Fashion and Modesty

My daughter is taking an art class in fashion. So she was excited when I volunteered to share some of her drawings in a post:

fashion drawing

A few questions came up regarding the class. It seems that her art teacher used words to which she was unaccustomed to talk about the human body (the main word in question is b-*-*-b-s). It sounds like her teacher even pointed to that part of the human body while using this language. To give a little background, my daughter and her friends attend a modern Orthodox Jewish day school. So they are unaccustomed to hearing such language in the classroom. One friend felt it was OK to talk that way; another said it would be OK for a science teacher to talk about those parts of the body. I pointed out that sometimes the science teacher talks about the science or anatomy but doesn’t bring up the feelings that the words might elicit.

In addition, my daughter told me she was careful to draw dresses that are what is called tznuah – modest. My daughter wears short-sleeved shirts, as I do, but not sleeveless. We also wear skirts that reach close to our knees. In school, she has to wear quarter-sleeves or longer and skirts below the knee or longer. She sometimes wears pants, but she is not allowed to do so in school. As opposed to feeling trapped by these rules, as some girls do, I think they make her feel safe. The one drawing on this post that is sleeveless she explained to me is a bathing suit. In her most recent dance school she was required to wear a dress that had hardly any top at all, so it made her feel naked. She was very unhappy about that outfit.

fashon models drawing

A Discussion on Fashion and Modesty

With the view that people have different cultural norms, and certainly anyone reading this post may have a different viewpoint, upbringing and outlook from my daughter, myself, her art teacher or her science teacher, I have a few questions for you.

  • Have you ever given much thought to how you dress?
  • Would you be comfortable with the use of the word b-*-*-b-s in the classroom?

Feel free to discuss in the comments anything I have mentioned. The point is to understand someone else’s point of view.

Tell Us Your Favorite Fashion Design

On a lighter note, you could comment on your favorite outfit on this post.

fashion models drawing

30 thoughts on “Fashion and Modesty

  • I don’t believe in using slang for body parts in the classroom and children in my family are typically taught the correct anatomical words for body parts instead of nicknames or slang. I think it would have been more appropriate for the teacher to use the appropriate term if that part of the body needed to be mentioned.

    • Thanks for the input, Amber. I suppose I have low expectations for a 4 day summer art class, at least in terms of teacher language. Higher expectations for art skills being taught.

  • ‘Have you ever given much thought to how you dress?’
    I think about it every day! Because I have to stand in front three dozen teenagers, I want to be comfortable but am also careful about the image I convey. So usually I wear trousers and sensible shoes but I never wear sleeveless tops either. I prefer blouses or long-sleeved t-shirts.
    As for the use of certain words, I suppose that how they are used (whether at home or at school) impacts the children’s perception of them. Hadassah Sabo Milner has written wonderful post on the topic.
    Tell your daughter that her drawings are amazing. Did she invent all the designs? I like the one with the pink skirt and the one with the white dress and ribbon (she reminds me of the Chinese girls I photographed in HK).

    • Thanks for the feedback on her drawings. The one with the pink skirt seems to be in the second drawing. And the one you say is a white dress with ribbon – I think that’s the one we called the sailor outfit, on the bottom left? She said she did that one for me, because she said I would like it.

  • I went to an Orthodox school, but less frum than your daughter’s; at any rate, most of the students were not frum and most of the teachers were not Jewish, so that kind of discussion would not have shocked me (or the other students). I think a lot depends on context, also on age (I can’t remember exactly how old your daughter is); I’d have been more shocked at primary school

    Certainly language use changes with time, and Orthodox society is conservative about this. There is an idiom in 1 Samuel 25.22 (and elsewhere in Tanakh) that is rarely, if ever, translated literally in modern Jewish or Christian translations (so far as I can see), although older ones did so. It seems odd to think of Tanakh as being corrupting…

    Bill Bryson’s interesting book Made in America about the evolution of American English states that in the nineteenth century US it was considered impolite to use a huge number of words we do not consider offensive now, especially regarding body parts (e.g. ‘stomach’ being the only acceptable term for everything between waist and head). Even when ill, women were not supposed to describe their symptoms to a doctor using “indelicate” language, making accurate diagnosis almost impossible.

    • I will have to look at Bryson’s book.

      מַשְׁתִּין בְּקִיר – I’m guessing this is the expression in question of 1 Samuel 25.22

      • My daughter is ten, almost eleven (you wondered about her age). And she’s very sensitive. If something doesn’t feel right, she tells me. So sometimes language doesn’t sit well with her. Sometimes it’s clothing, like the ballet outfit she hated. I think some of this sensitivity is an inherited trait (both my husband’s family and mine have some of these reactions) – probably both nature and nurture at play here.

