Shopping for a Hanukkah Dress with Batsheva Hay

Photo: Courtesy of Liana Satenstein / @liana_ava

Welcome to Shopping With Vogue, a series in which we sift through a fashion lover’s favorite store. For this edition, we shop with Batsheva Hay of the label Batsheva at the Crown Heights store, Top Fashion.

Batsheva Hay of the label Batsheva is on the hunt for a Hanukkah look in Crown Heights—an epicenter of Chabad-Lubavitch Judaism in New York City. Here, women typically abide by modest laws of Judaism known as tznius, and wear dresses to cover their elbows, necks, and knees. The men have beards and wear Borsalino black hats. Bordering secular New York, Crown Heights is transformative during the holidays. Everything is just more….bright. It has the celebratory energy of the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting, just in Brooklyn and, well, kosher.

I haven’t really celebrated the Jewish holiday since I was a child. Eight crazy nights? Forget it. If anything, I’ll light a half-burned Diptyque candle and call it a day. The holiday has been commercialized and I feel like it has diluted its original meaning of miracles and rebuilding. But Hay—and the energy of Crown Heights—has gotten me newly excited. She wants to buy a dress for the occasion, which bewilders me. Hay makes dresses for a living, and has pretty much reinvented the frumpy Yentl frock into a chic must-have. Still, she wants a real-deal one from Crown Heights.

Photo: Courtesy of Liana Satenstein / @liana_ava
Photo: Courtesy of Liana Satenstein / @liana_ava

She’s been to the neighborhood recently, shopping for a religious gift for her and her husband’s anniversary. They got married eight years ago on the fifth night of Hanukah, so the holiday is especially sentimental. “My husband loves a little Judaica gift, like a tallis and a gartle,” she says. On her trawl, she came across Top Fashion, a store specializing in modest clothes located on 382 Kingston Ave, and our destination this afternoon.

When I arrive, I’m instantly taken in by the store. A huge modernist chandelier hangs from the ceiling, and the store is filled with skirts, dresses, and sweaters. A tiny booth near the cash register is stocked with religious paraphilia: Shabbat candle sets and cards with religious figures. I stick out like a sore thumb here in my flares so tight that I feel like an encased sausage. I see Hay, who is wearing one of her own casual, green cotton floral dresses and hauling an Ikea bag full of fabric and shirts. A total modest angel. We are both warmly welcomed by the shop’s owner, Chaya Lerman. When I ask Lerman, who is sweet and smiling, how long she’s been working here, she simply says “a long time…a long time,” without going into detail. Batsheva chimes in, “A woman never tells!” Fair.

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