, and the earlier we ended the "date" the better.

    Now, some women feel they wish to wear some little bit of makeup. I CAN tolerate a "Little" ... but what does that mean?

    To me "a little makeup" means a VERY small amount applied so skillfully that one can not tell that she is wearing any makeup. The minute one can tell, that is already too much.

    Another point, who in the world would want to taste makeup? Yuck!
    Who wants to kiss a woman on the cheek and get powder/foundation/base, or whatever you call it in your mouth. Disgusting.

    Ladies, the less you smear on your already beautiful faces the better.

    Now, some of you may say, "Well, some men like a woman with a "Full Face" of makeup."

    I reply, "Who wants to know those men anyway. If they are so shallow that they want their women to paint their faces like clowns at a circus, they have emotional problems. Maybe it is a form of fetish. Clown Fetish. I have heard of this.

    Going to a Shidduch "date" or a simcha with no makeup says you know who you are, you respect yourself for who you are, and you like yourself. To me THAT is attractive.

    Also, most rabbonim hold that you can't apply any makeup on Shabbos. So, you have to use that 24-hour makeup. Then you sleep in it. And do you really think this looks good by Shabbos afternoon kiddush? NOT

    So you don't wear makeup on Shabbos, and you do not look the same as you look during the week.

    So... the best makeup to me is the cleanly-washed face.

    Save your money from the makeup so you can buy other things.


    Now for SNOODS .... I HATE SNOODS!

    To me a snood looks like you went to the green grocer and asked him for an old potato sack, and wore it on your heads to "hide" your hair.

    It is just gross.

    No, the "Fancy, expensive" snoods are no better. They look like decorated potato sacks. Silly.

    Also, besides looking awful, the snood advertises that you have hair underneath. And... most snoods as ugly as they are, slip back during the day, while you are walking, and your hair shows in front. No good.

    What do I like? A nice turban/teechel on short hair.

    No, I did not say a sheitel. That to me is not tzniusdik. Now if you mean a very short "Chassidishe Shaitel" that "looks like a Sheitel from across the street" ... that is okay, with a hat on top. But those sheitlech that look like a real head of hair... that is not the point of covering one's hair. The point of covering your hair is to avoid attracting men to you via your hair, and saving this for your hubby. But, if you wear a beautiful sheitel, the kind that is attractive, it will attract. What in the world does the word "attractive" mean. You go to the sheitel macher and buy an attractive sheitel. You missed the point. You are NOT supposed to go outdoors to attract. That is not tznius.

    Tznius means dressing AND BEHAVING in a way that does not "Attract."

    The most I would accept from my rebbetzin, is a short Chassidishe Sheitel, one that looks like a sheitel from across the street, and on top of that a hat.

    What I would prefer, is no sheitel at all, just a teechel, turban, or a shpitz/teechel,and VERY VERY Short hair underneath. BUZZZZ

    Oh, Okay... I'll give in .. a number 1 instead of a zero...

    Bottom line, the tzniusdik woman is careful to NOT be "attractive" on the outside, while saving all her attractiveness for her husband.

    The same goes for any clothing item with that "come hither" look. Whether they are high heels, dresses that are clingy or too shape-revealing, or any other clothing item that is intended to make one take notice, that is not tzniusdik to me. Who is it you wish to notice you?

    Your shape is not for sale, why advertise it? There are many beautiful dresses that do not show your shape.

    High heeled shoes shout one thing... y'all know what they shout. I will not type it here.
    No FMP can be tzniusdik.

    One can look dressed in a very classy way and still be totally tzniusdik.

    Tznius means saving yourself for your husband, not advertising your wares to others.

    Your husband likes makeup? (are you sure? did you ask him?) wear it at home for him.

    Your husband likes you to wear slinky clothes? (are you sure?) wear them at home for him... in private.

    Bottom line? Trash those snoods, and wash those faces.

  2. Women are spending much of their time and money on buying beauty products which give more harm to their skin than good. Women run after so many beauty products for being beautiful, but they don't know that many of these products are the route cause of destruction of the skin at later years of life.

    A woman does not need to wear ornaments to be beautiful. A woman does not need to wear tight clothes or to apply make up to capture someone's heart. She does not have to be skinny or slim to be beautiful. It’s her conduct and behavior which gives her beauty. Physical beauty does not last but the good deeds remain. There are women who may look physically ugly but when you come in contact with them you feel that you see them as beautiful. They have kindness on their tongue. They help you even though you do not ask them. They support you when your relatives abandon you.

    It’s the fundamental right of every woman to look beautiful. Every woman wants to hear the sweet words “you are beautiful”. But the beauty of a woman is far from her looks or figure. Physical beauty is only one aspect while a beautiful charming personality is a complete blend of many fine characteristics. Characteristics such as good manners, etiquette, behavior, smile, intelligence, generosity, sense of humor, social and family values etc., all make a woman beautiful and attractive to her mate. A woman’s inner beauty lies in her care, compassion and affection. Each and every silky, colorful thread of her character, nicely woven into her personality, gives a woman an everlasting beauty.

    The characteristics of a person are much more important than a person’s looks. Besides taking care of your physical beauty, why not think of improving your inner beauty.


    Tznius is about being aware of the message your outer looks portray and also dressing with sensitivity. Tznius means you don’t wear anything which will attract attention to you. It doesn’t make a difference if you wear flashy makeup or you wear a flashy dress, either one is wrong. Provocative, eye-turning clothing, tight-fitting blouse/dress/skirt, a hemline that is too high, sleeves that are too short are not tznius’dik. See-thru blouses are not tzinius’dik pieces of clothing. However they may be worn if an under blouse is worn under them in a way that nothing can be seen through. By wearing the item in this way, the wearer demonstrates that she wants to disassociate herself from the way umos haolam dress.

    To wear tzinius’dik clothes means to wear clothes that are dignified but not ostentatious. Wearing undignified, improper clothes is a lack of tzinius.

    A woman should think twice before she dresses and ask herself, is this the way a Bas Yisrael should dress. Our Yetzer Horah comes shopping with us and often tells us it’s OK to buy things we really shouldn’t wear. It’s a good idea to read a little Mussar or something that helps you connect with your Creator just before walking into the store. Hashem is standing right next to you while you choose your clothing. When you lift an item off the shelf or off the hangar, look at it and ask yourself,”Would Hashem really want me to wear this?” If the answer is not a definite yes, put it back.


  3. A woman’s inner beauty is ....

    Giving everything and expecting nothing
    Always putting other’s needs before her own.
    Never judging others unfairly
    Bringing out the best in her spouse
    The strength of her heart and mind
    Continuously shining through
    Something hard to destroy and is increasingly rare to find
    In her eyes, her smile, her words on cold and rainy days
    The type of giving that comes straight from the heart.

    She is someone who is kind, nice, cheerful, emits positive energy, accepting, humble, polite, not envious but instead happy for other people, radiates care and feeling.

    The way a woman thinks and acts have a HUGE effect on how beautiful she is perceived to be.