Citrin-Safadi has walked the line too. She once wore a long skirt, a black turtleneck, and a purple tee. The combination was shapeless, too cluttered to feel intentional. As the old accessories edict mandated, “I had to lose one thing.”
She’s had more luck with incorporating footless tights—a workhorse of the Torah-teacher-aesthetic wardrobe. “I’ve gotten obsessed with wearing long skirts with those tights, and then I’ll put on a kitten heel so there’s just this splash of skin—a sliver of ankle or foot,” she says. “It turns this otherwise innocuous area of skin into something else when the rest of me is covered. It just satisfies me, getting dressed. It hits the mark.”
It took longer for Medine Cohen to embrace the look. “I couldn’t participate,” she writes. She was too close to her own high school experience. But the past two or three seasons have ushered in a shift in her thinking. She and I both find ourselves more drawn to the mid-length hemlines we once swore we’d leave behind. Medine Cohen credits Khaite and Prada for her evolution, noting that both brands have leaned more on skirts than dresses and show them in crisp, pleasing fabrics too.
In her own label, Kallmeyer keeps her clothes from reading too frum with careful darting, slits, and lots of texture. The exercise is intellectual, rigorous. It’s an argument and an exploration of boundaries, not unlike biblical exegesis itself. Torah-teacher aesthetic is not a trend so much as a puzzle: How can it be channeled without making its wearer look like someone who is running a few minutes late to Talmud class?
It makes Citrin-Safadi smile now, thinking back to Hebrew school in suburban Connecticut where she grew up in a town with few Jewish families. At pickup each week, it was the moms—practitioners of their own version of Torah-teacher aesthetic—who made the most lasting impression.
“It was this moment of ’90s minimalism—Calvin Klein dresses and Donna Karan cotton tops—that overlapped with what was appropriate to wear to temple,” she says. “I was 12, and I saw them, and their whole look seemed so cool. I was like, That is so fucking chic.”
“It has an emotional undertone to me,” she says. “We could call it nostalgia, but I don’t even feel like that’s the right word. It’s more that I feel like, You know what? I’ve earned it. I’ve earned the right to dress like this. I did it.”