“Walk modestly with your G‑d”—Micah 6:8.
A staple of Jewish life is modesty. In the way we walk down the street, in the way we interact with others, and in the way we dress. As G‑d’s children, we must act and look the part, conducting ourselves with dignity and modesty.
The exact parameters of the requirement to dress modestly depend on the time and place. But the basic idea—for both men and women—is to wear self-respecting clothing, clothing that does not demean the person within by overly accentuating the body, as if it, rather than the soul and its character and qualities, is the primary element of personality.
Modesty creates a private area—a dignified space—in which we can work to excelWhen we refrain from calling undue attention to our external selves, our human core, the G‑dly spirit within each one of us, can shine through, unhindered by the flashing neon lights of external charisma. Modesty in dress and behavior allows us to interact with the world in truly powerful ways, as our inner selves come to fore.
Thus modesty does not mean a denial of self, nor does it force us into hiding. Rather, it creates a private area—a dignified space—in which we can work to excel, without concern for external judgment and approval.
And even when we are alone, in the most private of places, we must also be appropriately dressed, for there is no place where G‑d is not present.
Here are some basic guidelines for modest dress:
- Skimpy clothes that that are cut to reveal parts of the body, or tight clothes that draw undue attention to body shape, are out.
- Married women cover their hair. The Lubavitcher Rebbe urged women to do so with an attractive wig, as opposed to simply wearing a hat or a kerchief.
- It is the accepted practice for Jewish women to wear skirts which are long enough to cover their knees, as opposed to trousers.