Why Don’t Orthodox Jewish Women Wear Pants?

Dear Jew In The City,
Why don’t Orthodox women wear pants even though in today’s world you can tell women’s and men’s clothing apart?


Dear Chelsea,

What you’re hinting at is one of the reasons why most Orthodox women don’t wear pants: kli gever – the prohibition for a woman to dress like a man. (Beged isha is the corresponding prohibition on men dressing like women.) It used to be that pants were only worn by men, in the same way that skirts are only worn by women now, so wearing pants was the equivalent of wearing men’s clothing. But you’re right that there are certainly pants out there today that are specifically made for women, so kli gever can’t be the only reason behind skirting pants.

Besides kli gever, another reason for wearing skirts is modesty. Yes, I know that there are baggy pants out there that are far more modest than skin-tight skirts, to which I will respond that skin-tight skirts do not meet the traditional Jewish definition of modesty either! Now there are some rabbis in the Modern Orthodox community who believe that very baggy pants can meet tznius (modesty) guidelines, though in my personal opinion, the types of pants that women crave are the ones that show off their assets and not the MC Hammer kind.

(As is always the case, I’d just like to remind everyone that I’m not an authority of Jewish law, but rather an observant woman who had many of the questions that make it to this site. So I’ll tell you what was explained to me back when I asked this question and what I discovered on my own as a skirts-only gal. But there are other opinions out there more to the right of me and more to the left. For more specific information and textual sources, please consult your LOR – local Orthodox rabbi.)

While skirts are not mentioned in the Talmud in its discussions of modesty, Jewish women, as a community (at a certain point in time) decided to wear them exclusively in an effort to be more modest. So while a woman could put on very baggy, made-for-women-only pants, there’s still the issue of skirts being a community norm. Although there are a range of styles, fashions, and lengths of skirts that can be worn (to allow for individuality and personal style) there is something to be said for dressing as part of one’s community.

Back in Egypt (we’re talking The Ten Commandments era-Egypt), one of the things that the Jewish people were praised for was for keeping their own style of dress. So while there seems to be a range of opinions as to whether or not skirts are a must from a law-based perspective, there is certainly something positive about them from a community-bonding perspective.

Now on to my personal story: I started wearing only skirts as an experiment right before I got to college. I wasn’t convinced that they were mandatory by all opinions, but I did want to associate myself with other observant Jews (and I didn’t find super-baggy pants particularly appealing), so I gave skirt-wearing a go. I realized, after a while, that wearing skirts in public (I did and still do wear pants in front of other women and family members in private) was a good personal reminder about who I was, what I believed in, and what I wanted to represent to the rest of the world.

It was actually a non-Jewish dorm neighbor in college, though, that made me realize how nice it was to associate myself with my community in an outward way. It was towards the beginning of my freshman year, and this neighbor shared an interesting story with me and a fellow Orthodox friend. He said that when he first got to campus, he was eager to make friends, so in an attempt to find like-minded people, he put on (and kept wearing) a t-shirt with his favorite band on it. He struck up a conversation with a classmate along the way based on the shirt, but the conversation didn’t end up leading to a friendship since he and the classmate didn’t have much more in common than the band. And then he said to us, “You people, with your yarmulkes and skirts, you can find each other so easily and automatically know that you’ve got so much in common. You’re so lucky to be a part of a community like that.”

I think all too often we Jews see our laws and customs as restrictive and limiting, so it was nice to be reminded, especially by someone from the outside looking in, as to how fortunate we are to have them.

All the best,

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  • Avatar photo Dale Legan says on June 11, 2009

    Thanks Allison,
    Timely message and something to think about. It is about a community of fellowship.
    3 important lessons in unity and community. And, in not being impulsive in action.

  • Avatar photo Avivah Rivkah says on June 14, 2009

    I wear wide-legged pants with lonnnngg tops definitely covering the goods. As an older woman, I have no worry about attracting the wrong kind of attention at this point, and I’ve always disliked skirts unless they’re floor-length.

    • Avatar photo Deborah BeeHouse says on October 14, 2014

      Me, too! I hate exposing my legs! I also find loose fitting pants a lot more sneius than skirts. Skirts blow up, ride up and have to be lifted at times for practical reasons. Wearing skirts “just to fit in” is not a good enough reason .

  • Avatar photo Michelle Rimmer says on September 17, 2009

    Very interesting! A question was asked of one of my Orthodox Jewish woman students once “Why don’t you wear jeans?” She stated “You conduct yourself differently depending on what you are wearing.” My Orthodox Jewish woman student turned the question to me: ” Michelle, don’t you think your mannersims in teaching would be different if you were wearing jeans versus dressing professionally (which I always did)?” I have to admit she is right!

  • Avatar photo mirel tzirel says on October 19, 2009

    Very well put…I too feel like you mention that I conduct myself differently, am more self-aware of how I’m presenting myself to the world and who I want to be (all in a good way) when wearing skirts. Along the way I’ve struggled w/how I’m conforming to a certain interpretation of Orthodoxy and that I don’t think nowadays pants are halachically unacceptable…but realized the bottom line is that for me, wearing skirts is a good thing.

