How Orthodox Judaism and High Fashion are Finding Common Ground

I was browsing the news articles that my iphone news app seems to think I would be interested in when I came across this photo of Suri Cruise, the daughter of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.

Loving all things pink and feminine, I clicked on the Vanity Fair article only to find myself in one of those deep internet dives down a rabbit hole.  The article described how Suri is becoming a "style star," and my attention started to wane until I noticed a reference to inspiration by a line called Batsheva Dresses.  The article explains, "Prairie dresses are newly celebrated by the likes of Batsheva, a brand known for high collars and intricate prints. The brand’s steady rise in popularity recalls Laura Ashley’s heyday. It’s unapologetically girlie, possibly predicting a new wave of feminism I can’t wait to have explained to me."  (For the explanation, keep reading.)
Batsheva Dresses?  Feminism?  My curiosity was piqued.  Due to the Hebrew name "Batsheva," I decided there must be a Jewish connection to these dresses (maybe even an Orthodox Jewish connection?) and started my research.  I wasn't disappointed.  According to this article in the New Yorker, Batsheva Hay, a lawyer and young mother married to a newly Orthodox man,  developed the dress line purely by accident.  She had been wearing a dress she had a seamstress make for herself, and friends asked her to make some for them.

From there, her dresses took off and Glamour Magazine article claims she is "redefining sexy."  This was both exciting and puzzling to me.  Exciting, because I love the idea of modesty being in style and even being considered "sexy," but puzzling, because, well... the dresses??

A quest for understanding what the fashion world is finding "sexy" about this look led me back to the New Yorker article.  This is where my dive down the internet rabbit hole went beyond what any sane person might enjoy.  If you read the article you will see that Batsheva was inspired by photo stills of Cindy Sherman, particularly one of her crouching and holding an egg carton.  (I have kindly located that photo for you here so the insane among you don't need to do your own internet dive).
If you are wondering (as I was) how this photo inspired Batsheva's dresses, here's another one that is more similar to Batsheva's dresses.

In the article, Batsheva also says of the photos,“They reminded me of Courtney Love’s ‘Kinderwhore’ aesthetic."  After I read that, I wanted to know who Courtney Love was (see photo below), and what in the world "Kinderwhore" meant.  Despite worrying that I would go to jail for Googling it, I did research this idea and honestly, it's a little creepy.
There's a Wikipedia article on it, and no, you won't go to jail.  So what exactly is sexy about Batsheva's dresses?  According to the article in the New Yorker, "Sally Singer, Vogue’s creative digital director, pointed out, there is something undeniably erotic in the 'kind of strictness that we associate with headmistresses and other kinky figures of yore.'"  Hmm... maybe.  Maybe when I was like 23 years old, that look might have been sexy, but I'm pretty sure that as a middle-aged Jewish mom, they are not!

Also from the article is a question about whether this trend might be part of the post #metoo culture:
"The designer and writer Christopher Niquet sees the current prevalence of prairie and Victorian styles as a reaction against clothes that reveal too much. 'We’ve been coming off years of just almost no clothing,' he said. 'We thought that was the last frontier, and then we went into  basically no clothes at all.' But it is perhaps no coincidence that this 'super-conservative trendy    thing,' as one stylist put it, has taken off at a moment when the dynamics of sexual power are being dramatically questioned."

I agree that modest dress today, whether it's part of a religious way of life or not, is a counter-cultural  subversive trend.  It's exactly because women don't want to be seen as sexual objects that modesty can work as part of feminism.  Batsheva's styles are similar to those seen on women living in patriarchal systems that oppress women.  But, the trend to embrace those styles by modern, liberated women can be a statement of exactly the opposite.

You won't see me walking around in any of Batsheva's dresses (I think you have to be pretty young to pull off that look), but I do celebrate when modest clothing becomes the trend of the moment, for whatever reason.  What do you think?  Are the ultra-modest dresses constricting or liberating?  Are they part of a feminist statement or a symbol of patriarchy?  Curious to hear your comments and thoughts below.