Tznius Question

Why is it that it seems more tzanuah (modest) to wear thin tights / pantyhose under a skirt, than to wear jeans or sweat pants under the same skirt? I would be so much warmer wearing my jeans underneath and they don’t cling quite as much as panty hose does. Up here on the frozen tundra we need to stay warm.

I know, it’s probably the whole begged ish (men’s clothing) thing with the trousers, which personally I do not completely agree with especially as these days women’s trousers are made specifically for them which in my opinion totally negates the begged ish argument. I won’t wear pants by themselves out of the house due to tznius (modesty) issues, but why can I not wear them under my skirt to walk to the local store?

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78 Comments

  1. Noah Roth says:

    This is somewhat tangential, but Begged Ish is a categorical prohibition, not a sub-category of tzniyut. So for example, it would be prohibited for a man to wear a skirt, bra, and blouse alone in the privacy of his own home.

    If, in fact, one were to rule that pants are a violation of Begged Ish for a women (I am not making that claim, just carrying it to it’s logical conclusion), they would necessarily be claiming that they are prohibited even alone in the privacy of your home.

  2. batya from NJ says:

    i think you won’t find women wearing pants (or trousers as you Brits like to call them!) under skirts in Yeshivish/Chasiddish communities-it’s just NOT done! on my recent trip to israel (last week) i noticed many frum women wearing pants/trousers underneath skirts. it seems to be an israeli style but again NOT among Chareidi Israeli women, that’s for sure!

    • Lady Lock and Load says:

      Yes Batya I also noticed that in Israel the Bnei Akiva girls do that. especially when they are on hikes and want to be more modest.

  3. Jess says:

    I wear pants, so I am not really one to comment on this. I actually think they’re more modest than some skirts. Especially on young girls. It just doesn’t make sense to me. It is more modest for a girl to run around the playground, climb the monkey bars, etc. wearing pants than a skirt!

    • Mark says:

      My girls like wearing shorts under their skirts/dresses when they are at the playground.

      • Jess says:

        That is a solution, and minimizes the chanting of “I see London, I see France.” Though I won’t change my pants-wearing ways. I do wear a skirt when going to charedi cousins – I’ll adapt the way I dress to enter their world, however much I may disagree with it. And when they come over to my house I’d wear a skirt. But I’m less likely to do so now. They don’t adapt themselves to fit into my world, in fact they bring their imposing ways over, like questioning my mother’s kashrut (who, by the way, covers her hair and does not wear pants).

        HSM – thoughts?

        • HSaboMilner says:

          i like Mark’s solution. I never had these issues. As a child I wore trousers all the time. Didn’t give them up until I was 20 and getting wed the first time. I don’t have daughters and my step daughters do not wear pants when they are with us.

          As far as your cousins are concerned – it IS appropriate when you visit them that you respect their values in your mode of dress, but when they come to you they should be just as respectful of their hosts. I think it’s the height of chutzpah to question one’s hosts Kashrut.

          • ki sarita says:

            wearing jeans under a skirt is considered pas nisht because it gives the impression that you sometimes wear them alone.

            which for most people is true- jeans are farm more expenseive than leggings, not to mention bulkier and theirfore don’t always look good underneath another garment…. so most people don’t really buy jeans if their only goal is to keep their legs warm under their skirt.

          • Mark says:

            ki sarita – wearing jeans under a skirt is considered pas nisht

            Despite it being mentioned in the post, I can’t recall ever seeing a woman wearing jeans under a skirt. Jeans are generally “rougher”, more form fitting, and less comfortable even on their own. Certainly I haven’t seen it anywhere recently (of course living in a mostly warm climate for more than 20 years might affect what I see).

            I have seen women wearing shorts, leggings, loose pants, sweatpants, billowy pants (harem pants?), and other such things under their skirts. The harem pants are quite popular in Israel, for example.

  4. RubyV says:

    In my cold part of upstate NY, I often see many Muslim girls/women with jeans under their skirt, and a handful of teenaged Ortho girls doing the same. IMO, there is no reason why pantyhose should be viewed as more modest, especially when you can slip on ice and flash everyone. Today, with so many jeans and pants that are made for women, I don’t see why you couldn’t, unless your community would really pitch a fit. After all, a pair of size 6 jeans from the women’s dept. of Old Navy are obviously not for men, KWIM? I think the issue is more what the custom where you live is than the practical/logical aspect of this.

    (Disclaimer: I am not orthodox).

    • HSaboMilner says:

      totally agree. I am thinking about carrying out an experiment but wonder if it will get my kids thrown out of school…..

  5. Shoshana says:

    I wear sweatpants under a long skirt to go to the local store. I live in a very Hareidi neigborhood in Jerusalem. But I can get away with it because I am disabled. People are used to me!

