Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fast Fashion's Tznua Dresses

So I got some flak for my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale post. Apparently many of you don't like to spend $600 or $800 on dresses. I'm truly shocked to learn this. With day school tuition so inexpensive, I figured we all had tons of extra money laying around for expensive clothes and trips to Israel. But I digress.

Out of respect for pretty much everyone and due to some super sleuthing by one of my coworkers, I bring you two dresses from fast fashion chains that are relatively affordable, even at their regular prices. And, even better, they are from the chains' fall fashion lines, so you should be able to find your size, assuming the store produced it.

First off is the $59.95 dress from H&M in aubergine. The top has a really interesting criss-cross drape that adds elegance to this solid dress. It's made of a combination of CUPRO and elastane. CUPRO appears to be a silk substitute that is made out of cotton linter, is similar to Tencel, and is machine washable. And as you've probably figured out by now, I love everything to be machine washable, mainly because I only remember to get my dry cleaning done once per year and I don't like spending $15 to get a dress cleaned. I think this dress would look great dressed up and worn to a wedding with heels and shiny jewelry. Dressed down with a belt, flats, and chunky jewelry, it could be worn shopping, out with friends, or to work. Unfortunately,  H&M doesn't offer online shopping yet, so you'll have to find this at your local H&M store. I know how hard it is to force oneself to go to the mall.

UPDATE 8/8: This dress hasn't yet arrived in H&M's warehouse, so no store has received this dress. This dress likely won't be available for purchase for another 2 - 3 weeks. If you are interested in knowing if it will be available in a store near you, call H&M's customer service at (855) 466-7467 after 8/22 and refer to item # 678880. This dress is in the "Modern Day Classic Wear" collection and could be available in most H&M locations.

UPDATE 8/29: I've been trying weekly to get information about this dress from H&M's customer service phone number and I got a different explanation every week I called. Two days ago, I asked the woman I spoke to at customer service if there was anyone else I could talk to, and she referred me to H&M's US Support Center (which is basically their headquarters for their US operation). I called, and the woman couldn't help me much over the phone because all of H&M's buyers are located in Sweden, but she contacted them and got back to me this morning. Here is what she told me:

"The dress is from our Trend label and the order number is 35216. It has been in our stores for about a week. Our US warehouse has only received a little less than 900 pieces and it will not receive any more shipments.

Our suggestion is to contact your local store that carried the ladies trend line to see if they have any in stock. We hope this information has been helpful."

In the DC region, I believe the "Trend" store is the one on F St NW in DC, close to Metro Center. I'll call them today and update this post with their response. If you are not located in the DC area, I suggest calling H&M's Customer Service line at (855) 466-7467 to find out which store(s) in your area carry the "Trend" line, then calling that (those) store(s) directly.

This second dress, the Long Dress with Leaves, is more appropriate to wear to weddings. Most likely, if you're a mother of the bride or a bridesmaid. it's long-sleeve, high neck, long skirt, and perhaps a slight bit matronly. It's from Mango, so I'll assume that the matronly bit is in style. That being said, it's a machine washable special occasion dress that you're really  not supposed to dry clean. And, did I mention that it's only $169.99? I'm not sure many people have found less expensive bridesmaid gowns than that, even at gemachs. And, it's at least half the cost of getting a dress made (and will likely fit better, too). I wouldn't wear too much with it because the leaves are a bit sparkly already. But, there are always chunky rings and pretty earrings that would look really nice with this dress. You can purchase it online, and it's possible a few stores will sell it, but I would definitely call the store you want to buy it from before going out of your way to get there. Hopefully, they'll sell it at some of their many stores in Israel, too.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cute Maternity Dress for Fall

We all know it's hard to find a dress that's tznua off the rack. It's even harder to find a maternity dress that is tznua off the rack. But I found one!

Here is the Lantern Sleeve Dress by Maternal America at Amazon.com. It's really cute, flattering to many figures, and relatively inexpensive at about $50 for the dress in gray and $60 for the dress in black. This dress would be great for a fun evening out with friends, Shabbat, a casual wedding, or a pre-baby date night. And, since it comes with a belt and there are buttons on the turtleneck, very little accessorizing is necessary. Just throw the dress on and you'll be ready to go out!

