Friday Fashion: East of Eden

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Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked; and they sewed together a fig leaf and made themselves aprons.

—Genesis 3:7

Out of shame and modesty are borne the very first fashion items.

Several verses later, after HaShem has cursed Adam and Eve, He provides them with more elaborate garments.

And HaShem G-d made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and He clothed them.

—Genesis 3:21

HaShem was preparing Adam and Eve for an existence outside Eden. Theirs would be a life of struggle and labor. In contrast to the fine weather to which Adam and Eve were accustomed, the climate East of Eden was harsh, unpredictable—sort of like New Jersey—so leather garments were ideal for durability and protection.

The Sages of blessed memory tell us that Adam’s clothing was a sort of priestly garment. Further, G-d decorated the skins with images of birds and beasts, which later made it easier for Nimrod and Eisav to hunt.

Thus the first wardrobe is concerned with modesty, function and adornment.

Nothing much has changed, except that modesty is frequently dropped from the equation. It’s not a healthy sign when fashion designers look to strippers and porn stars for inspiration. Slutwear has filtered down to high and middle school-age kids. It is a form of child abuse when our children are sexualized by various media and then parents abdicate their responsibilities. Clothing signals values and morality. And do not fool yourself, the way we dress triggers behavior.

Interpolation
At the very first Zionist congress of 1897 in Basle Switzerland, Theodore Herzl insisted that all the delegates wear formal clothing, top hats and tails. Most of the delegates, rough hewn Russian Socialists, wanted to wear their work clothing. But Herzl prevailed. He understood that to set a dignified tone proper clothing was required. He knew that the excitable delegates would, in fine silk tuxedos, behave like gentlemen and help sway public opinion in favor of Zionism.
End Interpolation

I truly despair for those who write me private emails scolding me for spending time on fashion.

Wrote one irate reader from Jerusalem regarding Friday Fashion and Friday Footwear: “How can an intelligent man like you, an Orthodox Jew, waste time and energy on such shtuyot, nonsense?”

Au contraire.

Fashion is not nonsense.

What we wear tells the world who we are. Usually, that’s all the world has to go on, thus garments are not superficial surface but a reflection of our soul.

And so, as a service to my readers who care about fashion and modesty here, from the Autumn 2010 collections, are a few looks that fulfill all the requirements for life East of Eden.

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Bottega Veneta

BCBG Max Azria.jpg
BCBG Max Azria

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Dolce Gabbana

Driel Van Noten3.jpg
Dries Van Noten

Fendi.jpg
Fendi

Ferragamo.jpg
Ferragamo

Paul Smith.jpg
Paul Smith

Ralph Lauren.jpg
Ralph Lauren

Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and fashionable Shabbat.

“Your Shabbat clothes should not be the same as your weekday clothes.”

—Talmud, Shabbat 113a

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19 Comments

  1. Posted August 19, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    “The Sages of blessed memory tell us that Adam’s clothing was a sort of priestly garment.”
    A belief Jews and Mormons share. It is thus unsurprising that most Mormons also choose modest clothing.
    I gave up going to the pool some time ago. It’s possible to design women’s swimwear that is modest without being ugly. It’s just that no one seems to be bothering.

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  2. Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I like the Dolce Gabbana dress best.
    I have a friend in Alabama who’s blog tagline is “Where Dolce Gabbana meet Smith & Wesson” — both are high fashion in my humble opinion 🙂

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  3. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  4. PCD
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Robert,
    You are a great influence on #2 daughter. We go to WI to see family, and all she wants to do is go shopping for shoes. Specifically shoes to wear to learn to drive a manually shifted car.

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  5. Rhiannon
    Posted August 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I do agree that Casanova has no talent. I can’t think of any woman who would ever want to wear his clothing. They reflect both shoddy workmanship and ghastly taste/stylistic POV (or, as Nina would say: “questionable taste”). I don’t know what customer he had in mind for the first dress he designed (which might more accurately be dubbed as swatches of cloth randomly sewn together miraculously at the areas where most decent women prefer to be more or less covered). I am still dumbfounded as to how the judges let him stay after that fiasco (“Fascinatingly bad, but still fascinating” was their ridiculous justification, I believe).
    Although I would never (ever) wear his clothes, my favorite designer of the bunch is Mondo. My sister thinks I’m crazy, but I find his eccentricity appealing. Not to turn this into a PR forum or anything, but who is your favorite?
    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I also hate pantsuits. They just look unnatural on a woman, and so horrifically dowdy (especially on a certain Secretary of State). Also, for some reason, they always seem a little gimmick-y to me, like they are for a woman who wants to play dress-up or something…

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  6. Bill Brandt
    Posted August 14, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Robert – Rahel:
    Since this is primarily a site dedicated to classic Hollywood I have to tell you what I learned about Marlene Dietrich and trousers.
    She loved wearing them for comfort – and believed in true equality for the sexes (I might add thank goodness for feminine dresses but I don’t want to leave my shaky train of thought).
    In the late 1930s when she was going to give a show in Paris she received via telegram a warning from the Paris Chief of Police that if she wore trousers there she would be arrested.
    So naturally Marlene wore trousers during her entire stay in Paris 😉

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  7. Posted August 14, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    As a religious woman, I don’t share the opinion that garments that clothe each leg separately are exclusively for men.
    There are trousers made especially for women, and I know quite a few religious women who wear them. There is even a fashion in Jerusalem today of a kind of ensemble of a skirt and loose, long trousers sold as a single piece of clothing (as far as I can tell; it’s not to my taste, so I’ve never bought one).
    My grandfather, of blessed memory, was a clothing designer. He never attained fame, but he was one of the first to make trousers for women during World War II, when women did the factory work that men had to leave behind when they went to fight.
    (P.S. Why do I say “trousers” instead of “pants”? Well, here in Israel, I talk with English-speakers from all over the world — and in many parts of the English-speaking world, “pants” are underwear. After finding this out the hard way, I’ve accustomed myself to saying “trousers” — at least I try to.)