    • HSaboMilner says:

      but if the skirt is long, who sees the pants? i have done that a time or two. thrown an ankle length denim skirt over my jammie pants in order to run to the store for milk.

      • batya from NJ says:

        the trend in israel seems to be with knee length skirts & pants underneath.

        • HSaboMilner says:

          think I could pull it off in Montreal Ir HaKodesh?

          • batya from NJ says:

            in your dreams ;)!

          • batya from NJ says:

            & i don’t think it would be a huge hit in monsey ir hakodesh either :)!!

          • Lady Lock and Load says:

            I do it all the time. And so do many others around these parts. Hadassah will feel quite at home here, IY”H!!!

          • batya from NJ says:

            LLL, you wear sweatpants, jeans or pj bottoms under skirts? now, i will say that that does come as a shock to me!

          • Lady Lock and Load says:

            I do not own sweatpants, jeans, or pj bottoms. I wear pants that are made for exercising. They are not leggings, don’t even know what to call these things. I have to wear pants to the gym, I cannot do kick box and step in a skirt!!

          • Marla says:

            I see parents dropping off their kids at ASHAR with skirts over pants all the time…not that this means it’s ok in the GREATER MONSEY population.
            Teaneck could certainly handle it.

          • batya from NJ says:

            Teaneck most certainly can Marla but then again, many women in Teaneck wear pants alone without skirts as well (gasp!).

          • HSaboMilner says:

            Marla – “parents dropping off their kids…with skirts over pants” – what, the Dads wear skirts over pants too? how modern is this Ashar place anyways? LMTO!! ;)

  6. Mike S says:

    I don’t get this at all. First, there is nothing at all immodest about wearing pants under a skirt–it is certainly less revealing than tights. And less revealing than either pants or a skirt by themselves. That it is not done in some circles is a uniform thing, not a tznius thing.

    But what I really don’t get is this: I suspect if you took a poll of men in the US (and I doubt Canada is different) of whether they though pants or skirts were more modest, less attractive, or whatever wording you pick, the only respondents saying skirts are more modest would be frum men.

    • HSaboMilner says:

      i guess it depends how short and tight the skirt is. some skirts are way less tzanuah than some pants….

    • sheldan says:

      I am guessing that the idea that pants for women are prohibited is a technical interpretation–since pants, by some definition, are “begged ish,” that means the debate is over.

      This does not take into consideration the fact that the pants we are talking about–even jeans–are specifically made for women. Men would not even wear these particular pants. Therefore, why the controversy?

      As far as whether a skirt is more modest, it is if it is knee-length or longer. I don’t think the skirts we are talking about here are minis…;-)

      I think that, of course, you would have to consider if the neighborhood is something like Mea Shearim, where I think most women would think twice about wearing any kind of pants, but in most places there shouldn’t be this kind of controversy at all.

  7. Baila says:

    Yep, here in Israel it is the norm for kids to wear sweats, jeans, pajama pants under their skirts . Even the most religious (but non-chareidi) girls and women do it. When my girl first starting doing it, I thought they looked ridiculous. You can even buy outfit that are pant and skirts sewn together.

  8. I can’t get a pair of jeans under most of my skirts. Then again, I can’t get a pair of jeans to cover my…. Anyway, I use thermal tights. They’re awesome!

    • batya from NJ says:

      i like leggings with anklets & if you wear boots with them it looks just like you are wearing opaque tights but it feels more comfortable to me at least…

    • Rainy says:

      Sock Dreams! It is a tights wearer’s dream come true and they also sell OTK and knee high socks for the warmer summer months!

      • HSaboMilner says:

        any linkage love for Sock Dreams?

        • Rainy says:

          http://www.sockdreams.com/

          I’ll warn you that as far as the pictures go, it’s definitely not a tznius site!! But, the socks and tights are fantastic. They sell cotton lined wool tights that I think would be very warm and nice where you live. They have a lot of striped and crazy patterned things (which I totally wear) but they also carry solids and more plain stuff too if that is more your style. I like their leggings for wearing with skirts in the summer, as well as the fun knee socks.

  9. Oh and after giving a recent class, my husband and I were sent the biggest bouquet of flowers we had ever seen. We were stunned. It was quite lovely!

  10. Rainy says:

    I wear jeans underneath knee length dresses and tunics all the time, but I got yelled at for it once and told it was not tznius. Since the person yelling was wearing a body skimming (not tight, but fitted) dress with a just below the knee length skirt and flesh colored hose, and I was in baggy jeans and a 50′s style dress and a cardigan that was more blousy than fitted, I was a little baffled – you could see more of her figure than you could of mine. More skin, too. But I was not tznius???