Please note that the description of the dress says that it's dry clean only. The dress is a rayon/spandex blend. Based on the material, I believe that it could be hand washed or washed on a delicate cycle in the washing machine. The only issue with these washing methods is that the dress would likely dry wrinkled. If you have a good steamer, it should take care of the wrinkles. Otherwise, you'll probably have to spend the money on dry cleaning when you need to clean the dress.

Please also note that Maternal America often sizes their clothing slightly smaller than Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in the Pod do. If you're in between letter sizes, you may want to consider sizing up (i.e. if you're a 6 you may want to consider purchasing the medium instead of the small).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Project Runway Season 10

As is not surprising, I'm a big fan of Project Runway. Season 10 kicked off last Thursday with 16 designers. Several of the designs incorporated sleeves and hemlines that weren't super short, but the designer who came in third place for the week, Melissa Fleis, put an actual tznius look down the runway!

This look was one of two looks Melissa put down the runway. This particular look was her "homework assignment." It was shipped ahead of Project Runway's taping and was meant to represent who she is as a designer. I thought it was great that she would choose a look that was tsnius to represent herself. Her second look, which she only had a day to create, was not tsnius, but she only had one day to make the second garment, so I'll let that slide.

I personally love this look. I think the skirt of the dress is very flattering and the vest adds great texture and an interesting neckline. I think it would look great in a variety of colors, especially a more equestrian color palate of a deep red dress and a dark camel or dark brown vest. I could see other more playful color combinations looking great as well.

In the interest of full disclosure on the blog, I learned based on the Tim Gunn critique of Melissa on Project Runway's site that the dress' neckline is asymmetrical and not tsnius on its own. It's either the same as or similar to this dress on her website. However, the vest was never taken off on the runway (or at least the TV-edited runway), so I'm going on the assumption the dress with vest is a complete look and meant to be worn together.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shout out to Destination Maternity at the Willow Grove Park Mall

It's not everyday I get a thank you note from a store. In fact, I have only previously received thank you notes from a few online stores, but never a store where I physically shopped. That changed this week when I received a thank you note from Jennifer, the Assistant Store Manager at the Destination Maternity store in the Willow Grove Park Mall in Willow Grove, PA.

I only spent $113 on seven shirts and two skirts without being in the store for more than 30 minutes. And all the items I bought were by Motherhood Maternity; I bought nothing in the A Pea in the Pod side of the store. But I got a hand-written thank you note.

If I hadn't spent over $1,000 on maternity clothes when I was pregnant with my son and over $460 so far this pregnancy, I would go shopping again right away at a Destination Maternity-owned store! (I already had spent over $200 between two other Destination Maternity stores within three days of my visit to the Willow Grove Park store.)

Here's a picture of the note I was sent.

If you're having reading the picture, the text reads:

I just wanted to thank you personally for coming in and shopping with me on the first! You were a delight and looked great in everything you tried on! I hope that you'll come back and shop with me again next time you're in the area!
Assistant Store Manager

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale

My favorite sale of the year is Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale. It's Nordstrom's only sale where they discount products meant for an upcoming season and discount wardrobe staples. This year, they have some pretty great tznua high-end designer dresses on sale, as well as a designer skirt and a few shirts.  I'm highlighting my favorite five items from the sale, but there are other tznua items on sale that are a bit more trendy and do not suit every taste.

The Anniversary Sale begins July 20 and ends August 5 (prices go up August 6). Nordstrom credit card holders can shop the pre-sale in stores and online going on now.

First, the dresses.

I love this dress by Lida Baday.  It will be on sale for $599.00 and cost $1,060.00 after the sale. I know it seems pricey, but a tznua suit by this designer at Nordstrom costs $1,295.00 for the suit jacket and $625.00 for the skirt. So, this dress is a relative bargain at $600. And while my lawyer friends wouldn't necessarily be able to get away with wearing this dress in a courtroom, I think that this dress would be a great suit substitute for most job interview and job-related presentation situations.  This dress is made of wool and is fully lined, so you may not want to add this to your summer wardrobe, but its tailoring is impeccable.

Also of note is this jersey dress by Michael Kors in "blackberry."  This dress will be $799.00 on Anniversary Sale and $1,395.00 afterward. Surprisingly, this dress is not lined, so I'm not 100% certain how forgiving the top will be, but I believe the tailoring of the bottom will be very forgiving. It's definitely much more expensive than the lower-end Ralph Lauren dresses available last winter (the American Living version was featured on my blog in February). I wouldn't recommend it as highly as the Lida Baday dress, but if you're a big fan of Michael Kors, any tznua dress by him is a great find. The dress is also available in black for the same price.

