Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik / Courtesy of MIMU MAXI
We are living in an age of unprecedented democratization. Of fashion. Thanks to the rise of chains like Zara and H&M, which offer fresh-from-the-runway styles at ordinary-people prices, and to the emergence of social media, which gives every aspiring Anna Wintour an outlet, the fashionista universe has skyrocketed in recent years.
Among this community of do-it-yourself style icons are Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik, Vogue fans, Chabadniks, and co-owners of MIMU MAXI, a clothing line that translates current trends into attire appropriate according to Jewish modesty laws, or tznius. They are part of a growing community of modest fashion lovers from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths who see no conflict between modesty and self-expression through clothes and are coming together through Instagram.
Through the photo-sharing service these women share their own takes on modest fashion, swap tips on how to wear fall trends while showing less skin and, in the process, help build an interfaith community that has encouraged cross-cultural dialogue. More than 50,000 photos on Instagram are hashtagged #modestfashion (just one of the ways this group tags its photos), and the most popular modest fashion bloggers and designers have tens of thousands of followers who look to them to give them the tips that traditional fashion media will never provide.
Sisters Simi Polonsky, 28, and Chaya Chanin, 29, who together run The Frock Swap, a woman’s designer consignment pop-up shop that brings gently used high fashion to Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, say they doubt their business could exist without social media.
Instagram, the artsy-fartsy photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, skews young. If one were to build a composite of the average Jewish female Instagrammer snapping away with her iPhone, she’d probably be a 16-year-old Jersey girl who collects and distributes “likes” with her #besties (best friends) of #selfies (self portraits) taken posed in front of a bathroom mirror.
I’ve lost many hours mining Instagram’s search feature for hashtag keywords in an attempt to figure out just what types of photos and behaviors Jewish girls and women are offering up on this particular social network. The popular hashtag #jewishgirlproblems (and its variants, like #jewishgirlsprobs and #jewishgirlprobz) yields more than 1,000 photos. Add another thousand for #jewishgirls, and another 500 for the predictable #jewishamericanprincess. Most of the photos with these tags are taken by girls who are almost certainly younger than 18, so I won’t highlight them here, but the point is that girls are using Instagram hashtags to tie their faces and bodies to their self-identified Jewishness.