    I think it was the pants are men’s clothing, thing. But, I still wear them anyway. If religious women in Israel do it all the time, then nobody in Los Angeles gets to to tell me that I’m not being Jewish enough for wearing that.

    • HSaboMilner says:

      maybe Rainy, it’s because you looked too different from the way the rest of the women dressed where you were. Not necessarily tznius, but societal norms, perhaps?

      • Rainy says:

        I think you may be right. I haven’t quite learned to parse and interpret all the stuff that everyone else magically knows but doesn’t talk about how they know. I was shocked because this happened on the street in a Jewish neighborhood/shopping area. I would very much expect to be scolded or at least told nicely if I were super inappropriate or deviating way past a community norm *in shul* or in a class at the shul or in someone’s home where it might reflect badly on them. I just didn’t expect to hear it out on the street, exploring shops and trying to learn about the community by exploring what is IN the community, you know?

        To me (and it just reinforced my feeling that I will always be an outsider) it looked like there were lots of differently dressed ladies – ranging from the ones in layered tee shirts, colorful tichels and long denim skirts to the very smart Chanel looking ones in their refined looking dresses and lovely sheitls or hats. So, baggy jeans, 50′s housedress, cardigan, combat boots and a kercheif seemed… that it would fall in the spectrum and be modest. Next time I go there I’ll just wear the denim skirt!

        • sheldan says:

          Rainy, did you move to the community recently, or had you lived there for years? I sometimes wonder about “always being an outsider” even when I grew up here (although I lived in various places for a number of years). It could be that some communities are very tough to “break into” and it may be very difficult to be accepted regardless of what one does.

    • sheldan says:

      I hate it when the people who would criticize you are guilty of a “worse crime.” They should look in a mirror before they open their mouths to criticize.

  11. yuyu says:

    Do not get a cystitis because of Tzniut. It says “we shamarta le nafshecha”

    In frozen Switzerland I switched to pants without skirt for exactely this reason (but of course, this means that I am “not one of us”)

  12. yuyu says:

    PS: i found nice thermo-underwear, but it still is not enough under a skirt. Under trousers it’s nicely cosy and warm…

  13. Kristie says:

    I can’t address the tznius issue, I do have something to say :) My girls are REQUIRED by hubby and I to wear shorts when they wear dresses and skirts. We do allow them to wear jeans at their young ages (3,6 and 9). I wear skirts/dresses all the time and when I am doing something active or out in the cold, I wear shorts or capri pants underneath. I personally find jeans uncomfortable (not to mention I don’t own any! lol)

    One of the big things that really hit home was a case here in Oklahoma (I think? its been a while), where a man was going around and filming/taking pics under a teens skirt. Now maybe she was wearing a very short skirt, I don’t remember, but the fact that its a possibility that could happen to my little girls or myself, really makes me think about it…

    • HSaboMilner says:

      oh that is just so scary!!

      in the summer sometimes i wear bicycle shorts under my skirts to prevent the thighs from rubbing together…..

      • Lady Lock and Load says:

        You have thighs? GASP, not tznius to say you have thighs….oiy, MY EYES, MY EYES ;)

        • HSaboMilner says:

          well Lady Lock and Load, Aliza mentioned above that she has an … so what’s wrong with me saying I have thighs. its not like I said anything about knees or stuff….lol

          • sheldan says:

            Or, heaven forbid we begin talking about…tops. LOL!

            Of course, we debated that to death in another post…;-)

  14. Z! says:

    It is a very popular and acceptable mode of dress for Yeminite women. They wear very long tunics with pants underneath. I do not think there is anything “untznius” about it.

    It is definitely a cultural thing- LET’S START A REVOLUTION!!

    • Lady Lock and Load says:

      I am with Z! Always in the mood to wage war and fight to the finnish! count me in girl!!!

    • HSaboMilner says:

      yeah, that’s my wenches!!

      • Z! says:

        Y’know- it’s funny that in Eretz Yisroel they even do it. This post is really written because it’s too friggin’ cold to just wear a skirt! It’s not a “fashion statement”. (In fact, I don’t like the look at all) BUT- from a tznius position, it makes no sense to wear a skirt down to the knees and not be able to wear pants underneath.

        • HSaboMilner says:

          and wearing long skirts in the snow is impractical because the hem gets all wet and dirty and gross and disgusterating.

      • sheldan says:

        I love it when you use Welsh expressions…:-)

  15. shorty says:

    I have a 15 minute walk to Shul and 25 minute walk to where I usually spend Shabbos evenings.

    At night, it can get to -20 Celsius. Add a windchill to that and we are talking minus very very cold.

