Mishlei (Proverbs) 31:22,24

כב מַרְבַדִּים עָשְׂתָה-לָּהּ שֵׁשׁ וְאַרְגָּמָן לְבוּשָׁהּ
כד סָדִין עָשְׂתָה וַתִּמְכֹּר
She made for herself pleasant-looking bed covers; she also made herself white (linen) and purple garments to wear
She manufactured robes and sold them

Are Layering Shells Kosher or even Modest?

According to the Gemara (Kesubos 72b), Chazal states that a woman violates Das Yehudis (Das Yehudis refers to laws of modesty based on convention (and enforced with rabbinic rulings)) if she spins in public and reveals her arms to people.  The upper arm of a woman has a powerful potential to arouse unwanted attention of the opposite gender.  The Midrash states that "Rav Shmuel Bar says that Shechem son of Chamor saw her (Deenah) and was attracted to her by procuring a glimpse of her arms and this aroused his distressing interest in her."

The elbow has the same halachos as the upper arm and must be completely covered since the upper arm occupies a substantial part of the elbow.  The upper arms may not be visible through the sleeves and this includes see-through sleeves or tight-fitting sleeves.  Rabbi Falk discusses this in "The Tznius Handbook" on pages 32 and 167.

How about layering shells?  Layering shells that are so popular among the masses today are made with soft, thin, stretchy material that when worn, are very tight on the body, including the arms.  These shells would not be appropriate for a Bas Yisrael.  These shells can be worn underneath an opaque blouse that covers over the shell however, this then defeats the purpose of the shell. If the shell is worn underneath a very loose and open cardigan, that would expose the parts of the shell which exposes the shape of the wearer, then it would also not be kosher.

Popular mass-marketed layering shell, comes in different colors and sizes
As you can see, the shell hugs the wearer showing off the curves

When worn under another blouse of the this type also made of stretchy tight material,
reveals the shape of the wearer in a very  immodest way

It doesn't matter whether you are skinny or more endowed, the shell makes you immodest!
It's like you're wearing a leotard in public.
Don't throw away your layering shells yet.  You can recycle them into modest headcoverings. Snoods, for example, are usually made with stretchy knits.  ModestAnytime.com offers lots of snoods made with these stretchy knits that cover your head well.


PMEM said...

Ok let me very frank here. I once asked a posek, while normally we want rabbanim to decide halachic parameters, shouldn't the regular baal habayis give the parameters for modesty in women's dress? If a major part of the goal is not to arouse men, shouldn't the typical man (not a holy rabbi and also not an abnormal man) tell you what gets to him? He agreed.

Well shells get to me and I don't think I'm abnormal. They are made out of bathing suit material. They are leotards, like those worn by dancers trying to show off their bodies. They are designed to cling to the body. They are like a second skin. They often look better than skin in part because they take on bright and exciting colors and cover any blemishes, all the while clinging to the body and showing it's shape.

I never really noticed women's arms before until I started seeing frum women wearing shells, you know the ones that cling to the upper arm.

And when women wear their tight shiny bright shells with vests and spaghetti string and other shreds of fabric, the whole look is so immodest and so suggestive of being in a state of undress, it boggles the mind how a woman with frum sensibilities and training in the concept and ideal of modesty cannot notice how completely immodest this look is.

Before the shell, women struggled to find modest clothing. Isn't it a little suspicious that all of the sudden it's easy. Just buy any piece of trashy immodest clothing and pair it with a shell. Suddenly it's a breeze! It's that a little odd?

Daughter of Israel said...

My words, exactly. Thank you!!

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Training Girls in Dressmaking

In our times, it is highly commendable to train girls in the art of dressmaking and general sewing. Lessons should be given on this subject in schools, and if necessary, also in seminaries.

If the girl becomes really expert, she will even be able to make garments for herself, and later on, when married also for her daughters. Also, she could take up dressmaking as a profession.

Source: Modesty, an Adornment for Life, Rabbi Pesach Eliyahu Falk