  • Avatar photo Shelly says on December 22, 2010

    I am still going through my life stages. Going from Coed Flag Football, Wrestling, and Roller Derby to Conservative then Orthodox Judaism is like leaping over a mountain. I don’t like wearing skirts all of the time. I actually hate it. My Orthodox Rabbi laughed a little when I told him that was the single hardest part my Orthodox Conversion. So keeping Kosher, Not working on Shabbat, living in the Eruv, Separate seating, More Torah Study, and more… not a Problem. No pants, problem!

    I don’t agree with wearing pants to Shul. I think that in Shul (Especially on Shabbat) people should dress their best. But in my everyday life (outside of work and Shul)
    I despise skirts, short or long.

    You can’t do cartwheels in a skirt! Plus you look a little like a floozy on a bike or roller skates. If you fall and a breeze hits the world sees your goods!

    I don’t wear tight jeans or pants. I think that looks disgusting and shows men of all faiths that you are easy. I think a comfortable pair of pants with a shirt/blouse/sweater large enough to cover your tush if fine to me. I like covering up.

    In an effort to be a more observant Jew I bought 2 skirts. I don’t like them, but I bought them. I feel like ridiculous in them.

    Ironically, on the other had I feel like females in yarmulkes in Shul are cross dressers. TETO.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on December 22, 2010

      Thanks for your comment, Shelly. You can get around the “showing everything off when you play sports” issue by wearing a pair of pants under the skirt. They even make skirts with pants underneath them!

      It’s true that baggy pants with a long shirt over them will keep you looking modest, but the skirt has become a Jewish woman’s uniform, so the majority of Orthodox rabbis feel that even if baggy pants are available wearing a skirt (even over pants) is fulfilling something beyond modesty.

    • Avatar photo michelle amnony says on January 20, 2019

      I wear when I do sports a skant or leggings with a skirt.

  • Avatar photo Bas Melech says on December 23, 2011

    According to either Das Moshe or Das Yehudis, the bottom half of the torso has to be hidden, not simply covered, hidden and skirts are the only way of hiding this part of the body. Pants reveal the shape of your legs, hence do not qualify as a modest garment to hide your lower half of your torso.

    • Avatar photo Deborah BeeHouse says on October 14, 2014

      The torso ends at your hips.According to your own definition, pants cover this. You are speaking of the legs from the hips to the knees.

      Even if this is what they are actually speaking of it is being hidden by being covered. If you think covered means hidden than it would also apply to your upper arms from the shoulder to the elbow… and no one says you must wear a wing-like cape to “hide” this part, which also halachically needs to be HIDDEN (meaning covered).

      • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on October 14, 2014

        “Hidden” and “covered” are different. Arms must be “covered.” Thighs must be “hidden” (I prefer “concealed.”)

    • Avatar photo Bracha says on December 1, 2016

      Das Moshe is the basic law itself– which does not say what you claim. The Mishna Brurah says the covering must be up to the knee– and the word “skirt” is not mentioned.
      Das Yehudis is the custom within a community (ie Chabad women wearing wigs instead of mitpachot) and does not apply the same rule to every community. My husband’s family is Turkish and the women in his family wear loose trousers.
      The stringency of skirts to the ankle was added by Ashkenazi Rabbanim- like the Chazan Ish- and the concept of tzniut has taken on a different meaning based on the new additions. But to claim that Das Moshe and Das Yehudit are the same thing is just ignorance.

    • Avatar photo Daniel Peretz says on June 12, 2017

      That’s what I was thinking.

  • Avatar photo BatYam says on January 6, 2012

    @Bas Melech: Your torso ends at your waist, so I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Unless you’re wearing a hoop skirt, some part of the form of your leg is going to show when the fabric of your skirt is up against your legs. It’s the same in baggy pants. Where the pant legs meet is generally not directly covering where your legs meet, and the outline of your leg is only partially seen when the fabric of the pants is up against your leg (like a skirt).

    Personally, I’ve seen plenty of women in jeans and sweaters looking way more modest than some women in their pencil skirts and skin-tight tops, stilettos and a sheital down to their waist.

    The rules of tzniut are vague because the point is the spirit of the law. It also changes with general society(!) In the 60’s and 70’s there were plenty of frum Beis Yaakov girls that wore skirts above their knees, just not the tiny micro-minis that were in at the time.

    The Modern Orthodox rabbis who have given their stamp of approval for women wearing pants understand that the rules aren’t “4 inches below the knee” and “elbows covered with all activity.” It’s “Look in the mirror, and think about what a normal, healthy male might think when he sees you.” If it’s “Hubba hubba,” you might want to rethink your outfit. If it’s, “Oh, there goes a perfectly normal looking member of society,” you’re on the right track. It’s the difference between looking attract*ive* and attract*ing*. You don’t have to hide your figure in a potato sack. You can wear make-up, and pretty colors. Your collarbone might show, but keep the cleavage under wraps. You can be in pants or skirts, as long as you’re not giving the guy behind you a show as you walk down the street. High-heels, flats, sheital, scarf, your own hair, short sleeves, long sleeves…whatever it is, just keep it classy and not trashy. That’s the bottom line.

    Why do Orthodox women only wear skirts? My personal opinion is that when society made that transition from women only wearing skirts to women wearing slacks in public, the Orthodox rabbis of the time had to make a decision about what side of the argument they fall on (and since it was scandalous at the time for women to be seen in pants, but of course there were those women who gave society the finger and did it anyway, opening the door for the rest of the women) they chose the more conservative side. And there it stayed.