Next, the skirt.

I know first-hand how hard it is to find any tznua pencil skirts. The ones that are long enough are generally way too tight. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found this skirt by Nic + Zoe. Other than the fact that it's a matte dark brown and not black, it's pretty much a perfect pencil skirt; it's slimming, interesting, and not tight. It's like a pencil skirt miracle! And at $78.90 for the sale (and machine washable!) it's a steal compared to it's future regular price of $119.00.

And finally the shirts.

So you're probably waiting for me to post an item that's affordable to the masses. I have it right here. This long-sleeve cotton crewneck tee by Caslon, which comes in 15 different colors, is only $15.90 on the sale and $25.00 after. I can attest that these shirts are made incredibly well. They do not shrink when washed properly, they are a perfect length, and will not ride up to show your back or belly. They also last forever. Plus, Nordstrom provides free standard shipping for every purchase, so you won't have any surprising costs when you checkout!

The last featured shirt is a dressier long-sleeve crewneck tee by Norstrom Collection in stretch modal fabric. It comes in two colors - ivory and red. It will be on sale for $64.90 and cost $98.00 after the sale. This shirt is intended for situations where cotton isn't dressy enough - such as at work, at shul, or to wear under a blazer.

Full disclosure: I was employed by Nordstrom throughout much of college. They were a terrific employer and the job has helped me get every job I've held since. I have not been paid by Nordstrom since 2004 and I don't get any commission from my blog.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Maternity Skirts for $30 or Less!

When I was pregnant with my son, who will turn two on Shabbat, I had a terrible time finding tznua maternity skirts. I ended up paying a small fortune for skirts that I didn't love, didn't fit right, and didn't really last through my entire pregnancy.  It was very frustrating.  However, I did love the few Secret Fit Belly skirts I bought from Motherhood Maternity, Pea in the Pod, and Pea in the Pod Collection.

Well ladies, the dark ages of maternity skirt shopping are over! Destination Maternity (the site featuring my three favorite maternity skirt stores) has at least eight tznua maternity skirts for $29.99 or less!  That's, right, 8! I'm featuring four of them below, but you can explore the site.  Please note that through Sunday, Destination Maternity is offering an additional 30% off all sale and clearance items, so a few of these skirts will be more than $30 again as of Monday.

Work Skirt #1: The Black Maxi

This was the most elusive skirt to find two years ago. I ended up spending about $70 on a black pleated skirt at a tsnuis store that lost its pleats after a couple of washings and didn't fit past month seven.  It was the only long black tznua maternity skirt I could find that looked OK on me.

Flash forward two years and we have this black maxi skirt by Motherhood Maternity.  At only $29.98 regular price, it's a bargain compared to what I went through two years ago!  Here's the picture:

Secret Fit Belly(tm) Full Length Relaxed Fit  Maternity Skirt

Work Skirt #2: The Black Midi

I actually managed to find a couple of black midi skirts while pregnant with my son.  Neither wanted to stay on me, however, even at eight months pregnant.  Would I have loved a Secret Fit Belly midi!  Now, Motherhood Maternity is selling one for all of $26.98 regular price!

Secret Fit Belly(tm) Midcalf Length Relaxed Fit  Maternity Skirt

Denim Skirt #1: American Star Denim Maxi

I was never able to find a denim maxi skirt when I was pregnant with my son.  I found one at Motherhood Maternity that went to mid-calf, and that was the best I could do.  Now, Destination Maternity is offering two denim maxi skirts and they're both on clearance! Both are currently $29.99 on clearance with the additional 30% bringing the price down to $20.99!  I almost think the non-pregnant ladies should jump at that deal and buy these up!

The American Star Denim Maxi is lighter in color, features a frayed hem and a Secret Fit Belly, and is an affordable denim maxi maternity skirt!

American Star Secret Fit Belly(tm) Full Length Slim Fit Maternity Skirt

Denim Skirt #2: Blank NYC Denim Maxi

At the same price as the American Star denim maxi, any preference between the two denim skirts is primarily a matter of taste.  Since they're both sold by Destination Maternity brands and feature the same Secret Fit Belly, I would presume they should fit the same. (Note: I never had any issues with the fit of the clothing from these companies two years ago and I was the same size in everything I bought from them.)  The Blank NYC denim maxi is darker in color than the American Star denim maxi, has five pockets, and features a frayed hem and Secret Fit Belly.  At $20.99 (or $29.99 after June 3rd), it's a steal, especially since the regular price was $99.50!

