Monday, February 6, 2012

Is It Forbidden to Wear Colors Other than Black, White, and Navy Blue?

Today's question comes straight from a Google search term that lead to my site. Someone wanted to know if orthodox Jews are required to only wear black, navy blue, and white (and presumably cream, based on personal observations).

This is not true. You can wear other colors and not be in violation of tznius. Of course, some groups are against bright red, but other colors are free game. Those groups likely do follow the idea that tznius means avoiding standing out, so day-glo colors and neon colors would be frowned upon, as would any other way of dressing that "stands out." 

This limitation on colors is what's called a chumrah, not halacha. Of course, there will always be people who say that X chumrah is "straight up halacha." The halacha of tznius is quite minimal, but the chumrahs and customs have become pretty extensive. Most orthodox groups allow you to express your personality through your clothing so long as you are appropriately covered. 

That said, black, white, and blue are predominant colors in tznius communities simply because a) they're flattering and b) tznius clothes are generally made for an "older" consumer (rather than the Jewish community), and elderly consumers tend to dress conservatively. Even I, the queen of color, own a ridiculous amount of black clothing because it's very flattering. And that's what's available in the stores.

But yes, there are orthodox groups that have very strict standards on both what clothing and what colors can be worn in order to be accepted by that community. However, 95% or more of American conversion candidates will not end up in these groups. To begin with, these groups are very hard to break into. They are generally suspicious of outsiders. Rightfully so, they're even more suspicious than average orthodox Jews that people would willingly take on the community's regulations without being born into it. Secondly, most Americans balk at that kind of groupthink/peer pressure, especially people willing to leave prior group associations and create a new identity. Most conversion candidates are strong free-thinkers or they wouldn't have ended up here. We also tend to have non-conformist backgrounds: hippies, political activists, pagans, individualists, etc. On the other hand, converts with pre-existing romantic partners are probably already labeled "too Jewish" for being orthodox, so even those predisposed to those kind of "cohesive" groups may not feel it is an option. Also, I would guess the majority of converts don't live in a city that has that kind of community. So unless and until you move, any decision to dress like a "right-wing" group is a personal choice rather than actually joining a "right-wing" community.

So keep on being who you are, which we inevitably reflect through our dress. If you are in the community right for you, this will not be a problem. If you are following the covering requirements for tznius (and that does not include wrist-length sleeves, ankle-length skirts, or mandatory socks/stockings), but are suffering social pressure about it, you should consider whether you are in the wrong community for you. There is a place within orthodoxy for everyone.


  1. So funny that the ad underneath this post was a lady in lingerie

  2. Haha, Frayda.

    Something tells me that Orthodoxy would frown on lingerie especially in public!

  3. Generally when someone says "You aren't arguing with me, you're arguing with Torah/the halacha/G-d" I give up and go elsewhere. Life is too short.

  4. Limits on colored clothing isn't even a humra. A humra must have a halachic rationale, even though it isn't the consensus. That isn't the case here. There is a sub-cultural bias, but no actual halachic sources to encourage or support it. That doesn't make it wrong; but it doesn't rise to the standard of humra.

  5. judaism.stackexchange.comFebruary 6, 2012 at 8:29 PM

  6. Depends on community and minhagim. I happen to live within a charedi community so you won't find many ladies wearing bright and bold colours. Black stockings are also the norm as well.

    And you are right. For those in the process you need to shul shop and find a community you feel comfortable in. You can only learn so much from you're seforim. In order to live as an Orthodox Jew you have to immerse yourself within the community you intend becoming apart of.

  7. Non-Jewish communities have different customs as well. In the South, a woman who wears a red suit to a job interview is considered self-confident and professional. But in New England, a much more conservative area, that would be considered chutzpadik!

  8. Heh. I may be the only OJ woman in the universe who rarely wears black. I have a white lon-haired kitty who likes to sit on my clean laundry :0


  9. i know some Jewish people do wear red. but not in the ulna orthodox community.
    more likely in the modern orthodox community.
    i find when i wear red people stare at me like i have done something wrong. then i see other people wearing it and wow i say they have guts!
    beside if you live in a farm and wearing red attracts bull and animals, so a person does not want to be knocked over by an animal, like a bull, or run around.
    red does attract
    limor hagit!