    Just FYI, if you would like to see a good example of women in pants looking modest, watch the Israeli TV show “Srugim.”

  • Avatar photo Allison says on January 6, 2012

    Thanks for your comments Bas Melech and Bat Yam. I believe what Bas Melech meant to say is that according to das yehudis the *separation* between the legs must be hidden. This is not mentioned in the Gemara, but something extra women took on later as an extra measure of modesty.

    Bat Yam, you are correct that not every skirt that covers the knee is a modest one. Loose, baggy pants are certainly more modest than a skin tight skirt. The idea, however is to wear a modest skirt (though it can show some shape and not be a potato skirt). Also – as I mentioned, skirts have become a type of uniform to observant Jewish women and without wearing one, it’s often hard to pick another frum woman out.

    • Avatar photo Bracha says on December 1, 2016

      Women did not take it on. It was a stringency added by the Rabbanim. Specifically Ashkenazi Rabbanim.

  • Avatar photo Justaguy says on April 16, 2012

    Allison, while covering the ‘pissuk raglaim’ of a woman is not mentioned in the context of das yehudis or das moshe, (that is, things that could cause forfeiture of a kesubah, if i’m not mistaken), The gemarah in the beginning of Pesachim touches on this topic, according to the opinions of both Rashi and Rabbeinu Chananel. I have not looked in to it, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone argues with them.

    I’m doing this from memory, so forgive me if I’m not 100% spot on with the step by step. The conclusion is clear however, as I’ve learnt it.The Gemarah uses a biblical sources to prove that it is important to use a loshon nekiyah, or clean speech. It brings down the portion dealing with a Zav and a Zava. Anything that either of these people ride or sit on is considered ritually impure. Merkav, the act of riding as well as moshav, sitting is mentioned by a Zav. By a Zavah, however, Merkav is omitted. The Gemarah asks a few questions on this, citing verses from both Rivkah and Avigail, and answers them, before moving on.

    Rashi and Rabbeinu Chananel both say that the reason the language of Merkav is omitted by the Zavah is because: “Pisuk Raglayim l’gabei Isha davar m’guneh”, or the separation of the legs when mentioned in the context of a woman is an improper thing.

    As an aside, I spoke with my sister about tsnius a while back. I was always bothered by it omewhat, as I didn’t understand how it was important for the woman. I thought that its sole purpose was based in our responsibility for one another, and in giving men a fighting chance at dealing with our superficial sexual tendencies. This seemed to me overbearing, as men will always find something about women attractive. Tanayim even insisted that unmarried women not cover their hair. There must be more to it.

    My sister said two things to me.
    1. Women have within them a general tendency to want to appear pretty and attractive. (Obviously there are exceptions to this rules, as there are to all rules, but Halacha is not based on the individual as much as it is on the whole, loh plug). Like any instinct or tendency, indulged, it can get out of hand. I’m sure you have seen examples of this, even unfortunately in hte Jewish community ): Tsnius combats this. Men have time-designated mitzvos for the same reason. The best way to control a man’s desires are to consistently occupy oneself with mitzvos and learning torah. Is why we are obligated to daven 3 times a day, wear tsitsis (our own personal witnesses), and learn whenever we can.

    2. This reason really speaks to all jews, male or female. It made me more conscious of my dress. We are the bechor, guys. We are the big brothers and sisters of the world. We are royalty: Princes and princesses among men. Not because we are superior, necessarily, but because of Whom we represent in this world. A time will come when perhaps we will take a more active role in this regard. Until then, we should lead by example. In this culture that objectifies the human body, and idolizes sexual prowess among other worldly feats, let us hold strong to our belief in what truly matters: the spiritual body of mankind.
    Personally, I find that when I take a moment to inspect my outfit before I leave my house in the morning, it truly changes the way I interact with the world. There are certain things I just won’t do in a hat and jacket that I might entertain in jeans and a tank top.

  • Avatar photo Ploni says on April 16, 2012

    The Gemara in Moed Katan 16A discusses why the thigh has to be hidden, based on the pasuk in Shir Hashirim 7:2.

  • Avatar photo YS says on May 3, 2012

    So if I’m understanding you correctly, other than tight pants, wearing skirts rather than pants is a societal thing rather than a halacha thing. OK. That is fine.
    Thank you for emphasizing in your article that the issue is about appearing as part of a certain community.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on May 3, 2012

      Thanks for your question, YS. It’s not just “tight pants” that are problematic according to most opinions – it’s pants that show the separation between a women’s legs. So MC Hammer or harem pants would get around that issue, and yes, then it would be about being part of a community.

  • Avatar photo Amy says on May 11, 2012

    So my question then is – what about wearing pants with a long tunic style top? It’s not as long as a skirt, nor does it reveal the gusset area . . .