Blank NYC Pull On Style Full Length 5 Pocket Maternity Skirt

Friday, March 30, 2012

Beautiful Ruffle Jacket at Macy's

I did my last round of pre-Pesach shopping yesterday and I discovered this beautiful jacket by INC International Concepts at Macy's.  It is tznua by itself when fully zipped. The tailoring is impeccable and the shoulders have a very cute ruffle detail that I'm really into at the moment. It also looks great over another sweater, so this jacket could serve multiple purposes as either part of your Shabbat or work outfit or as a coat when you're running around town.  It also happens to be machine washable!!! The fit is true-to-size. When I saw it, I thought it would cost at least $200. Nope! The regular retail price is $99.50, but I found it on clearance for about $50 at Macy's in Downtown DC.  The website has it for $73.99.  I believe it's a great deal either way.

I think this jacket would work best with a pencil skirt that goes just below the knee. When styled that way, it looks chic and very expensive. It may look less fashion-forward if worn with a long or a-line skirt.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Thank You to My Mother

My mother has always told me I am perfect just the way I am. I cannot recall a time she made a negative comment about any aspect of my natural appearance, whether it be my looks, my clothes, my weight, or my makeup (or lack thereof).

I never felt pressured lose weight when my pediatrician recommended it because my mother had me convinced 150 lbs was skinny for a teenager. She thought I was just as skinny when I was 30 lbs lighter 10 years later.

When I started wearing makeup in high school she would always tell me I didn't need it because my face was naturally beautiful. I didn't have clear skin, but she never saw those imperfections, and to this day I'm often convinced other people cannot see them either.

I thank my mother for always telling me I'm beautiful when I've needed to know it the most -- always. I've needed to hear this from her when I was dressed like a clown for my 5th grade play, at graduations, under the weather, under the chuppah, 7 months pregnant, and every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in between.

Mothers, please tell your daughters that they are beautiful because they are. Your daughters do not need anything to mask their G-d-given beauty. They only need your support, praise, and love. And mothers, you are beautiful, too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

First Ladies - They're Just Like Us!

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, made an official visit to the US this week and spent a bit of time with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.  Ms. Cameron and FL Obama made big stirs with all of their fashionable clothing choice becaause they are both big fashion icons in their respective countries.

But who would have thought they would both be wearing tsniusdik clothing at the same time during the Official White House Welcoming Ceremony on March 14, 2012?  Samantha Cameron wore a 42" long Roksanda Illincic dress that retails for $1,330.  (Please note that the link says the dress is "above the knee," but I found at Browns Fashion London that the dress is 42". The dress is now sold out there, so I cannot link to this source, but as you can see from the picture below, it covers Ms. Cameron's knee.)

I was never able to find any links for Michelle Obama's Zac Posen suit, but it was likely custom made.  Please note that Michelle Obama is 5'11" tall, so the tiny bit of knee showing on her likely wouldn't show on many of this blog's readers. I'm not sure if her suit blazer zips all the way up, but when you custom order her suit, you can request whatever zipper you want (or whatever length skirt you want, too).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

$10 Denim Skirt, a.k.a. J.C. Penney, Part Deux

I've been singing the praises of J.C. Penney a lot lately. So much so that I feel like the recent Ellen Degeneres commercials for J.C. Penney are the stories of my life. Now, it's my turn to share more of my new-found love with you.

You may know that J.C. Penney recently went through a rebranding. A really big rebranding. They eschewed sales, instead opting for a "fair and square" pricing and returns policy. Basically, their regular prices are similar to Target and their return policy is the same as Nordstrom's. They even changed their logo. And it really seems like a different store. Not only are they standing behind their products, but from my unscientific analysis walking around the store, the new prices are about 50% less than the old original prices. That's right, the new regular prices are as good or better than the best sale prices used to be. That's exciting news, at least to a shopping fanatic like me.