  • My gosh, what talent! Your daughter is quite the fasionista, and her designs are fashionlicious! 🙂 I love the long dress with the purple skirt to it, and also love the sleeveless bathing suit with coverup skirt. I love the first design and its swirly effect and affect.

    I love them all, and please tell her that. And, choosing a favorite is difficult.

    I, personally, would not appreciate the “b..b” word being spoken in a classroom setting, or for that matter, at home.

    I care how I dress, and even if I wear pants, I make sure I have a nice top on, and my hair is done. Other than when walking for exercise, I try to look neat.

    • Thanks so much for the feedback on the ones you like. I love the swirly look, too.

      My daughter was disappointed on how the scans of her drawings looked – I did have to play with them in Photoshop to get out some of the gray. Also, her touch was light, so some of the detail didn’t show well.

  • Using the word you mentioned is disrespectful to women of ANY age. We all should be encouraging respectful positive attitudes towards body image. That goes double for educators.

    As to the drawings, they are amazing. Talent seems to run in the family!

    I like the gypsy style of the first drawing on the left. It looks like it would be fun to wear.

    • Risa, thanks for the input on the word in question. I sometimes have a hard time putting language in perspective.

      I like that first drawing as well – gypsy is a neat term to use for a description.

  • Your daughter’s sketches show lots of talent and a truly creative eye. It’s always fun when you share the creative talents of your kids from time to time.

    As for what I tend to wear, now that I’m freelancing, I have reverted back to t-shirts and jeans for the most part. I’ve never been one to make much fuss over clothes, though I do prefer to keep a few good staples around, and I NEVER wear high heels.

    As someone who has spent years teaching literature to ninth and tenth grade students, this post makes me think of many issues related to language in the classroom. My first question was your daughter’s age. I don’t think the teacher’s word choice was appropriate for any age, since breasts would be the most appropriate term. Then I immediately was reminded of the classroom discussion of Romeo and Juliet which cropped-up around the way Juliet’s nurse talks of nursing Juliet when she was a baby. Shakespeare abounds in all manner of references to bodily functions, and I’m sure some parents would feel I should have skipped over explicating the difference between bosom and dugs, and a manner of other ways the nurse discusses breastfeeding. That would be the one time I referred to slang terms for breasts in the classroom. When presented in the right context, students can take a lot away from such a discussion, plus they love the humor in the passage once all the flowery language is unpacked.

    On the other hand, I had a parent proclaim I was showing pornography in the classroom because a short cartoon version of Romeo and Juliet showed the newlyweds embracing, and Juliet’s backside could be seen while cupid flew in the air above them. It’s just so hard to walk the line in the classroom when everything can be misconstrued. Me thinks I need to write a post on this someday 😉

    • To answer your question about her age, my daughter is ten. The other people in the class are in the range of 10-14 years old.

      Yes, it’s hard to teach with too many limits. But I find often a teacher has different values than I might – sometimes that’s OK, but sometimes it’s beyond irritating. I like when my daughter brings home the problem to me, and we can discuss it. In her “real” school, I might discuss it with the administration, if I feel it warrants a discussion. Here, she has the teacher for a few days …

  • Our youngest daughter (who was looking over my shoulder as I was reading this) and I agreed that the drawings are amazing and that the sailor suit is our favorite outfit! 🙂

    It’s unfortunate that the teacher isn’t more careful with her choice of language, but I think it’s great that your daughter feels comfortable discussing her concerns with you.

    • I love the sailor outfit as well! Too bad I can’t find this in a real store.

      Yes, the bottom line is she feels comfortable telling me her discomfort. This is one I can just brush off, but it did add to some interesting discussion and thoughtful ideas.

  • Talented girl. I liked the sailor suit, such a classic.
    Did you try to get permission for her to wear something under the dancing school outfit?

    • My daughter asked and was told no. Unfortunately, the school in general did not work out well for my daughter. I liked the people who ran the school, but it wasn’t a good fit, once again. I’m glad my daughter is finding outlets for art and theater that are going well.

  • Oh my goodness…. I would never say anything like that in my classroom and my students knew more slang than I ever will. And I always dressed in a professional manner for work. I love all the outfits and couldn’t possibly pick one… She is talented…. Michelle

  • These drawings are amazing! It really does seem like these were drawn by someone much older. I really like all of them, but my favorite is the last dress, with the pink top and swirly skirt.

  • All these designs are beautiful! My favorite is the very first one.

    Personally, I would never use that term in the classroom. I probably would say chest area.

    It’s not for religious reasons, but I do feel more comfortable a little more covered up. Often people will ask me, “Why are you so dressed up?” I usually reply with something like,”It’s a Tuesday and I’m happy to be alive!”

    Please tell your daughter I’m very impressed with her skills and creativity.

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