    Just as an FYI – I’m not Orthodox (nor a Jew, technically, for that matter), but I do try to observe modesty in my dress – and wear skirts more often than not. (I only wear pants or shorts to work out and to go hiking because I haven’t found another viable alternative – but that’s it)

    • Avatar photo Sara says on April 26, 2021

      Long ‘jersey dresses’ or tunics made from wool or knitted style fabric, with rolled collars are very practical and useful, for keeping warm in cold climates. Skirts and dresses are not worn as much in countries where the temperature can drop rather quickly, and the winds, ice and snow are a common occurrence in winter. I’m not Jewish, but I wear jersey dresses and long jersey tunics in winter, or long woolen style coats, to Church

  • Avatar photo Allison says on May 15, 2012

    Thanks for the question, Amy. A long tunic style top paired with baggy pants is certainly modest. Non-Jewish women have no requirement to wear skirts only. When I go hiking or work out, I wear a knee length skirt that’s flared with leggings.

  • Avatar photo Batya says on May 23, 2012

    Just a quick note to BatYam: Your notion of the torso ending at the waist is incorrect. The torso is the whole body, minus limbs (arms and legs), neck, and head.

  • Avatar photo y.k says on June 18, 2012

    it’s a relly intresting q’.the answer is that it sais in the bible that u cannot crossdress,and pants are considerd a males clothing,of course it varies depending on what type of jew you are…

    • Avatar photo Allison says on July 16, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, y.k., but in this day and age, there are pants made specifically for women. Not all rabbis agree that cross dressing is the sole reason for women not wearing pants these days.

  • Avatar photo anickh says on July 10, 2012

    allison, is it just frum/orthodox married women who can’t wear pants what about found orthodox girls: i.e.: a 10 yr old orthodox jewish girl. can she not wear pants either?? what about in sports??

    • Avatar photo Allison says on July 16, 2012

      Thanks for your question, Anickh – it depends on the community. A child is responsible for mitzvos starting at their bar mitzvah (13 for a boy) or bat mitzvah (12 for a girl), so while technically a girl wouldn’t be obligated in this mitzvah until 12, many communities start younger as a form of education/getting them used to it. Not just for this mitzvah, but for every mitzvah. How early? Generally, the more RW, the earlier.

      In terms of sports – if it’s all women, then most people (though not everyone) would be ok with that. If there are men there, then how baggy are the pants? There are some more lenient opinions you’ll find with sports, but still there are girls wearing skirts playing sports.

  • Avatar photo Michelle says on November 23, 2012

    I never understood the importance of wearing skirts. I would see women with long skirts and tight tops, and always thought sure these women are hidding their thighs and showing off their boobs. Until one day. I was walking to work which was in a shady neighborhood, and suddenly it hit me. I felt just a little bit safer wearing a modest skirt than I did pants. I felt as though the sexuality that men gawk at was hidden more so in the skirt than pants. Seven years later, today I wear mostly skirts and some pants. But I have to admit, many women look quite obscene from behind. Sometimes even baggy pants show things that don’t need to be seen. I seriously think the women have no idea what they are showing. I thin it’s would be too embarrassing if they did.

  • Avatar photo Sara says on December 9, 2012

    I’ve been doing a lot of bible research lately. It seems that the word for man used in the Deut. verse that this tradition is based on is gever, which means soldier or warrior, and pertaineth is kilev, meaning armor or weapons. Therefore, this verse appears to really be about a woman not putting on a warriors armor or going into battle and a warrior not dressing up as a woman and to have nothing to do with everyday clothes worn by a man. Perhaps a better way to translate the verse would be “the woman shall not take upon herself the armor or weapons of a warrior, neither shall a warrior put on a woman’s garment”.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on December 9, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Sara. You’re correct that the verse in Deuteronomy is talking about a warrior in battle but the thing about Jewish law is that Torah verses are often much more complex than you’d understand them to be from a simple reading. The Torah is like the “Cliff Notes” to the Oral Law (which was written down 1500 years ago and is now referred to as the Talmud). So determining Jewish law based on “Bible research” is simply not going to yield a complete picture as to how Jewish law works b/c the real law is within the Talmud. The Torah is just a very condensed book giving hints to bigger discussions.

    • Avatar photo Sara says on December 9, 2012

      Does this mean a woman is not to wear anything made for a man or only that a woman is not to wear styles that are exclusively for men. For example I have a pair of men’s sneakers, because it was easier for me to find a man’s size 7 then a woman’s size 9 1/2. My actions had nothing to do with wanting to look like a man and in fact women wear this same style of shoe. Furthermore there’s really no noticeable difference between the man’s version and the woman’s version of that shoe. I don’t feel that I would want to wear something that was only worn by men anyway.

      • Avatar photo Allison says on December 9, 2012

        I’m not an authority on Jewish law, but my understanding is that the issue is an attempt to cross dress, so unisex sneakers don’t seem like they’d be a problem.

  • Avatar photo Sara says on December 9, 2012

    Thanks. It sounds like this would be more of an issue for men these days, since we know there are a lot more things that women wear that men don’t wear then the other way around.

    • Avatar photo Hilltop Savta says on December 24, 2013

      Men’s problem areas are more like earrings, hair dye, hair spray, nail polish, etc. : )

  • Avatar photo Brittany Murray says on December 11, 2012

    Hi all. I am hoping someone can help me with a question I have been having. I am a dental hygienist and as you can probably guess it is impossible to wear a skirt to work. They are extremely baggy and not attractive at all. Is this permissable? If it is not, I am not sure how I could resolve the issue seeing as skirts are simply not allowed to be worn.