So how does this play into more tznua clothing? Well, I just scored the Rocker Maxi Skirt by Bisou Bisou in Bisou Bisou's Dark Denim Collection. It has a more descriptive but less colorful name on the website. I'm reading the name off the tag. If you wear mermaid skirts, this skirt is near perfection. It fits extraordinarily well, is the perfect length for us taller women (it feels like a 39" skirt rather than the 41" listed on the website), and is a beautiful color. Order it in what you consider your "normal" size, not your size in clothing that's sized large. It fits the same as other Bisou Bisou skirts if your know your size in the brand. Since it's mermaid, it cannot be a true denim. Instead, it's 75% cotton, 23% polyester, and 2% spandex. The spandex really helps it stretch well to make walking comfortable.

Yes, the keychain is easily detachable.

The skirt is currently available in every size 2 through 18 for $25 online right now. In store, the current price is $10. Yes, that's right. $10. I recommend buying the skirt online and going to the store with your receipt for a price adjustment. Or, buy more than one and price adjust both. I now own two of this skirt.

I know it's not 100% cotton denim. It's not going to be able to replace everything a perfect real denim skirt can do. I really miss my old perfect $12 Gap denim skirt I had for 10 years before the fabric finally decided to disappear in the dryer. It really made me regret not buying the $100 7 for All Mankind long denim skirt from C-Mart (may it rest in peace) that I passed on 6 years ago because it was $100 and my salary was not supportive of such a purchase. I still haven't found skirts that are that good. But this Bisou Bisou skirt is a pretty good second and I'm not going to allow myself to be stuck without a long denim skirt again.

Also, I want to touch briefly on my recent shoe purchases. I'm not much of a shoe gal. I don't see much purpose in owning 6 different pairs of patent leather black dressy sandals, 4 pairs of black boots, 3 pairs of brown boots, etc. I like to keep a pair of black sandals, a pair of brown sandals, a pair of black patent high heel (4") sandals, a pair of black boots, a pair of brown boots, one pair of black dressy all-purpose flats, a pair of sneakers, a pair of flip flops, and a pair of non-leather shoes for Yom Kippur/Tisha B'Av. It's that time of year when I've pretty much worn out every pair of shoe I own and I'm trying to rebuild my shoe wardrobe, and maybe add a few extra pairs for fun. I've made several large orders at Nordstrom, including many pairs of Cole Haans, but they appear to be underwhelming. I'm downright disappointed in the cheap plastic materials used to make the platforms of the $158 and $168 pairs of Cole Haan shoes I bought (both in the Air Tali family). I understand that's the lowest price point for Cole Haan, but the shoes look cheap (although the leather is very soft) and they didn't even come with dust bags.

On the other hand, I just scored 2 pairs of $27 leather sandals, in black and tan, at J.C. Penney this evening. They may not win any fashion awards, but they seen to be very serviceable as everyday sandals for the office, long walks, shul (yes I'm casual, sorry), shopping, and everywhere else. The footbed is very comfortable even though it's definitely not leather (but the straps are leather).

So why would I buy $27 sandals at J.C. Penney when I'm a Nordstrom shoe junkie who's normal pair of shoes cost between $100 and $200? Because J.C. Penney is standing behind their products like Nordstrom now. I can wear these sandals out and if I don't like them I can return them. That's a really nice offer. This is the return policy that has prevented me from overstocking shoes over the past 10 years. Maybe now I'll even start saving both money and space because of it.

In short, kudos, J.C. Penney.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shailene Woodley of the Descendents Wears Tsnius Dress to the Oscars!

You heard it here first! And here's a picture! The back is also crewneck. The dress is by Valentino Couture Spring/Summer 2012 Collection (which has at least 4 tsnius styles). And according to the link, she chose this dress because it has long sleeves! It's apparently chilly for Hollywood tonight, which may be why she made this decision, but I think it's exciting to have a 20-year old actress choose to wear a modest dress for a change!

84th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Amazing Dress at JC Penney!

So this weekend I went shopping, primarily for my 20-month old son. But I couldn't help but stroll by the dresses section at J.C. Penney. And what did I find but this gorgeous red number by American Living (J.C. Penney's private label by Polo Ralph Lauren) for the low price of $34. I know the site says $90, but it's $34 in store. This past weekend, the store in Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg, MD had almost every size in red and bright violet ($45).  And when I had a different store pull up locations to buy the dress, there were many locations in the Maryland and DC area that still had it in stock. You can call your local store for inventory before stopping by. This dress is form fitting, and I think it looks best when worn one or two sizes smaller than your normal size. It stretches and it looks like it adds weight where it's baggy. The red dress is perfect for a date night with the husband, or when you want to be the center of attention, such as at your engagement party or your sister-in-law's engagement party (just kidding... maybe). The violet dress is perfect for attending a wedding, shul, or anywhere else where you don't want to completely stand out in the crowd (your best friend's engagement party, perhaps?).