    I wear my skirt. And i wear yoga pants under my skirt. On top of it all, i wear my ski pants. Yes, ski pants. Why? See above.

    When I walked into one frum family’s house, their 3 year old son announced that “only boys wear those!”. Mom explained that when its cold out, some girls wear those too.

    In fact, at Shul, i see the frum women look at me. Not in judement. But in respect, maybe even longing, because while they are chilling their cookies in pantyhose, i shvitz all the way home in my ski pants.

    • sheldan says:

      Let’s see…-20 Celsius = -4 Fahrenheit.

      I’m so glad I live in the sunny South, where…it’s below freezing and we got 8 inches of snow yesterday. (Yeah, yeah, I know…DC, NY, and the East Coast got 30…eat your heart out! ;-)
      Incidentally, I lived in the Washington area years ago and we got a blizzard on March 17 (!) once. I am fully sympathetic to what y’all are going through…but I don’t miss the snowstorms. )

    • sheldan says:

      “Cookies”–are you going to get a call from the tznius police for that? ROFL…

  16. EsotericEsther says:

    When I was in High school (a Yeshivah) I showed up one winter morning in an ankle length skirt and comfy sweats underneath. I got called down to the principal who said I was l “schlumpy” looking. I don’t know if he meant it in terms of tzniut or what, but I was asked to take them off.

    • Z! says:

      This goes to the other reaon for why this fashion faux pas is being called “untznius”:

      Tznius also emobdies the idea of respect for oneself and for G-d. It is the ouward appearance of our inner selves and as such they should be perfect. Looking frumpy is not tznius either. Wearing pants under a skirt doesn’t “look right” and sends a “bad image” out there. Therefore, it is “untznius”.

  17. Prof K says:

    Don’t suppose we could settle the beged ish question by pointing out that prior to the early 1700s men didn’t wear what we call pants today? They wore items that far more resembled skirts and dresses. (The Scottish kilt is a holdover from that time period.) Certainly our avos and imahos way back when were basically wearing the same clothing, a type of robe/dress. (Yes, historical evidence for this.) Since the injunction against beged ish came before there actually was an outer difference in the way men and women dressed, just what was it actually referring to?

    • Mark says:

      And even more recently (like 1940′s/50′s) than that, many Jewish men wore what we would call long skirts. Look at many of the eidot hamizrach, Temani for example.

  18. This whole pants thing drives me crazy. Unless you are wearing tight jeans or leggings many pants are more modest than a lot of skirts out there. If a frum man was really honest with themselves and took a look at their wives in a pair of yoga pants or another pair of loose fitting pant and the kind of straight skirt that so many frum women wear it would be obvious that the pants are really a more modest option and even more so if a tunic type top is worn over them.

    I am a woman who covers her hair and also has been known to “gasp” wear pants. When I wear pants (loose yoga type pants) I wear a top that comes mid thigh. By the way this is so much more comfortable and warm than a skirt and tights. I live in Manhattan and because we walk everywhere we spend a lot of time out side in the winter. If it’s very cold outside you can pretty much count on me wearing a pair of pants. It is also much easier to move around which comes in handy when you have young children.

    My guess is that if men spent one day in a straight skirt and a pair of panty hose they would go crazy!

  19. jewmind says:

    wow, finally someone else came up with the same chiddush, albeit i came to it not from a practical vantage point but a halachic one. there are 2 possibly 3 halachic issues with women wearing trousers (i’m english), 1. beged ish 2 showing the form of the legs and 3. standing out. (this i still have to work out)
    in this case neither 1 or 2 would apply. it is not beged ish because they are women’s pants (i assume). it also doesn’t show the outline of the legs, as it is covered by a skirt. and in fact is probably (in my humble opinion) more tznius, as they don’t hug the legs as much as tights/stockings/pantyhose (i don’t know what you call it), and they are also opaque as opposed to most tights.
    however, there may be a third problem of standing out as nobody else does it (i assume) and this in itself may attract undesired attention and may at least be not in the spirit of tznius (i.e. not attracting attention).
    i have been saying for a while that it should be more tznius for women to wear culottes under the skirt as opposed to tights. in sephardic countries i think this may have been the case but in ashkenazi countries like many things the jews wore the styles of the host country, possibly.

  20. Yocheved says:

    I think the reason people don’t wear jeans/pants under skirts has less to do with tznius and more to do with looking refined. Both women and men are supposed to dress in a way that is refined and shows kavod to themselves and their creator– and wearing jeans under a skirt can look kind of shlumpy.

    But I wear pants under my skirt when I go on hikes and stuff.

  21. Bracha says:

    Why not just wear leggings under your skirt? They come in different lengths and thicknesses, and they are certainly more attractive and less bulky than wearing jeans underneath.

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