    Brittany Murray

    • Avatar photo Allison says on December 16, 2012

      Thanks for your question, Brittany, but it’s probably best to speak to a rabbi about a question of practical Jewish law.

  • Avatar photo Michele says on December 19, 2012

    I am considering working at an Orthodox school, as a consultant for a student with some behavior issues. I am not Jewish, but seem to be required to wear a skirt to work. I dislike skirts in general, dislike the idea that clothes “define” my femininity or womanhood, and dislike that men and women can be so defined and separated by clothes. I fully respect the modesty issue, and would dress appropriately and respectfully for the school community, but can I ask to NOT wear a skirt without offending anyone?

    • Avatar photo Allison says on February 4, 2013

      I think it comes down to a dress code for work. This is a private school and what they consider appropriate, so even if you don’t agree with all the things attached to the dress code you can a) choose to work there and conform to it (in practice, if not in belief) b) choose to work elsewhere… Good luck either way!

    • Avatar photo Liora says on August 25, 2018

      Most work places have dress codes whether they’re schools, hospitals, offices etc. By agreeing to be an employee at an organization, you agree to follow their rules. If you work for a hair salon, having pink hair is ok. If you work at a law firm, then probably not. Your options are to either wear a skirt and suck it up or to choose to work for a different school.

  • Avatar photo Sarah Thomas says on February 4, 2013

    I love your Law, i want to wear modest cloths and convert, thanks i love your articles too, so smart to be Jewish.

  • Avatar photo Sarah Zeldman says on April 17, 2013

    While becoming observant, I went to Israel to learn. I asked the Rabbi at the program “What’s the deal with women and pants” He replied, “Loose pants that are made for women are Halachically not a problem — but if you want to live in a community where they take Torah seriously — women don’t wear pants.” I always appreciated his honest answer.

  • Avatar photo Rebecca says on May 2, 2013

    Hi ,
    I believe that the issue of wearing pants or not ,is not really the issue here.
    If we really want a meaningful relationship with the one we are truly trying to please, which is God, or should be . Then the word ,” shamefacedness”. Should be on our minds as we choose our clothes.
    Pants ,baggy or not still reveal too much. Pants make women think they have more freedom , so what do they do… They sit with their legs open, they bend over and the whole caboose is outlined by their underwear . If there were no men ummm maybe . Who cares what the other girl is wearing, focus on you pleasing God and respecting yourself. Bless you all

  • Avatar photo Heidi says on June 14, 2013

    Hi Jew in the City,
    Thank you so much for creating this website and all of your wonderful educational videos. I personally love the tradition of wearing skirts. I think they are beautiful and feel distinctly feminine. There are few things stranger in my mind than walking down the street and being unable to tell if the person next to you is a man or a woman. We were created differently for a reason and I think modest, and tasteful but attractive dress is a wonderful way to celebrate those differences. I have also found that dressing modestly will often cause those that interact with you, both men and women, to become more appropriate in their behavior and/or their language.

  • Avatar photo Ziva Shoshana Lauxman says on August 19, 2013

    Another point to consider is clothing cultural norms for observant Jews vary from country to country. The modest skirt has become the uniform for the observant Jewish woman in Western Europe and the USA but there are Jews in other countries whose regional dress is very different. In parts of India the Salwar Kameez ( baggy trousers with knee length over dress ) is worn and perfectly acceptable and in Asian and Eastern countries there are similar women’s trousers with long over layers. There are men who wear “non bi furcated” garments, meaning they do not have separate trouser legs but might be something that wraps like a skirt or complete like a dress which are perfectly normal for them. My husband is Scottish, we live in Scotland and he wears a kilt.
    Torah period men generally did not wear bifurcated garments which led to the commandment that the priests wear undergarments when they were in the temple for modesty.
    So times and clothing technologies change and I think the real issue is of modesty and cultural identity and inclusion. As you say the modest skirt has become the “uniform” just as the Hassidic men have created an identifiable uniform as well which has little to do with any halachic law.

    • Avatar photo Deborah BeeHouse says on October 14, 2014

      I love the way traditional Indian women dress (the saris with light, silky “pants” underneath). I wish we had something like that in the Jewish community!

      • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on October 14, 2014

        there are israeli women who wear baggy pants under dresses – a similar look

  • Avatar photo Janet Clare says on October 6, 2013

    I'm an Orthodox Israeli grandmother, born in Berkeley, CA. Everytime I visit CA, all the women I see on the street are wearing pants, so I tend to stand out. Once in a shopping center parking lot, while wearing a long beige scarf with white trim and a long beige & white dress, a gentleman called out to me, "What order are you with, Sister?" : ) (I replied, "The Jewish one.")

  • Avatar photo Janet Clare says on October 6, 2013

    In rural Israel, specifically in Yesha, where I live, Orthodox women tend to dress more in Biblical style, in long, flowing, multi-layered fabrics. While "rebuilding our ancient communities", we often wear pants/leggings under our dresses for purposes of modesty in case of pratfalls, wind or cold weather. One can often see the lacy trim of color-coordinated pants peaking out under the skirts of our lovely teens.