It looked great with my black leather boots when I tried it on (but then again, what doesn't?). I think both colors would look wicked attractive with 4"-5" black patent leather pumps, but my coworker suggesting going with nude pumps with the red dress. What it comes down to is that it's incredibly easy to accessorize this dress and be a show stopper.

Please note, the dress covers my knees. I would suspect that the model is at least 6'0" or the dress was hemmed for pictures.

When purchasing a form-fitting dress, or really any clothing for that matter, it's important to stress the importance of proper undergarments. I believe the #1 most un-tznius thing a woman can have showing are panty lines through her skirt. And I see it all the time on people who try to dress very modestly. I think Spanx would be best with this dress for the most flattering fit, but it's not necessary. If you're not going the Spanx route, I would go for undergarments by Hanky Panky ($18/each unless you find discontinued styles on sale for about $12-$14) or a knock-off (Victoria's Secret's goes for 3 for $30). And make sure no matter what you wear underneath, make sure the sides of all your undergarments are smooth to your body and are not folded in any way.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lilo Maternity on Zulily until January 8

Zulily has 82 items by Lilo Maternity for sale from today until 9:00 AM EDT on Sunday, January 8. Lilo Maternity is a line of maternity clothing geared for the Orthodox Jewish woman. They have stores online and in Lakewood, Brooklyn, Monroe, and Yerushalayim. There are also stores in Baltimore and Monsey that carry the line.

Many of the shirts in the site are tznua without requiring layering. For everyone who doesn't mind layering, they also have a half-tanktop in white for $10.99 on the sale. The skirts on the sale are their shorter-length skirts and will not cover the knees of taller women while sitting. I believe the skirts are the equivalent of about a 24" length skirt non-pregnancy. Lilo Maternity sells tall versions of their knee length and long skirts on their websites and in their stores. The tall versions are probably the equivalent of a 27" or 28" skirt pre-pregnancy when looking for a skirt past the knee.

Zulily often has Lilo Maternity sales, and they have the best prices you will find on this line. If you know what your size is for Lilo and you like any of the items on the sale, I would recommend buying them through Zulily, unless you prefer to support your local Lilo store and keep your spending money within the Jewish community.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eradicating Judgement from our Hearts

This post is not about clothing to buy. This post is a reaction to the toxic attitudes of many in the Orthodox world, not just Charedim in Israel, toward those who do not dress "tsnuis enough." Please note that this blog exists for me to share my personal shopping habit and it is not meant to coerce anyone to dress in a manner that makes her feel uncomfortable.

This post was spurred by the recent events in Beit Shemesh. I will not recount them here. If you don't know what's going on yet, google "Beit Shemesh" and I guarantee you'll get more news than you want. I am unequivocally against crimes against the students of the school and the adults who defend them, and I hope that every perpetrator is brought to justice, if not in this world, then in Olam Habah.

But I don't think this is just a Chareidi issue. This is an Orthodox issue in general. Those who do not dress or act in a completely Orthodox fashion are ridiculed by Orthodox Jews of all persuasions; Modern, Centrist, Chareidi, and even Datla"sh (formerly religious). Let me start by telling some of my own story.

I started becoming observant during my freshman year in college. I met an attractive guy (not my husband) in the Kosher Dining Hall (KDH) during the first Hillel Friday night dinner. It turns out this guy was raised Orthodox, although he was no longer shomer mitzvot. I started eating in the KDH with him regularly. At the KDH, I met a number of Orthodox women my age from the nearby Orthodox community and I began spending Shabbatot and school breaks with their families. With the help of these friends, I began my religious journey.

The journey was rocky. One day that year, I was dressed tsnuisly at the Kosher supermarket in this community looking for Kosher vitamins with my chest-baring, non-tzitzit and non-kippah wearing boyfriend. While we were searching for these vitamins, a woman overheard me getting frustrated looking for these vitamins. Instead of directing me to their location, or suggesting I ask customer service, she told me to go next door to Rite Aid for vitamins in a very negative tone. The only thing we both thought is that she didn't think we belonged in a Kosher supermarket. Needless to say, it was not the best introduction to the general Orthodox population.

