Modesty - An Adornment for Life and The Use of Paper Dolls in Chinuch
by Devora Piha
Paper dolls, besides being a pastime for girls to dress and play with, are a vehicle for the many lessons regarding tzniyus. Visual images such as paper dolls can be used for lessons that supplement the primary modes of education: halocho, psukim, maamorei Chazal and role models. The educational impact of mothers designing paper dolls with their daughters can go a long way. On the simple level, paper dolls and their assortment of outfits are cut out and interchanged at will by the little girls playing with them. Dolls are similar to puppets in that the child speaks and acts out scenes in life through the toy. In a puppet show, the emphasis can be on the story line, the drama, the humor or the moment of theatrical attention the children receive while engaged in the puppet play. With paper dolls made of cardboard and paper, their emphasis is on dressing them and what they wear. Proper clothing and dress becomes the topic.
Modesty - An Adornment for Life
A Jewish woman's proper dress is a very exacting art, as are the laws of Kashrus and many other aspects of Yiddishkeit. Modesty means to hide and conceal that which should be hidden without denying a woman's natural requirements and instinctive needs. Tzniyus reinforces the physical aspect of our lives that are the representatives of the spiritual and Heavenly occurrences. It reflects a woman's morals, helps her overcome her yetzer horo in much the same way as Torah study enables men to overcome their evil drives (in the name of the Vilna Gaon) and is a protection for a woman. The character traits of the ideal wife are tzniyus and chessed combined. The exercise and balance of these traits bring out perfection in each one of us. These traits are exemplified in the foundation stones of the Jewish matriarchs: Sora, Rivka, Rochel and Leah. We learn from the examples of other exemplary women, like Esther, Ruth, Yael and Devorah, about the proper manner of dress and behavior. We hear stories throughout Jewish history that testify to the inherent importance that great women have placed on modesty and the extent to which they refused to compromise on these values.
The laws and attitudes concerning modesty of dress and conduct can be examined in detail in the comprehensive and inspiring work, "Oz V'Hodor Levusho -- Modesty -- An Adornment for Life" by R' Pesach Eliyohu Falk of Gateshead. Rabbi Falk has taken considerable time and care in defining the following topics: tzniyus, halochos, challenges, and the privilege of raising children in tzniyus and its benefits. Within the 614 pages of this work, most questions that come up are addressed and answered. Studying such a work will give a mother (or father) access to pertinent topics of modesty in dress that extend beyond the mere length of shirts and skirts and how to discern a kosher neckline. Rabbi Falk delves into issues that subtly draw one away from a modest and refined path as well as the extraordinary advantages of tzniyus. There is a supplement to this work that contains educational diagrams. The diagrams are a time- and confusion-saver. Here a picture is worth more than a thousand words. The halocho regarding the boundaries of dress are very specific, more so than is often assumed by people who are not thoroughly familiar with all the guidelines. These books do a great service as educational material to all of us who want to abide by the halocho. Of particular interest are the specifications for a fitted kosher top and the proper fit for a skirt.
A mother prepares to sit down at the table to tell her young daughter about the joys and benefits of tzniyus. She takes out a few sheets of paper and some light cardboard and places them in front of her. Her hands move, drawing the outline of a doll wearing a lovely spring dress and a pleasant expression. Cheerfully talking while her hands continue to design the doll's wardrobe, she tells stories that give vivid descriptions of the imohos and their outstanding traits of modesty. The topic changes and Ima discusses the choices that this little doll can theoretically make if she were a real little girl going shopping for clothing with her mother. With a pencil in hand, Ima begins outlining the shape and design of kosher garments and explains that the doll sees many pretty outfits in the shops but rejects them if they do not match the guidelines for kosher clothing. Are the outfits in the shop too flashy or the sleeves too wide or short? Is the hemline of the skirt sufficiently below the knee and does the material have enough slack so as to be loose enough?
As she draws one dress, she asks her little daughter how they should color it. What type of pattern would her daughter like to see on the doll's dress? Will it have a wide or a narrow collar? Will the skirt have pleats or will it hang with a style of elegance from the waistband? They consider the style of cuffs, pockets, belts, buttons and any accessories. Measurements are discussed. They consider other possibilities of making a series of wardrobes based on the seasons, special ones for Shabbos, simchas, Rosh Chodesh, the school year and for vacations.
Rachel's mother finds it helpful to use educational diagrams to show her daughter clear pictures of the correct fit and the specifications of kosher clothing. A picture may strike a chord for some that words cannot. The immediate impact of a picture can help the daughter comprehend the numerical and physical specifications at one glance. A precise explanation from the mother increases the absorption of the information. "The back of our collar covers where the neck ends and the upper back begins. This is level to the highest point of the shoulders. This is the second large projecting bone of the spine. With two mirrors, one in the front and one in the back, you can see the top bones of your spine when you bend your head forward." Mrs. Cohen then opens to the pages of the diagrams and in a game fashion, asks her children which of the four pictures on each page are kosher and why.
Rachel and her mother decided to make a wardrobe for the summer. A Shabbos and Yom Tov outfit, one for vacation activities, another for water or beach play, and one for sleepwear. They decided to include slippers, sandals, a pail and shovel, a comb, a towel and hair ribbons for the Shabbos outfit. Rachel dreams about being a kalla. She imagines a queen in a shining, white satin and lace dress. She loves the wide flowing gown that touches the floor and the floral bouquet. She takes out her pencil and on her own, begins designing three bride dresses for her paper doll.
To be continued...