Untzenius dress-May/should a wife dress up for her husband in an attractive or un-Tzenius fashion for the sake of intimacy?

Untzenius dress-May/should a wife dress up for her husband in an attractive or un-Tzenius fashion for the sake of intimacy?

General perspective: From the letter of the law, in the privacy of her home, a wife may get dressed up in any fashion she sees fit on behalf of attracting her husband to her, and facilitating passion and intimacy. Furthermore, Benos Yisrael are recommended in dressing up for their husband in a seductive and attractive manner, with attractive outfits, makeup, jewelry, and perfume for this purpose, in order to stimulate interest of the husband in her, and facilitate intimacy. This applies even if her husband is a very pious Jew and is a Torah scholar.[1] This is even considered an act of Kedusha and Taharah.[2] To some extent, this applies even when she is a Nida.[3] When she is not a Nida, this applies even if she wears clothing that are under the regular standards of Tzenius, of which she would never walk out of the house in [either due to a Halachic prohibition, or due to the accepted mode of Tznius dress that she is accustomed to]. Thus, wearing a tight blouse and skirts in the privacy of her home is permitted on behalf of her husband, even though walking outside in this manner would be contrary to the laws of Tznius.[4] Nonetheless, if she feels uncomfortable with a certain form of un-tznius dress even in the privacy of her home, and that it makes her feel ashamed, shallow, and un-tznius, then doing so may prove counterproductive. Likewise, when there are children around the house who have reached the age of Chinuch, this should only be done in the privacy of her bedroom when her husband is there, such as prior to a scheduled session of intimacy. Whatever the case, a proper balance should be found, and she should be aware that although prior to marriage we always emphasize absolute Tznius and non-attention seeking dress code, after marriage, for the sake of her husband, she is permitted and encouraged to dress up for him in the privacy of her home in ways that she may never dare walk outside in. By dressing attractively for her husband, she fulfills a Mitzvah and is doing an act of Kedusha and Taharah as has been done by our foremothers, and she should not feel bad about this new phase of life that she is entering which requires an about face on some of her ways of dress until now. Thus, husband should recognize this need of his wife to look attractive for him, and buy her proper clothing and ornaments for this effect. Nonetheless, the above is only a general perspective on a wife being allowed, and even encouraged, to beautify herself on behalf of her husband, however, some Tznius restrictions do apply even when done for her husband’s sake and in the privacy of their home, as explained next. Likewise, the emphasis in this matter must be on making herself look attractive to her husband, and not simply to have the right to dress un-tznius. Often the way secular people dress is both un-tznius and unattractive, and hence the emphasis and intent of the above allowance and encouragement, is to achieve an attractive figure for one’s husband.

Revealing parts of the body that are normally covered: The restrictions against revealed parts of the body that are normally covered would apply even in the privacy of her home, and even when done on behalf of attracting her husband, as explained in Halacha 5 which restricts being undressed in the room when not under the covers. This is in addition to the normal Talmudic encouragement for a woman to always be Tznius even in her own home.[5] Thus, to wear a short skirt above the knees without stockings, or to wear a sleeveless dress which reveals the arms, would still be restricted under the general laws of Tznius.[6] However, seemingly it remains permitted for a non-Nidda to walk around without socks and stockings[7], and to wear a short skirt above the knees if stockings are worn, in the privacy of her home for the sake of her husband.[8] However, care must be taken that the husband does not learn Torah or Daven when he can see her bare legs.[9]

Getting dressed up attractively when outside, for the sake of her husband:[10] All the above allowance only refers to when the wife is inside the privacy of her home with her husband. However, when she goes outside, she must always keep to a standard Tznius dress and may not compromise on Tznius guidelines even for the sake of looking attractive and pleasing to her husband. Dressing in an overly attractive and attention seeking manner when out in the public, transgresses the laws of Tznius, can cause men to stumble on sinful thoughts, and can cause feelings of jealousy amongst other people, and amongst other husbands and wives in a way that negatively affects their Shalom Bayis.[11] Some women tend to invest on looking very attractive when they leave their home, but in the house itself do not bother to get dressed up for their husband, when in truth, the contrary should be followed.[12] Nonetheless, this does not mean that she must try to look unattractive when she goes out, and on the contrary she should try to look presentable and maintain a basic level of attraction and beauty for her husband and friends even when going out, and she may put on a limited amount of jewelry, makeup, and a slight amount of perfume for this purpose.[13] It is only the overdoing of the attraction and beautification that is negated. [Thus, for example, too much perfume which can be smelled by people around her, is forbidden to be placed.[14]] The husband is to be made aware of this, and is not to Chas Veshalom influence or pressure his wife to dress in an overly attractive and attention seeking manner when she goes outside, even if it is for the sake of pleasing him. Unfortunately, in some homes it is specifically the wife who desires to keep the proper form of dress outside, but her husband pushes her to dress more pleasing to him, compromising on her standards of Tznius. The compromise in such a case is for the wife to dress up for him as he desires in the privacy of their home, and when going outside to maintain the standard Tznius dress code.