  • Avatar photo Pearl says on February 9, 2014

    I am FFB and have always dressed tsniusdik. I didn’t always enjoy the restrictions in wardrobe choices, but always felt it was the right thing to do. One summer day at a local park with my husband, it hit me. What on earth is the point of me dressing modestly? Frum men walk the streets every day where half naked women are everywhere, and many of them even work alongside immodestly dressed women. How is it going to make a difference if I walk around with my collarbone, elbows and knees covered?I have started resenting modesty rules so much, it is literally suffocating. I even feel that because there is so much immodesty around our men, us wives should be able to look at least as attractive as everyone else, and not just in private.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on February 12, 2014

      Thanks for your comment, Pearl. I understand that it can be difficult at times and frustrating to see other women half naked. What you’re doing is keeping your body private and special for just your husband. What he SHOULD be doing is keeping his eyes (no matter how other women dress) just for your body.

      I think women SHOULD look attractive as everyone else. But you can look attractive AND classy.

      • Avatar photo JIll says on April 15, 2020

        This statement, right here, is why I despise religion. Women are not here for men. Women do not wear what we wear so we can be ogle, stared at and please men. We wear what we wear because it makes us feel good. If a woman doesn’t want to ‘look attractive’ in the average sense, they should not have to. No women SHOULD look attractive if she doesn’t feel like it. Ugh.

        • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on April 26, 2020

          A woman should not have to look attractive if she doesn’t want to. But Pearl was upset that many women dress to get men’s attention and she felt like she can’t “compete.” So I was explaining that you can look attractive and still look classy.

    • Avatar photo JOLLY HOLMAN says on April 26, 2020

      We were created to be naked and unashamed, our Creator even said everything He made was not only good but very good. So why does mankind think that the human body needs to be covered up because it is deemed offensive?

      • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on April 26, 2020

        Because Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In a pre-tree world, being naked was OK. Once we had knowledge of good and evil, it was not.

  • Avatar photo Elisha says on May 30, 2014

    “What you’re hinting at is one of the reasons why most Orthodox women don’t wear pants: kli gever – the prohibition for a woman to dress like a man. (Beged isha is the corresponding prohibition on men dressing like women.) It used to be that pants were only worn by men, in the same way that skirts are only worn by women now, so wearing pants was the equivalent of wearing men’s clothing…”

    Incorrect. Women in Yemen wore pants. Sure, they were specifically designed for women, but they were pants all the same. And I’m thinking that back in Biblical times, there weren’t any pants. Perhaps people wore gown-like garments, like which can be seen across the more traditional scenes of the Middle East. And as far as the cross dressing issue goes, if women “cant” wear pants because they’re “mens’ clothing”, then why can Chassidic men wear hoylbe hoyzen–I think that’s what they’re called, I’m not sure–under their pants? Last I checked, those were tights, and only women wear tights. Does this not fall into the category of Beged Isha?

  • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on May 30, 2014

    Actually, while cross-dressing may be *an* issue, I don’t believe it’s *the* issue. If women were prohibited from wearing pants because of the prohibition against transvestism, they would not be permitted to wear them even in private or under a skirt. Most authorities, I believe, permit this because cross-dressing is not the primary issue. It’s essentially a tzniyus issue, having to do with pisuk raglayim (the split between the legs) and it is discussed in the Talmud based on a verse from Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs).

    I have a whole chapter in “The Tzniyus Book” on this very subject.

  • Avatar photo Julie says on June 17, 2014

    I am a Christian who is interested in other religions and believes it is essential to explore other cultures in order to cohabit with them effectively. I understand the reasons for which women of Jewish faith (the ones who choose to adhere) wear skirts at all times, but do believe it is against the right people have to express themselves as they wish to, and that issues like this should not pertain to faith. You can believe what you wish to, but you should not have to dress a certain way because a rule was written a long time ago that showing the split between your legs is indecent. Times change and people do too, that should be considered in all religions, not only this one. I just believe that something like that is personal and so it is unfair to women to have to adhere to a dress code. I dress modestly because it just so happens to be my style, I don’t wear jeans because I don’t like them, does it mean that someone who wears jeans does not look modest? If you say no, I seriously ask you to look at a fashion magazine or a fashion runway and consider the modesty in their attires. My point here is that legs are a body part, a body that was, in fact, thought by and created by God (no matter who your God is, mine being Jesus) and if he believed that the split would cause such problems, he would’ve granted humans or females, in this case, with a tail and not legs (far-fetched example, though the drift can be understood). All this to say that I think everyone should have a choice and not be judged for it, nor be ranked in a class of modesty according to the attire that is chosen. It is important to evolve and the right to be free is present in most developed countries; thus, should be in religions as well. God loves everyone, no matter what you wear.

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on June 17, 2014

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The question of “changing with the times” all hinges on whether or not one believe that the rules of one’s religion reflect the will of G-d. The same logic has been used to justify eating pork and shellfish – “modern science and health….” But to us, the issue was never one of trichinosis, it was one of “G-d said not to eat this.” So what we eat, what we wear, where we live, etc. are dictated by what we understand what G-d wants of us, not what’s going on in society.

      If someone disagrees, that is there prerogative. Those who choose to dress a certain way, eat a certain way, and/or live a certain way should not judge those who choose to live otherwise! But G-d loves EVERYBODY! (When the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea, the angels wanted to sing songs of praise. G-d silenced them by saying, “My children are drowning in the sea and you want to sing?”)

