We all know that at this time being a Jew of a diverse background in Frummie Land is a very rocky road. Being a Black Jew pretty much puts you at the bottom of the Totem Pole and makes life pretty difficult here. Not truly being accepted into the communities is apparent in obvious ways (racism) and in much more subtle ways (the communal clothing boutiques).
Well since we are underrepresented and not acknowledged, dressing for your skin tone and body type is a very critical minefield in Frummie Land. There is a growing diverse presence in the Orthodox Jewish Community, yet shopping here can still be a huge, trying expedition. I learned at a very young age to shop outside of the community to find clothing suitable for my…*ahem*…”assets”. Also, the color spectrum much wider and more favorable to my complexion. Allow me to explain these issues with staples in the lives of most women in the Orthodox Jewish communities—stockings and make up.
These stockings and makeup issues are sooo aggravating. Looking for those shades of stockings that match you and only seeing different shades of, well, white. Even the stockings named “tan” are in reality really pale with a touch of a weird sandy color. And those are your only limited choices. So as women with real melanin in our skin, we are stuck seeking the right shade elsewhere outside of Frummie Land. *sigh.
Then there are those women that have darker complexions that want so badly to blend into Frummie Land that they buy Shabbos Makeup (super permanent makeup that lasts all Shabbat).
However Shabbos Makeup is limited in its shades and makes these women look super ridiculous since it’s at least 3 shades too light for their skin color. Arrgh. I’ve seen these poor lost souls walking the streets of Brooklyn far too many Shabbatim and Chagim that I can count. I wished I could throw my arms around them and say in a very Oprah-dik way that they have to open their eyes and change their lives! But change is in the air if they are willing to hear it.
In the Frum world poor-fitting clothing and poor color choices for women of dark complexions is overwhelming abundant because the clothing in most modest stores don’t cater to those with a darker skin tone or fully figured body type in mind. Most girls in a pale to fair to slightly tanned skin tone can get away with looking amazing in most of the clothing. Most girls with flat body types can wear the skirts and dresses (the yeshiva skirts, especially) and have it fit perfectly without worrying about it constantly rotating around their waist because they had to buy a size too big to ensure that it wouldn’t be too skintight in the lower area and thus, not-Tzniut (not modest). To explain the color clashing issue I want to pull on my experiences from the Black Barbie doll.
I had so many issues with the Black Barbie dolls for most of my childhood years. Although I never owned one until much later in life, I would see the yellow outfits and wonder why she always never wore pink like her white counterpart. Part of me felt that it was both limited and racist. As the years went on Black Barbie was being allowed to adopt the same pink, blue & purple hues as white barbie. Then I realized something awful.
Black Barbie looks AWFUL in a lot of those hues. Just awful. As a teenager I thought to myself it was just a doll issue in the Doll World. But as I got older I realized that it was a real life issue. Many women were and are making terrible fashion choices based on what a hunk of plastic was wearing—whether it be Barbie or the faceless mannequins in the display windows of clothing stores.
Like, really bad choices. Like Nikki Minaj bad fashion choices.
Back then I realized that the Black Barbie must be treated as her own Barbie and not be cheaply packaged in the exact same clothing as the very pale, white Barbie. Her skin complexion is so specific that she should be wearing an outfit that compliments her in every way. This mindset must be applied to us real life girls too with a little or a lotta melanin in our skin.
Dress for the hue of you only.
How do you do it? Put color shades next to your skin and see what it does to you in the mirror. Does that blue wash you out? Does that pink make you look darker than you really are? Does that orange go too neon and you just make you look like a dark nugget of chocolate wrapped in bad holiday packaging? Yes. Look at it, really look at it and really look at you. If your skin color doesn’t pop favorably—you are wearing the wrong shade.
When it comes to body shapes the same process applies. It has to hug your body evenly in the right ways. If it’s tight in some places and not others then you have a problem. Being a Jew of a much darker skin complexion in Frummie Land we are used to having the way we talk, walk, act and dress being heavily scrutinized more than our non-black counterparts.
A lot of us have that whole “junk in the trunk” and “well-endowed chest area” situation, so the clothing that our counterparts wear can fit us in an extremely poor way. Sometimes the clothing will look much, much shorter on us too. Some people in the community will jump on how we look to label us as sluts and “easy” even though we are wearing the same clothing our counterparts do.
We can’t help it if we are blessed with amazing physical features.
Yet we have to cover up well in our community. So we have to be careful about what image we want to show to the world. I personally try my hardest to get my skirt lengths near my knee and always have my collarbone hidden and my legs covered in tights/pantyhose. My clothing can sometimes come off as fitted in a very tasteful way. My skin never shows and I walk like a Queen. And you girls, too, should walk like a Queen because you are beautiful no matter what they say. They are just jealous of your awesomeness. (This is also an important message to you gorg plus size women too!)
In a previous post from my personal fashion blog I tackled the right way for women who are plus sized figured to dress. I am pulling out an excerpt in reference to stripes. Why? Because if there is one thing you know about clothing boutiques in Frummie Land, it’s that stripes are very dominant . So if you must wear stripes ladies and you are in the Plus-size category, the following is all you need to know:
Some people don’t realize that the width of stripes featured on your clothing determines how slimming that dress will look. For example, stripes are only slimming on you if the thin line is the light color, and the dark color is the bigger, bolder stripe. Or if both stripes themselves are teeny weeny ones then it can have that desired slimming effect. If both of them are big and bold, however, then the orientation of the line will be the last factor in making the garment look slim. In other words, the width of the lines determines how slimming it looks.
The type of lines that make up these strips effects how slim it is that you look, aka horizontal versus vertical lines. I believe that horizontal lines are for people who aren’t so curvaceous or for people who desire to call more attention to their curviness. I believe that vertical lines downplay your curviness. So you can mix and match these two depending on what image you’re going for.
Often times many women, size 0-20+, don’t understand how these shapes drastically changes the shape that they want to portray to the world. So remember this, thin lighter stripes over the darker is the best way to go. And if both stripes are very thin together, then this will look great on you as well.
Plus size women, you can dress in the same clothing we do in Frummie Land as too as long as you do it right and truly understand how patterns and designs translate on you.
Now in Frummie Land there are some select clothing boutiques that are newer and fresher and are getting on board with carrying clothing that will make both well-endowed Women-With-Actual-Melanin in their skin look amazing. However overall, when it comes to getting that “It” look for girls like me, you’re better off shopping around!
I hope this article was of some use to you girls out there trying to get that whole Frummie style to work for you! Now I must go, but until then, please make sure to get some Sugar and Spice in your Life!
Elisheva is a Brooklyn born, Brooklyn bred Modern Orthodox J.A.A.P. (Jewish African American Princess). Her greatest passions are fashion and dance. She hopes that one day dance and fashion can truly heal the world.