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[1] See Kesubos 59b “A wife is for beauty”; Shabbos 25b “A women who is beautified for her [husband who is a] Torah scholar.”; Orchos Chaim [Lunil] 2 Hilchos Kesubos explains this Gemara as follows “So he does not desire another woman , as his inclination is greater than others, as whoever is greater than his friend, his inclination is also greater….Accordingly, it is forbidden for a Torah scholar to allow his wife to dress unattractively even when she is in mourning, in order so she not be despised in his eyes, and come to look at other women…It is forbidden for her to look unattractive as it causes her husband to stumble in forbidden lust.”; Or Hachaim Hakoadosh Vayeitzei “A Torah scholar needs to take a beautiful woman due to his Yetzer Hara”; Pela Yoeitz “Yofi” “It is fit for a father to take beautiful women for his sons in order so they do not look elsewhere, and so too for this reason he should purchase he ornaments in order so she find favor in his eyes and not look at other women.”

[2] See Sotah; Shemos Raba 8; Meiam Loez Shemos Chapter p. 31 [new edition] that the wives of Bnei Yisrael in the Midbar would dress attractive for their husbands in order to seduce them and have children, and they used mirrors for this purpose which were eventually recycled to be sued for the making of the Kiyos, which sanctified the hands and feet of the Kohanim which were the epitome of Kedusha and Taharh.

[3] See Michaber Y.D. 195:9 “With difficulty the Sages permitted her to get dressed up for her husband when she is a Nidda [and it is only allowed] in order so she does not look unattractive to him”; Rebbe Akiva in Shabbos 64b

[4] We find no prohibition in a wife looking over attractive and attention seeking for her husband when she is pure.

[5] See Yuma 47a regarding Kimchis, that she merited to have seven sons who are fit to be high priests due to that “the locks of her hair never saw the walls of her home” and the same is understood regarding other matters of Tznius.

[6] In these Halachos of Tznius in the privacy of one’s home, we follow the normal dress code of orthodox Jews of one’s affiliated community, and of that required according to Halacha, and not the way of dress of Goyim or secular Jews. [See Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:47 and 68; Machatzis Hashekel 4:23, brought in M”B 4:53; Kaf Hachaim 4:99]

[7] As many even orthodox women don’t cover their legs, or don’t cover it properly [wearing see through stockings] as it is debated amongst the Poskim must truly be covered. Now, although we are stringent in this matter regarding walking outside, nonetheless, in the privacy of one’s home it should be permitted.

[8] As untznius dress that does not reveal any skin contains no prohibition when done in the privacy of one’s home for one’s husband

[9] See Topics in Practical Halacha Volume 1 section of Even Haezer for the full details of this matter!

[10] See Shabbos 62b against attracting undo attention of men with her perfume, although see also 64b that she should not be unattractive in her husband’s eyes even when a Nida; Reishis Chochma Derech Eretz Shaar 4 and Az Nidbaru 8:65 against wearing strong perfume; Shevet Halevi 6:33; Shemesh Umagen [Mashash] E.H. 2:16

[11] See Shevet Halevi ibid “It is not necessarily [only] Peritzus, but causes jealousy of her friends, and of the gentiles, and certainly a transgression is done, and many evil things occur as a result of this”; See Shlah 200a, M”B 560:8, Kaf Hachaim 560:20 that wearing all of their jewelry causes jealousy amongst the gentiles.

[12] See Shevet Halevi ibid “The main dressing up of a wife is to be for her husband” however he then explains in defense of the custom of many women to only get dressed up when they go out that “Many are accustomed that in the house they do not care to get dressed up, and also the husband does not mind.” Nonetheless, even from his statement it is understood that if the husband does mind, and which husband does not mind this, then she is to do as above.

[13] Perfume: See Shabbos 62a “A woman may walk out with a Koveles” and Rashi explains this to mean perfume, although the Gemara then concludes that to do so in a way that attracts attention of the Bochurim is forbidden;

Jewelry: Implication of Miseches Shabbos and Shulchan Aruch 303 in discussion of a woman leaving her home with jewelry on Shabbos that during weekday it is permitted [Az Nidbaru 14:47]; See Michaber 560:2 and Bava Basra 60b “The Sages enacted that in commemoration for the destruction, upon a woman dressing herself with jewelry, she is not to wear all the types of jewelry that she usually wears and is rather to leave one out.” From which it is understood that some dressing up attractively is allowed, but not all. See Shlah 200a, M”B 560:8, Kaf Hachaim 560:20 that wearing all of their jewelry, aside for transgressing this law, also cause jealousy amongst the gentiles.

General dress: See Taanis 23 that Anba Chilkiyas wife came out to greet him in the city when she was all dressed up attractively, and he explained that his wife did this in order so he only be attracted to her and not another woman; See Shevet Halevi ibid “It depends on her intent when she walks outside dressed up, and the way she is dressed up… if she overdoes it and attracts too much attention then this is a replica of the sinful activity of Bnos Yerushalayim…….Many are accustomed to get dressed up only when they go out so they are not belittled in the eyes of the public, and this is the way of the world and we cannot protest it, unless it is overdone to the point that it draws too much attention” Shemesh Umagen [Mashash] E.H. 2:16 “It is a Mitzvah and obligation for a woman to get dressed up for their husbands, and when they go outside, in a permitted manner, and not look unattractive….and many husbands are more particular in this when their wives go out then inside their own house..if she looks unattractive when she goes out the husband will end up looking at other women in the street”; See also Rav Tzinner in Koveits Or Yisrael 36; Osri Lagefen 9:175

[14] Shabbos 62b; Reishis Chochma Derech Eretz Shaar 4; Az Nidbaru 8:65;

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