      All this notwithstanding, the rule is “on the books” and we would be remiss not to teach it and explain it, even if people have the option to accept it or reject it in their own lives.

  • Avatar photo Adele says on July 9, 2014


    Excellent article. This is probably going off on a tangent, but I just findit a bit sad that the guy with the band T shirt did not become friends with the other guy because they did not have much in common. I think friendship should only require you to have a few things in common. I enjoy the most getting to know people who are different to me. If only people were more willing to get to know the ‘other’, there would have been no Holocaust, and no middle eastern conflict.

    By the way, I am someone who is looking to convert to Judaism. Just so that you know who this post is coming from. Best regards.

  • Avatar photo E says on July 25, 2014

    I was reading all these comments about skirts and modesty and covering the separation between legs. My question is why are women burried in pants? It seems contradictory, so there must be a reason.

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on July 28, 2014

      There is a reason: the burial shrouds are based on the garments worn by the kohein gadol (high priest) on Yom Kippur. There are layers above the trousers, so it’s not really a contradiction in any event.

  • Avatar photo Oh Tee says on January 28, 2015

    It doesn’t say a woman should not wear a man’s clothes (beged ish), the words actually are kli gever (a mans tools) while a man is told not to wear a womans clothes (beged isha) a woman is told not to carry a mans tools. Yes I understand there’s an “oral torah” and I believe in one but I have a hard time trusting the modern day opinions of rabbi’s who 1) broke the torah by writing down the written torah and 2) who litter their houses with superstitious hamsas that come from arabic -even the word is arabic. Having a hamsa in your house is worse than a woman who chooses to wear pants who does not violate a biblical law as a hamsa violates the biblical law of not to practice witchcraft.

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on January 28, 2015

      Kli is a more comprehensive term than beged; kli can include both clothes and other things.

      I assume you mean “writing down the Oral Torah.” This is a famous discussion (Talmud Gittin 60b.) The permission to do so is based on Psalms 119:126: sometimes one has to violate the law for the sake of the big picture. This is not unlike violating Shabbos in order to save a life. Yes, the Sabbath desecration involved is a step back, but the life saved makes it a large net gain.

      Finally, the Hamsa is a Middle Eastern symbol. Lots of people are not fans of it, as it has no basis in Judaism, but it’s just a decoration. Even if someone is superstitious about it (which most people aren’t), that doesn’t make it witchcraft by any stretch of the imagination.

      • Avatar photo oh tee says on February 16, 2015

        I take your facts with a grain of salt if you think an idolotrous/supersitious thing like a hamsa is not problematic. It’s more problematic for anyone, male or female to wear a hamsa than it is to violate a minhag by wearing pants. One is a biblical prohibition (no witchcraft, no charms etc) while the other is a rabbinic prohibition (pants). There was a time also in Jewish history where Jews also thought worshiping other gods like ashera alongsite Hashem was not problematic. It might seem trivial to you. Oh it’s just a necklace, it’s just a bracelet but it’s not trivial. If you spend so much time thinking about clothing, you really should think about the clothing that links to the worship of other gods. It originated in egypt and just because some jewish site claims it is okay doesn’t make it so. They also claimed the golden calf was okay. It was never okay to wear a hamsa.

        • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on February 17, 2015

          “Just because some Jewish site claims it is okay doesn’t make it so.”

          Conversely, just commenting on a site that it’s “witchcraft” doesn’t make it so. You make the claim but you have not substantiated it. Where are your sources for this assertion? I acknowledged that not everybody is a fan of the hamsa but if you want to completely change the focus of the community’s priorities vis-a-vis women wearing pants vs. the hamsa necklace, then the burden of proof is on you. (Halachic sources, please. Don’t send me a link to a web page because you have already established that just because a web page says something doesn’t make it so.)

  • Avatar photo Oh Tee says on January 28, 2015

    *meant broke the law by writing down the “oral torah” not the “written torah” (I understand this comment will probably not get posted as it differs with the authors viewpoint who’s an orthodox woman) I feel we should respect each other as Jews and that means for all Jews not to cast judgement on each other for doing things a little differently or violating what they view as a social norm or even halacha. The way orthodox look down on MO who wear pants is just as bad as secular who look down on Orthodox for not using electricity on shabbat.

  • Avatar photo Cori says on March 13, 2015

    I really enjoyed reading this. I am not from the Jewish faith, but always wondered why Jewish women never wore pants. I think it’s always good to respect diversity even if you don’t understand why people do certain things in their culture or religion. If you don’t understand why certain religions have certain traditions, it’s important to research the meaning before giving judgement.

  • Avatar photo Gem says on May 5, 2015

    I love wearing skirts and dresses as I feel feminine in them, however transitioning from a staple clothing “diet” of comfortably worn in skinny jeans, shorts and singlets is a bit of a challenge sometimes!

    I am Messianic, so that means that I follow Yeshua, and I obey the Torah to the best of my ability. Part of that is modesty and dressing according to my gender, considering others in everything I do, not just myself.

