An article in Slate magazine is heralding the arrival of Jewish fashion, in which Orthodox attire is inspiring the latest runway looks. According to its author, Alana Newhouse, this is unqualifiedly a good thing. Alexandre Herchcovitch, she tells us, is not afraid to flaunt his heritage, unlike those supposedly unproud Jewish designers of the past. But perhaps they understood, whether consciously or not, that the garb of traditionalist religious communities, whether that of the Orthodox or the Amish, is fundamentally anti-fashion: it opposes itself to innovation for its own sake, the cult of the new, and the vices of materialism. (The latter was what Saturday Night Live mocked in its controversial fake commercial for Jewess Jeans, which came with a Star of David embroidered on the tush.)
While it’s obvious that Orthodox clothing aims at sexual modesty, its restraint and conservatism are also products of the sumptuary laws that Jewish communities imposed on themselves to reduce harmful envy both among themselves and between them and the gentile world. And needless to say, the fashion business would amount to bupkis without that deadly sin.