Myth: Tznius does not allow you to use color to stand out.
Truth: True tznius does allow you to use color to stand out in a tasteful way.
We just came out of another Siyum HaShas. Considering all the anti-Semitism in the news lately, the timing was perfect. Tens of thousands of Jews getting together to celebrate Torah learning is the best kind of revenge. My family and I did not attend, but I saw a lot of photos and posts and it was exhilarating.
One of the photos was of a man dressed in red and white stripes in the middle of a sea of black coats. The jokes were going around (I’m old enough to remember the “Where’s Waldo” thing) but it made a wonderful point about how we Jews can get together and not all look the same. Meanwhile, I saw another post on social media that was also timed perfectly because it came out shortly before all of this. A woman was asking about wearing black vs. color. She got a lot of good suggestions.
From me, you get the truth.
True tznius doesn’t demand that we hide. Some women do prefer to be inconspicuous, but others, myself included, do not prefer that. Neither one is better than the other in terms of tznius. What makes the difference is in how you wear color vs. black and neutrals.
First and foremost, it’s always best to stick with colors that flatter you. When a color flatters you, it makes you appear healthy, and either active or relaxed depending on the effect you want. It also allows you and your face to shine. If a color makes you look washed out or if it’s too strong and “wears” you, it’s not flattering. You might find a variety of these looks in the same color family. For example, olive green is softer on me and makes me look relaxed, while turquoise green makes me look more dramatic and dressed up. Sage green, on the other hand, washes me out, while neon green wears me. Flattering colors are fine no matter what, but if you love a color that doesn’t flatter you, keep it away from your face by wearing it on a belt, a skirt, or shoes.
Second, there’s the combination of neutrals plus color. The combo of neutral base outfit plus colored underpinnings and accessories is a universally appropriate no-brainer. It’s easy and versatile. Neutrals go with everything, so you can wear them a lot and just make them look different with the different colored accents. That means you need fewer items, which allows you to save money. It’s also universally flattering when your colored accents are near your face. Playing up your face is always a good thing, because it allows your personality to really shine. It also works in every context. For those women who prefer to be less conspicuous, this combo allows that without hiding you.
Third, there’s the idea of wearing bright colors as the base. This one is a bit tricky. It’s less versatile than neutrals and it will make you stand out a lot more. That’s fine if your personal style allows for that. It also requires more care with fit and flattery. Since you and the outfit will stand out much more, any flaws will stand out too, and that’s something you need to avoid. However, if the bright color and overall outfit do flatter you and the look suits your style, it does work. I’ve done it myself and I love it.
I don’t recommend dressing like Waldo, but using color to stand out a bit is not a bad thing. Even if your style is less conspicuous, you don’t need to hide. Stick with colors and styles that flatter you and you’ll be able to keep it tasteful and look great.