    I just wanted to ask if you can help me a bit. I hope my faith is not offensive to you. I want to know about wearing tzit tzit. From what I can find out, women have generally been permitted to wear tzit tzit in Jewish Halakah until more recent times, but I want to know if women as well as men wore four cornered garments ( tallit gadol) when the deliverance from Mitsrayim happened and Torah was given, because then I will know if the original instruction to wear tzit tzit was given to both men and women (Ben Yisrael in other contexts refers to both males and females) or was understood to mean only males even then. I don’t see why this wouldn’t be an important mitzvah for women as well as men, to be a reminder to obey Torah. However, perhaps I am missing a deeper significance on the role of men.

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on May 5, 2015

      Thanks for your question. There are a number of mitzvos in which women are not obligated. Generally speaking, this means positive commandments (“thou shalts,” as opposed to “thou shalt nots”) that must be performed at a certain time. Women may not eat on Yom Kippur or perform acts of labor on the Sabbath because those are negative commandments (“thou shalt nots”). Women must give charity and have a mezuzah because those are not time-bound (they apply all the time). But women need not wave the four species on Succos because that is a positive, time-bound mitzvah.

      Now, “not obligated” is different from “prohibited.” This is where things get dicey. Historically, women voluntarily accepted certain mitzvos, like eating in a succah. They did not accept others, like wearing tzitzis or tefillin. So it evolved that the accepted practice became for women to do some and not to do others. When a woman wants to act counter to the accepted practice, it raises all sorts of issues. Largely, the issue is egalitarianism, i.e., “men are doing it so why can’t we?” This is problematic because someone is then letting current cultural trends dictate their religious practice, which is a matter altogether separate from the mitzvah itself. (I’m not advocating one way or the other here, I’m just explaining the state of the landscape in this matter.)

      So, long story short, normative Orthodox practice is for women not to wear tzitzis, tallis, or tefillin. “Accepted practice not to” doesn’t mean “not allowed” but acting counter to the norm raises other issues and then things start to get political and messy.

      • Avatar photo David says on July 18, 2019

        I’ve heard certain colours are assur like strong red like a zonah might wear. For someone who takes that very seriously, is there a comprehensive guide anywhere on this?
        I’ve heard from archeologically discoveries in Israel the wealthy class had purples and pinks.
        I don’t want to buy any forbidden clothing for my house, so I appreciate all replies to this.

        • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on July 18, 2019

          No, there is not. There are just community norms, but this is not an actual law. It’s just what’s done in certain places.

          • Avatar photo J says on July 11, 2021

            We need to stop treating minhags like they are Torah law or Halacha. No adding to the law.

          • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on July 12, 2021

            Thanks for your comment. Not wearing pants is considered at a minimum to be das Yehudis, which does have a Halachic component to it, even if it’s not Torah law.

  • Avatar photo dinelleh Yehudah says on June 23, 2015

    i read all your saying and opinions about tznius, and i think i have something little to add and tell you all, i live in israel, in the center of our country. i’m not that old, but what’s happening now is something that just never be in our jewish nation. there is so much mess and people dont understand how important tznius is. when i was a child in bais yakov, not that long ago, we had rules and red lines we never crossed, there was no way a girl would wear a skirt that shows her knee. just not!!!! (and this is just one little example) and today i teach in the same school and the same teachers but when i look at girls today you would think our world just got crazy. and its so sad. once when i was a young maiden in high school me and my friend used to come to the see with light dresses or a night gown, when i heard of the “בגד ים צנוע ” as we call it hear a modest swim suit i was so happy, i bought myself one and hoped peeople women would wear it. and im not talking about a swimming pool when theres usually a female life-guard . i’m taking about a sea where there’s usually 4\5 males that are considered as staff, girls and women just walk there with thier mininal clothings, or without them, and nothing happens and i’m the crazy one to come with my long sleeves and skirt.
    so, a woman ought to have an inner feeling about it, but now, when there is not i think we all have to know this is whar go-d asks from us- his beloved daughters, just to be act and dress like princess. and we must know the “sachar” that waits for us in Heavens!!!
    so, i love you all my jewish sisters and wish you this Nisayon wouldn’t be so hard for you!
    (i hope i’m clear in english and my message is clear)

    • Avatar photo Beth Jacobs says on February 4, 2018

      Dinelle, your enthusiasm for tznius and tznius bathing suits is totally contagious. I also used to wear nightgowns to the beach before swimdresses and two-pieces were invented. Baruch Hashem for tzniusdik bathing suits!!
      Regarding what a Bais Yaakov girl would or would not do, you unfortunately have quite a bit of research to do. Look up the UNDOCTORED versions of the photos of the old Bais Yaakov(s) in Europe (and while you’re at it, check out youtube, too) and read the biography of Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan by Reb. Danielle Leibowitz, for a start. Things have bh gotten better, not worse.

  • Avatar photo S says on August 8, 2016

    Hi there,

    Was just wondering why we don’t cover the neck at all? I hope it fits into this discussion…funny enough when I was looking this up online I found this page..
    I have heard from some that covering neck is Halacha, but…I don’t see anyone do it…how come?

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on August 9, 2016

      the rabbis never considered that to be “ervah” – nakedness. we don’t cover face or hands either. the most basic halacha is upper arms, upper legs and the space in between.

  • Avatar photo Steve says on July 22, 2019

    I have far more in common with people who like the same bands than with people who were born into the same religion.


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