Hark! Do you hear that? It’s Vogue, the all-powerful arbiter of fashion that is literally en vogue, descending from its pedestal to announce the next great style trend: Torah Teacher Aesthetic!
All jokes aside, yes I’m serious — no need to adjust your computer screens.
Yesterday, Vogue Magazine published an essay by writer Mattie Kahn titled, “It’s Not Modest Dressing. It’s the Torah-Teacher Aesthetic” which proclaimed, “Fashion seems to have enrolled in Talmud class.” In the piece, Kahn, who is Jewish and attended a Jewish high school, coined the term “Torah-Teacher Aesthetic,” identifying several celebrities and fashion brands that are leaning into this look, like Jennifer Lopez, Katie Holmes, the Kardashians, Marc Jacobs, Tibi and Ferragamo.
For those of us who attended Hebrew school, Jewish day school, have dressed modestly or been around people who have, we all know what Torah Teacher generally looks like. As Kahn writes, “She has brown hair with a wave. She wears denim skirts or pleated skirts or sometimes pencil skirts. She likes black tops and white tops. When she is feeling wild, she breaks out a deep blue sweater with a cowl collar. She has sensible shoes.”
The article goes on to define what exactly this aesthetic is:
“Its component parts include, but are not limited to: knee-covering skirts, elbow-covering tops, leggings under dresses, neutral colors, minimal accessorizing, sneakers with tights,” Kahn explains, adding, “It shares hemlines and certain watchwords with cottagecore, but its vibe is cooler—no tiered skirts, no smocked bodices.”
What makes the Torah Teacher trend different from other kinds of modest dress (including that of Hasidic women) is, according to Kahn, nonchalance and a lack of ultra-femininity. “If it has to be fussed with or zipped over shapewear, it’s not Torah-teacher aesthetic,” Kahn advises. Going on, “Roughing it up is required.”
For Kahn, and even myself as a reader, it’s a bit hard to fully comprehend how this particular style (which I once considered to be a bit frumpy) is being employed by the most well-respected voices in the fashion world. Even so, I personally hope that places like Vogue can continue to praise the Torah Teacher Aesthetic even when it’s displayed on the bodies of women who are not skinny. Looking back at the source material, the majority of Hebrew school teachers I had growing up were women ranging in age from late 30s to mid-60s, most of whom had children. When I think of a Torah Teacher Aesthetic, I do indeed see denim skirts, tights, sweaters and long-sleeved shirts and clogs or sneakers. But, importantly, I also see those things on a fuller, more zaftig figure, not that of a person who is svelte.
With the potential for the Torah Teacher Aesthetic to go mainstream, I am excited by the possibilities of this Jewish trend, including my wish for women of all sizes to be included in it.