What to Wear
By Mayim Bialik
Earlier this year, producers from the TLC make-over show What Not to Wear chose me to “fix.” It was eight months after I had given birth to my second son (my first was three years old ), and I had just completed a doctorate in neuroscience.
I had been wearing slouchy clothes since long before I had kids. I favored men’s oversized garments that hung loosely from my body and had never much cared for fashion or trends. For the most part, I spent little to no time on my appearance. From the time I was 19 until I turned 32, I devoted my time to studying, writing a thesis, and starting a family. But the acting itch never completely abated and I had decided to pursue it again rather than stay in academia. The actor’s life I want to pursue gives me more time to raise my children, rather than hand them over to a nanny. Getting a makeover seemed like a great opportunity to put together a new look that I could use on future auditions.
The WNTW producers asked if I have any clothing restrictions. Deep breath. “I don’t wear pants,” I told them. “I prefer skirts.” You see, I am what I guess you’d call a Conservadox Jew. I started embracing certain aspects of Jewish modesty, or tzniut, before my second son was born, and although I know many Orthodox women who don’t observe tzniut, the boundaries and framework of privacy it provides appealed to me.
I was raised in a traditional Reform household, the grand-daughter of poor Orthodox immigrants from Eastern Europe. For them, success in America came at the seemingly small price of relative assimilation. Growing up, I lived a pretty normal life; I had my own prime-time network TV show from the ages of 14 to 19, which meant my physical appearance and clothing choices were dissected on a weekly basis in gossip magazines and on television. I was pretty impervious to media critiques of my style. I had no real sense of my own physicality and took for granted the feminist idea that I should be able to walk around naked without harassment. But I soon learned that not everyone was a feminist. (more)
Mayim Bialik starred in NBC’s Blossom from 1990 to 1994. More recently she has appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Saving Grace and, this fall, will have a recurring role on The Secret Life of the American Teenager.