Fast forward to the summer. A family was very kind in allowing me to stay with them for free so that I could be in the Orthodox community. In the middle of the summer, this family had a last-minute (to me) male overnight guest who happened to be quite knowledgeable about halacha. He stayed up all night = answering many of my questions and patiently explaining a lot about texts. We were in the living room of the house with occupied bedrooms surrounding us. We got coffee at about 4:00 or 5:00 AM because we weren't going to get any rest. He left that morning, and I had a fairly busy day. When I returned, I was called some of the similar names the girls in Beit Shemesh are being called and given a very short period of time to get out of their house. Nothing had happened between us, and I was pretty distraught. To act out, I went on a big (about $1,000) shopping spree of all very non-tznuis clothing. I never violated Shabbat or Kashrut, though, as a result of this situation.

By the end of the fall, a little over a year after I began becoming observant, I became as fully observant as I was for a number of years. I met my husband that fall and we began dating in the winter. We were engaged in the early summer, but we didn't get married until 2.5 years later.

I learned that many people were quite vocal in their displeasure of our long engagement. I stopped meeting new people and making friends in the Jewish community because I got tired of being derided for having a long engagement. I would estimate that over 90% of the Orthodox people I met made it clear to me that the length of my engagement was wrong. I was 19 when I got engaged. I got married at 22. My husband was 20 when we got engaged. He was 23 when we got married. We couldn't have supported ourselves until our wedding date because my husband was still in school and I only started working a few months before our wedding.

In the year I took to become observant, I wasn't perfect. For example, there was one time when I turned the light off in a friend's bathroom on Shabbat when I wasn't thinking. I was so embarrassed, I turned it back on knowing that I violated Shabbat.

Why am I sharing this? Because becoming observant and growing more observant even when born Orthodox is a process; it doesn't happen overnight. I liken the ba'al(at) teshuvah process to pregnancy and childbirth; it's long, drawn out, and painful when you're observance is growing rapidly, but when you reach your goal of "Orthodox" you forget how difficult that process was. I, for one, often forget and I will sometimes instinctively have negative thoughts about posts of friends and celebrities who are growing in observance but haven't reached the vaulted "Orthodox" status. Then, I will remember to shut my mouth and appreciate their growth. I wish everyone else would.

I am a fan of Mayim Bialek on Facebook. She played Blossom as a teenager in the 90s, which was one of my favorite TV shows growing up. She now plays Amy Farrah Fowler on the Big Bang Theory, one of my current favorite shows. She also happens to be growing in her observance of Judaism.

Ms. Bialek posts about her growth, and she also posts about how she doesn't observe all the mitzvot and gives examples of how she doesn't observe everything. For instance, she had to tape episodes of the Big Bang Theory over the first days of Sukkot. She wrote an article about this on Kveller and posted the article to her Facebook page. Ms. Bialek has never called herself Orthodox, but it didn't stop the negative comments from Orthodox fans. Instead of congratulating her on trying to grow in observance of the mitzvot and informing masses of people, including many less or unaffiliated Jews that there are halachot, her lack of Orthodox observance was bashed in a lot the comments. These comments are now removed from the post on Facebook and on Kveller. She also had to remove so many Facebook posts from her Kveller article on her Emmy's dress, that she only has 25 comments remaining. That article was the last in a four-part series documenting her search for a "Hot and Holy" dress for the Emmys, in other words, a dress that didn't leave nothing to the imagination. Because her dress had a cutout across the top of her breasts, her dress choice was blasted in many comments for essentially not being tsnuis enough for this blog.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assuming that the "Sikrikim" Chareidim in Israel are not on Facebook and certainly not fans of Mayim Bialek. Most likely, the same people who post negative comments on Ms. Bialek's posts are the same people who watch the events in Israel in horror. But when it comes down to it, their attitude toward others' observance is not much different than the Sikrikim. We will not be able to eradicate the violent behavior from our midst until we eradicate the judgement of our fellow Jews from our hearts.

Update: I just received an Asara B'Tevet email from Rabbi Silber of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim in Baltimore. Rabbi Silber is an absolutely amazing rav, and he said something similar to what I said in this post, but he said it far more eloquently.