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What is the Halachik source for women covering their lower legs (past the knee)? And why would sheer stockings be acceptable if the point is to cover the lower leg?

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The Talmud (Brachot 24a) mentions the calf (ie. the body segment of the leg with two bones) as a place on a women's body which was normally covered. Many Rishonim1 explain that this is mentioned to teach that the status of a covered body part for women is independent of its also being a covered body part for men (which, apparently, the calf wasn't at the time), while other explain that it was mentioned to teach that the status of covered body part applies even if it is occasionally uncovered for some reason (which, apparently, women's calves were at the time). Accordingly, this specific example is not quoted by the Rambam or Shulchan Arukh.

If for whatever reason one thinks our dress patterns must conform to theirs, then this would be the primary source for their dress patterns regarding the calf.

1 eg. Eshkol, Raavad, Sefer Hashlama, Sefer HaMeorot, Sefer HaBattim, Raah, Rashba, Shittah Mekubbetzet. See Beit Yosef OC 75 who, quoting no other explanations, apparently takes the first position and seems to interpret the Tur accordingly.


Regarding opacity: the Halacha states (Brachot 25b, Shulchan Arukh OC 75:6) that seeing Ervah through glass is problematic, so covering with something relatively transparent would not seem to accomplish much, even if you argue that it is more modest than nothing.

  • There is a modern (~150 years old) extreme-minority position (דעת יחיד) that the referenced body part is the thigh. I'm not mentioning this position because (not only has it is has been resoundingly rejected by both traditional and academic textual arguments, but also) the question didn't seek sources for such an opinion. – Double AA Sep 8 '14 at 13:59
  • For the curious, the Bach (~1600) suggests that the calf is mentioned to teach that the status of a covered body part applies even to parts which are usually dirty due to proximity to the ground. I haven't seen such a claim in Rishonim though. – Double AA Sep 8 '14 at 14:18
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    See Igros Moshe EH 4:100:6 – sam Sep 8 '14 at 14:40
  • What is the heter used for those who dont cover their calfs - that is with stockings of socks etc. and what is the source for sheer? – Chana Sep 8 '14 at 14:41
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    @Chana Perhaps. It might not be tied to "majority" specifically. See also this related question judaism.stackexchange.com/a/43824/759 – Double AA Sep 8 '14 at 15:36

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