The idea for my modesty experiment began when I worked in New York City as a receptionist for a company at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street, while I edited short films on the side. Every morning I would shoehorn myself onto the train with thousands of expensive-smelling, coiffed women who somehow managed to keep their hair looking great under wool caps in winter and despite hot, stinky gusts of subway backdrafts in the summer. It was an army of ladies sporting fitted waistlines, toned arms, blown-out hair, full faces of makeup and heels (which was incredible, considering all the walking we all had to do). Everyone looked good, no one was phoning it in, and we were all stylish.
I hated every second of it. It felt like putting on a costume. In fact, that was what I called it: my “Grown-up Suit.” Still, given where I worked, I had to look like that. Every. Damn. Day.
By contrast, on my way home to the warehouse I inhabited in Williamsburg, I would look at Hasidic women in their headscarves and long skirts with something akin to envy. Gawd, I thought. How nice would it be not to have to think about stupid crap like the latest accessories and whether my hair had gone limp?