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  8. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Kishke:
    Yes, very beautiful outfits. And very easy to copy.
    The designers mix wonderful textures, muted Autumnal colors, and the fit and drape are flattering to all body types.
    Any one of these outfits would be a fine Rosh Hashana gift for the lovely Mrs. Kishke:-)
    Have a wonderful Shabbat.

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  9. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Norm:
    Glad you enjoy our fashion posts. Saddle shoes are for everyone. Give em a whirl!
    Good Shabbos.

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  10. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Rachel:
    Thanks so much for the kind words.
    Heidi Klum did not just snap back. She has, first of all, good genes. She also has enormous discipline, a great work ethic, an excellent diet, and an army of personal trainers.

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  11. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Rhiannon:
    Yes, halacha has quite a bit to say about clothing and modesty. BTW, the reason I don’t ever feature pantsuits is:
    a. I hate, I mean really hate, the look.
    b. Jewish law states that “l’vush ish,” meanwear, is forbidden to women.
    So, though I recognize various degrees of modesty, I don’t show women in menswear.
    Re: PR, do you agree with me that Casanova has zero talent?

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  12. kishke
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    These are nice outfits!

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  13. Norm
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I love your fashion and Hollywood posts. I find it amusing that I am very conscious of my shoes. But saddle shoes are a sole too far. Shabat Shalom.

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  14. Rachel
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Robert,
    Those photos you posted of the Fall fashions are just gorgeous. Just very classy!
    I love love love that scene in The Devil Wears Prada. Just really opens up a person’s eyes to how a few designers’ fashion ‘works of art’ trickle down to us common folk.
    I also love Project Runway but just haven’t had a chance to watch lately. Maybe it’s because I just cannot comprehend how Heidi Klum maintained her size 0 figure right after childbirth.
    Have a good Shabbos!

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  15. Rhiannon
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    “Fashion is not nonesense.” – Thank you! It’s not considered shallow if you care about your appearance. The way one dresses and what one wears says a lot about them – doesn’t the Jewish law of modesty attest to that?
    And PR is the best show on television. Bar none.

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  16. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Bill:
    I have read John Malloy’s book and it is excellent. In truth, menswear is a lot simpler than women’s wear. But too many women are intimidated by the fashion scene. Which has a lot to do with snooty fashionistas.
    The scene you cite in The Devil Wears Prada is the best in the film. I actually smiled as Meryl channeled Vogue’s Anna Wintour.

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  17. Bill Brandt
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Anyone who sees me in my day-to-day “attire” these days would scoff at the notion that I care anything about fashion.
    These days it seems I have no reason to dress up. Of course there is always a reason to dress well…
    But anyone who doesn’t think fashion – dressing well – is important should read the classic book “Dress For Success” by John Molloy.
    This book is written not so much from a what’s-the-latest-fashion sense, but simply dressing well, and in contemporary clothing. It is dressing well from the business perspective, not a fashion perspective.
    He approaches dress from a sociological view citing experiments of reactions by people of various clothes a subject wears. It is shocking – one experiment I remember after reading it years ago, was having 10 people – 5 and 5 – tell a restaurant waiter after the meal that “I forgot my wallet”.
    half the group had a coat and tie while the other half were dressed as, well, so many “patrons” wear today.
    Bottom line virtually everyone in the tie was allowed to leave and come back with the money on their word; the other half were not allowed to leave.
    If anyone doesn’t think people judge you by what you wear they should read this book. I was shocked recently attending a Catholic wedding and one yokel shows up in jeans and cowboy boots.
    Along the same vein a movie I didn’t think I’d like – but found interesting – was The Devil Wears Prada. The movie revolves 2 main characters in a NY fashion house –
    One of the best segments of the movie is when the haughty and dictatorial character of Meryl Streep confronts the “fashion-be-damned” attitude of Anne Hathaway’s character.
    {I have to admit as a movie pro Robert can describe this far better than me – along the vein of “Kids – don’t try this at home! – but here it goes)
    The scene starts with Miranda Priestly (Streep) picking out outfits for an upcoming show. Anne Hathaway’s character, Andrea (Andy) Sachs, walks in and upon hearing debate over 2 garments with a slightly different shade of blue – smirks, which is a huge mistake in front of Miranda.
    “You find this funny?”, is Miranda’s opening salvo. (delivered ice cold)
    “Take that blue you have on your frumpy sweater”, she starts [paraphrasing].
    “It’s not just blue, the shade is called currealean, and it started out in [such and such fashion house in Paris where shortly other fashion houses picked it up – then filtered down to the department stores until finally it appeared on that lumpy sweater you undoubtedly picked out at the Bargain Bin.”
    “So you see”, Miranda concludes, “far from being “above it all” you are right in the middle of it”.
    But I have to say not remembering the exact words in the screenplay, Streep’s reciting of it knocked your socks off.
    Anyway I learned a lot about the fashion industry from the movie, reputedly based on a real dictatorial Vogue editor.

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  18. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Jake:
    PR is my very favorite show. I wish it were longer. I’d like to see more nuts and bolts of the design process, and of course, the nasty back-biting just makes me smile. Reminds me of what happens when a bunch of screenwriters get together.

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  19. Posted August 13, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I’ve wondered what you think about “Project Runway.” As a fashion follower, I think you may like it, but as a writer who understands the greatness of brevity, I think you may hate how, (like all reality shows), it insists on stretching 30 minutes of good content into an hour of so-so TV watching.
    So, what say you?

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